Guest Post by Bryan Confer, Edited by Susan Shan
Three months ago, the Philadelphia 76ers were 3-13. Since November 27, they have gone 27-17, good for fourth-best in the Eastern Conference and just four wins behind division rival Boston.
The Sixers are one of the deepest teams in the NBA. Their bench is first in points (40.1 per game), sixth in rebounds (15.5 per game), fourth in field-goal percentage (46 percent), second in free-throw percentage (79 percent), and third in efficiency rating (41.8). In addition, the team is third-best in the league at taking care of the basketball, averaging just 13.3 turnovers per game.
Last Sunday’s win in Cleveland put the Sixers above .500 for the first time since the 2009-10 season, when the team was 3-2. The victory also marked the first time the Sixers have had a plus-.500 record 59 games into a season since 2005-06.
Before the game, I had a chance to speak with forward Thaddeus Young, who has been a big part of the Sixers’ success. Read the interview below:
Bryan Confer: What was your initial reaction when the Sixers hired Coach Collins?
Thad Young: I knew he was a great coach. He had coached some great players in the past. He’s had a ton of experience. I felt he could move the team in the direction we needed to go.
BC: Doug is an old-school guy. How has he meshed so well with such a young team?
TY: He emphasizes hard work, and we came in ready to work hard. We all have the mindset that we want to get better. Coach let us know immediately that he’s here for the team, not just on the court.
BC: What is Coach Collins like behind the scenes?
TY: He’s cool. He’s always cracking jokes; you really enjoy being around him. It’s not just a working relationship with Coach; he always makes himself available to us for any reason.
BC: You started 71 out of 75 games during the team’s last playoff run in 2008-09. This year, you have only started one game. Was this ever an issue? Do you have a preference?
TY: My whole career here in Philly, I’ve sort of flip-flopped as far as starting goes. If you look at my rookie year, I started, roughly, 20 games. My second year (the aforementioned 08-09 season), I started in all but four. Last season, I started the majority of them. And this year, as you mentioned, I’ve started one. I really have no preference. Whatever Coach wants me to do, I’ll do. All I want to do is help the team win in any way I can.
BC: You are playing six minutes less per game this year. Yet, you have been extremely efficient. Your field-goal percentage is up from 47 to 55 percent and your free-throw shooting percentage is up from 69 to 72 percent. What is that attributed to?
TY: Coach emphasizing taking good shots. He also does such a great job of putting guys in position to make plays. He maximizes the talent on the roster by always using guys in situations and matchups in which they are comfortable.
BC: What is your take on the landscape of the NBA and the joining of forces that we’re seeing? For a team that is seemingly on the rise, is it at all demoralizing to look up at the other teams in the conference and almost wonder, “What are we playing for?”
TY: To each his own, man. If that’s what those guys want to do, then more power to ‘em. As far as the second part of the question, I don’t look at it like that at all. As a team, we play each game one at a time. Each game we play, we only worry about what we can do to win that game, and in the process, try to compile as many wins as possible.
The last few statements made by Young speak volumes about the type of player he is; the word “team” continually rolled off his tongue. For a guy who is putting up stout numbers off the bench and leading his team in field-goal percentage, he will undoubtedly be in the discussions for the Sixth Man Award.
Young has also begun to give back in other ways. His Young for Youth Foundation, which promotes and enables underprivileged children to participate in health, education, and wellness programs, launches this spring in Philadelphia, his hometown of Memphis, and his birthplace of New Orleans.
In addition, he is preparing to host his first youth basketball program on March 1 in Philadelphia; a youth basketball program will launch in Memphis later this summer.
And, Young has represented Philadelphia well with his active involvement in the After-School All-Stars and Hoop Heroes Program by donating money per every rebound he gathers.
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