At just 25 years old, Thaddeus Young was given a heavy task this season for the Sixers. Facing what’s been one of the toughest seasons in the history of the franchise, he was expected to be the leader both on and off the court for this young Sixers team. He’s been the guy that new coach Brett Brown has relied upon heavily to teach rookies like Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel the right mindset on how to become both an effective and well-respected NBA player. Young’s done that and then some. He’s averaging 17.3 points [a career high], 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals a game as the Sixers have nearly reached their projected 15 win total this season [they’re at 13 and counting]. Young gave us a few minutes to discuss his stellar year, the advice he gives to the youth on this team as well as trade rumors surrounding him and his teammates.
You’ve been playing the best basketball of your career. How can you describe the way you’ve been playing right now?
I’m just playing as aggressive as I can. I try to get up a lot of shots after practice and I’m constantly trying to add new things to my game. I think I’ve been taking a new approach to the game after each and every game. I’m picking and choosing now the right times and situations to attack my opponents. It’s resulted in me scoring in bunches, but I’m also always trying to create havoc on defense.
Two years ago, Andre Iguodala got an All-Star bid and Jrue Holiday got his last year. Do you think you’ve proved enough to the fans and the coaches to get your shot this year?
I would love it to finally be an All-Star and to be part of All-Star weekend. That’s up to the coaches and the fans to make that pick and if they think I should be part of it than that proves to me how good of a year I’ve been having. If they don’t than hey, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always the opportunity to try again next year and the year after that and to potentially make it one day.
When talking to Jrue last year after his selection, he talked about how the coaches not only looked at the great year he had been having last year, but at the whole body of work throughout his career when they made their decision to select him. Do you think when coaches look at you this year that they’ll see this same growth and factor that in when the time comes?
Definitely. I think a lot of coaches see what type of player I am. Not just this year, but years before this. I don’t think anybody would not like to have me on their team. I’m a guy that can do a lot of things on the basketball court. I can defend, I can shoot three’s, I can step out and hit the mid-range jumper, I can drive to the basket and beat guys off the dribble, I’m always bringing energy and I’m all over the court. I think that’s what coaches are looking for in a player. As a big man, to be as good in transition as I am is also a rare thing. I know how to start [the transition] and where to be on the court in order to get our team easy buckets.
A lot has been said about the Sixers bench this season, an area where you used to thrive in, in the past. What kind of mindset did you have back when you had that role and what kind of things have you been preaching to your teammates who are in the same position?
When I was coming off the bench, I was a guy like Lou Williams who could come in and score in bunches. I’d have 10 point quarters where I’d come in for 5-6 minutes and just go as hard as I could on the court. I tell those guys to come in like I did and do the things that they know how to do on the court. Don’t try to play outside of yourself and get away from your game. Try to capture the essence of what you can do because your time is limited.
Are you surprised that your name has been at the center of so many rumors right now?
No. I know I’m the last player standing here. I’ve been part of the franchise since ’07 and it’s old news to me. I don’t worry about anyone saying this or that. If it happens, it happens; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I just focus on my job — playing basketball the way I know I can play.
You’ve been teammates with Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for a while now and really look at them as brothers at this point. Do they get a sense that their time as a Sixer is close to the end?
They’re taking it the same way I’ve been taking it. They’re not really interested in the rumors or waiting for the trade deadline or anything like that. They’re just playing basketball and continuing to make themselves better players. The focus right now is the team and giving it our all on the court every night and we’re going to continue to focus on that. I talk to those guys all the time and it’s never about trade rumors or wanting to be anywhere else, it’s about how we can help eachother get better as basketball players.
I’ll give you a hypothetical question. The Sixers get two of the top 10 picks next year and Nerlens Noel comes back fully healthy, would that be enough to make you want to stay in Philly once your contract is up?
All that contract talk is so far down the line that I’m not even thinking about that. I still have this year left, next year and I believe I can opt out after that. You can ask me this question again next year around this time and maybe I might be able to give you a better answer but I’m not worried about that at all right now.
The draft is in June, Mike [Carter-Williams] is flourishing right now and we have Nerlens coming back very soon. [Nerlens] is a big time shot blocker and defender that is something we’ll definitely need down the road. I don’t know what the future will hold, but I will tell you that I’m here and I want to continue to rebuild and restructure this team. I’m helping these young guys grow and I’m growing as a player myself still.