Even after playing a season- and game-high 32 minutes, 47 seconds Wednesday night, Thad Young is averaging 21:38 this season.
That’s the second-lowest average of Young’s consistently solid 13-season career. Only in Young’s rookie season with the 76ers way back in 2007-08 did he play less, at 21 minutes per game.
When Young signed a three-year, $43 million deal in free agency, $32 million of which is guaranteed, he knew he’d come off the bench behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. But he couldn’t have expected to play so little, particularly after averaging 30-32 minutes while starting 236 games for the Pacers over the last three seasons.
“Things happen. You have to play through it and be a pro with the time you get. When I’m out there, it shows on the court,” Young said. “It’s definitely frustrating when you don’t get as many minutes as you’ve been getting. But you can’t let it bother you. You have to keep trying to stay in rhythm and come to the gym every day and keep working.
“I’ll always be there for my teammates, no matter if I don’t like the situation or it’s not going my way. You have to continue to play and let your teammates know you’re there for them. I’m not one of those guys who likes to cause a lot of commotion. I don’t want to be a distraction for the team. I want to play whatever minutes I get and when I’m out there, just be productive.”
That Young was in the Bulls’ 136-102 cakewalk over the Hawks. Young stuffed the box score with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals.
“When he checked in, I thought the separation happened in the game,” coach Jim Boylen said.
This wasn’t simply a matter of Young fattening his statistics against a listless Hawks team. He played close to 15 minutes in the first half before the game got out of hand, on pace to log 30 minutes for just the second time this season.
That he ended up getting some run in the second-half blowout helped his staggering plus-33. But it also allowed him to contribute those plays that don’t always show up in the box score — finding Lauri Markkanen with a crosscourt pass for a 3-pointer, deflecting passes.
“It’s always good when you get more opportunity. The longer I play, the more I get a chance to show what I can do. And not just scoring but filling up the stat sheet where I have assists, get rebounds, get steals, high intensity on the defensive end to get us extra possessions,” Young said. “Most importantly, it’s always good to get a win.”
Young said he’d be open to playing small forward if Boylen asks, a pregame topic that Boylen fielded a question on with Otto Porter Jr. out at least another month and Chandler Hutchison still not back. That didn’t happen against the Hawks.
But extra playing time did. And Young delivered with the consistency that has defined his career.
“That’s how I built my career and how I’ve made the money I’ve made and how I’ve made the name I’ve made in this league and gained respect. I come with my hard hat every night. I’m ready to play and do whatever the team needs,” Young said. “If I’m not scoring, I’m rebounding. If I’m not rebounding or scoring, then I’m getting steals and creating havoc on the defensive end. I take pride in being there for my guys and being a warrior.”
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