A simple phone call during the 2013 NBA Draft changed the face of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise for good when point guard Jrue Holiday was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans for forward Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick.
Holiday was a budding star for the 76ers and the most well-known amongst fans. He was an All-Star last season and led the team in both points and assists. Jrue averaged career-high’s with 17.7 points and 8.0 assists per game. His efforts were strong enough to get him an invitation to Team USA basketball mini-camp at the end of the month in Las Vegas.
With Holiday out of town, the baton is now passed to forward Thaddeus Young.
Young, the longest tenured Sixer on the teams roster, also had a strong performance last season of 14.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.8 steals last season in his first full season as a starter. He’ll have to shoulder the load for the Sixers offensively while rookie Michael Carter-Williams adjusts to his role as the teams new point guard and Noel recovers from a torn ACL.
Philadunkia scribe Jeff McMenamin had the chance to talk with Young about his reaction to the draft night trade, being the new face of the franchise, his thoughts on Andrew Bynum leaving town and what he expects from the team in the future.
McMenamin: Hey Thad it’s good to hear from you. How’s your summer been treating you so far?
Young: I’ve just been trying to enjoy the summer. I’m working out, hanging out with my wife and my son and just chilling and relaxing. I’m waiting on my wife right now to have our second son. Hopefully soon we can get acclimated to that new situation.
McMenamin: What kind of things have you been working on this summer to get yourself ready for next season?
Young: A little bit of everything. I’m just trying to keep my feel for the game tight. I’m always working on my ball handling, my ability to shoot the basketball and I’m focusing on stepping out. I’m going back to where I was my second year in the League where I was shooting a few three’s. My hope is that I can just expand my game and continue to be well-rounded in a lot of area’s.
McMenamin: What compelled you to start practicing three’s again? Was this your decision?
Young: Yeah I’m really trying to get myself acclimated again to the three-point line. When coach Collins came in I kind of shied away from it a little bit, but with coach Collins gone now and a new coach coming in you never know what he’s going to want out of you. I’m looking at myself as a stretch three or four that’s able to go out there and shoot the basketball and getting those big guys to come out on me and open up the paint a little bit.
McMenamin: I’ll start with the big trade. How shocked were you to see Jrue Holiday go on draft day? Especially after it seemed like you guys were destined to play the next four years together.
Young: I was at a loss for words. When it happened I was just like wow… Everyone kind of saw me put that on Twitter at the time. The unthinkable happened. It’s just a decision that the organization made and we have to live with it. It’s a business and everyday they have to decide what’s best for the team whether it’s getting younger, getting more picks for the draft or trading guys with expiring contracts. They have to look at things from all angles and when you go down the list of things in the organization that are new, we pretty much have a new everything. We need to find our way a little bit right now and I’m kind of the oldest/youngest player on the team right now who’s been through several rebuilding seasons now and this is another one so we’re just going to have to take it from there.
McMenamin: What about Jrue? Did you get a chance to call him that night and hear how he was feeling?
Young: He was very shocked. He was just as shocked as I was but at the end of the day we both understand that it’s a business and sometimes in order to make teams better you have to make necessary moves and that was definitely a huge move that was made for a rebuilding process. There’s nothing we could’ve done about it, it was out of our hands and our control we just have to move forward and go with the flow.
McMenamin: Watching from home, I was going crazy about all the rumored trades which were connected to the Sixers. One of them would’ve sent you to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins. Were you feeling a little nervous during all of these rumors?
Young: It was the first draft that I was on edge. I had no idea what to expect after Jrue was sent to New Orleans. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to me if I was traded because I would’ve left knowing that I gave six hard years of my blood, sweat and tears into the organization and I would’ve just had to deal with it. But right now I’m a Sixer and I plan on being a Sixer until the day that they trade me or until I retire or whatever way they see fits.
McMenamin: What did you think about the draft? What do you expect from the team next year?
Young: Each and every year you get some new guys in the draft and I’m always excited to see how they can fit with the team and how they can play in this League. If we come out next year and mesh well together and play well then that’s great, but right now I think it’s all about watching the team grow together and seeing our young players develop. I’m still young myself at 25, but in basketball today that age isn’t really considered that young anymore. My focus is just on going out every game and playing how people know I play and trying to win basketball games.
McMenamin: What do you think of Nerlens Noel as a player? Have you gotten a chance to watch him play at all?
Young: I actually watched him in his last year of AAU and watched him kill my old AAU program. I know what he can do. I know that he’s a great shot blocker and a great defensive-minded player. He has to work on harnessing some of those post moves that he’s going to need in the NBA, but we know he can dunk and make a layup and he’ll just have to work on some other things. Players get better with time and age.
McMenamin: Obviously one of the reasons Sam Hinkie decided to trade for Noel was to silence the talks surrounding Andrew Bynum. Were you frustrated that things never worked out with Andrew?
Young: I wasn’t frustrated at all. I just did my job and tried to win basketball games. The focus for us couldn’t be on Andrew because he was hurt and couldn’t play. We had to focus on us and trying to win basketball games, but I don’t think it was frustrating on me or anybody else. He was trying not to be hurt and focusing on surgery and in this League you have to make sure you’re 100-percent before you get back out on the court. You can’t blame him for doing what he did or doing what he was told to do. That deal’s just something we’ll have to live with and keep moving forward.
McMenamin: The Kobe Bryant pitch to Dwight Howard was highly publicized and talked about. Did you ever have a similar type of pitch to Andrew this off-season to try to lure him back next season?
Young: We never really had that type of communication. I only really talk to Jrue, Evan and Spencer and the guy’s I’ve been around for 4-5 years. It’s more comfortable for me to talk to them as opposed to Andrew. We’ll text and keep each other updated on what’s going on, but we never really had a discussion about him coming back next season or anything like that. Not saying that we didn’t want him back, but the relationship I have with Jrue, Evan and Spencer is like a brotherhood. We only got a chance to talk to and hang out with Andrew for probably 10 months. But he was a great teammate, he was always there for us and talking to us and helping us out a little bit when we needed it. There wasn’t any love lost or anything, there just wasn’t that much built between us because he was never able to take the court with us.
McMenamin: Michael Carter-Williams had a rough time down at OSPL. What advice would you give to the rookie to help him before the season?
Young: I’d probably tell him to slow himself down a little bit. He’s doing very well distributing the ball, but he’s also turning the ball over a lot. He just has to keep his turnovers down and when the ball’s swung to him at the top of the key he should be taking those open looks and not passing them up. Take those shots with confidence and it will stretch the defense a little bit and open things up on the offensive end a little more.
McMenamin: With Jrue gone, you’re going to be looked at as the engine for this team. Are you ready for the challenge ahead?
Young: I’m always ready for a challenge. I come out every year with the mindset of playing my hardest and I take pride in the fact that I’m a silent killer on the court. The past few years I’ve been speaking up in the locker room and letting guys know how I feel or what I think we should be doing and it’s a matter of just having that confidence. My confidence level is always high and I’m ready to go out there and do what I do. I’ve already been texting Nerlens and Mike and letting them know like, ‘look, you young guys are going to have to come in and play right away and you’re going to have to be ready.’ A lot of the offense will be run through Mike as the point guard so he’s going to have to be ready for that. I also told Nerlens to work his way back to 100-percent so he can be ready to go as well.
McMenamin: What did you think of the way Arnett Moultrie and Arsalan Kazemi played at OSPL. Are these guys that can have an impact in the frontcourt next season?
Young: I think they’ll be great. I’ve always said Arnett can be a double-double guy and Arsalan’s just an all-time hustler no matter what. I love playing with guy’s like that. I think he’s [Kazemi’s] like a more athletic Reggie Evans. He’s one of those guys that can energize players and fans off of his hustle. He can come into a game and grab five or six rebounds and come off, then come into a game later and do the same thing. You want a guy like that on your team.
McMenamin: Are there any other players that impressed you?
Young: Khalif Wyatt’s really impressed me. Scoring’s what he does and I think he would definitely be able to add that off the bench for us next season if he’s signed. He’s really shown what he can do in these games.
McMenamin: Michael Curry was the head coach at OSPL and you’ve known him for a while now as an assistant. Do you think he deserves the shot to coach this team next season?
Young: I think he does and I really like coach Curry. I think he’s a great defensive-minded coach. He already had a chance to be a head coach and it didn’t turn out too well, but I think everybody should have a second chance. This is a different situation for him and I think he’d be great. He’s especially good with the young guys. He knows how to handle different personalities and egos and knows the best way to deal with them.
McMenamin: A lot of people who follow the Sixers think the best route the team can take next season is to ‘tank’ for a high draft pick. How do you deal with this kind of thing as a player?
Young: I don’t even think about that stuff. I just go with the flow and make sure I’m there for my teammates. If we were to get a No. 1 pick then that would be great but it’s not like that’s a focus of mine or anything like that.
McMenamin: It may be tough for a couple seasons as guys grow, but you’re in for the long haul. Are you excited at the possibility of what this team can become down the road?
Young: Very excited. When you look at the guys that we drafted and think about a couple years from now it could be a crazy team. There’s so much time to grow and build and strengthen the team to where we want it to be.
McMenamin: You have your second Annual youth basketball skills camp coming to Girard College in North Philadelphia in August. Are you excited to have camp in Philly now as opposed to the suburbs like you did in years past?
Young: It’s very exciting to have the camp in Philly. I kind of told them when we were first setting up my camp that I wanted to find a facility that was centrally located and in Philly where all the kids would be able to get to it easily and have fun. I’m glad we found that in Girard College and I’m just trying help these kids learn some of the fundamental skills of basketball through me and some of the coaches that I had in my high school, college and NBA career now. I think it’s going to be a great camp, it’s August 5-8 and I’m excited for it to start.
McMenamin: Should campers be looking forward to anyone besides yourself helping out to teach the camp?
Young: I’m definitely trying to get Arnett Moultrie out and Michael Carter-Williams. I think they can have a good impact on the kids and Evan’s [Turner’s] been in and out of town but I’d love to have him come out too. Lavoy [Allen] pretty much lives at Temple University so if some of those guys can come out and help out that would be great.
McMenamin: What were your camp experiences when you were younger? Did you ever attend a camp being run by a player like you’re doing now?
Young: I didn’t really have these types of camps growing up. Player’s didn’t really run camps like these, but I always said that when I got into the NBA I always wanted to have a camp. I like being able to teach the kids and help them expand their game. At the end of the day I want these kids to also get to know me, apart from just seeing me on TV.
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