THADDEUS YOUNG is one of the nicest young men you'll ever meet. He'll sit and tell stories about his high school days in Memphis, proudly brag about his two young children. If a reporter needs to talk, he never says no.
So it's kind of strange to see Young with a little bit of an attitude this season. His smile isn't flashed as often as it used to be, the joking in the locker room limited. It's not that Young has completely changed his disposition, it just appears as if he's become hardened to the way things have gone since he was drafted by the team in 2007. Perhaps not having a true position, having played for five coaches and compiling only one winning season among his seven has changed the 25-year-old young a bit.
You won't find any of his teammates complaining, nor is coach Brett Brown. Young is having his best season in the NBA, averaging a career-high 17.9 points to go with seven rebounds. He has added outside shooting to his repertoire, having made 28 of 68 (41.2 percent) from three-point range. He made only eight threes in the previous three seasons combined.
He is still relentless in his pursuit of the ball all over the floor. He uses his quickness to get to the basket when facing a bigger defender, and now can step back and hit outside shots against the quicker ones. He has bulked up enough that he can now defend power forwards consistently, yet still able to match up with small ones, also.
As one NBA executive said recently, "Any team in the league would love to have Thaddeus Young." And that just might happen. He is the team's biggest commodity as far as trade value, and this roster undoubtedly will be turned upside down the next few years.
"I've been patient since Day 1 in '07," Young said. "I can keep trying my best to be patient. I've been doing it so far. When stories came out about being disgruntled, I look at the stories and I laugh, and then I keep going out and playing basketball. This is my craft, this is my job, this is what I love to do, and I'm not going to let anything stop me playing the game.
"We had this conversation before coach [Doug] Collins came in, about the stability issue. I feel that's something that every player wants, that he can be comfortable, that he doesn't have to be having to prove something each and every year. I felt like I had to prove something since the year I came in, especially with all the different coaches I've had. When you get a coach and get more and more comfortable with him and then he's gone, I have to start all over again. Then I have to prove that I can be a star forward in this league again, and that I can do this, I can do that. It's always been that situation."
Over the past six games, Young has posted his biggest offensive numbers, averaging 25.8 points a game. It's no coincidence the team has gone 4-2 during that time. He has proved capable of carrying this team, young players and all.
"You play this game and you make a lot of money, but I also play this game to win games and get as great as I can at my craft," Young said. "That's what I've been trying to do since Day 1 - come in, play hard, show intensity and show improvement every year. I think I've done a pretty good job so far, especially for the situation I've been in, adapting to a different situation and going out there and being successful. I feel like I deserve to win [more], but we all know you can't win every game. We have some up seasons and we're going to have some down seasons. These past two have been down seasons, but I've been on the success end, where we've made it to the second round of the playoffs.
"But the biggest success is winning a championship. As of right now, it's a rebuilding process. So it's honest when we say we're a young team and we don't have a winning record right now. We're far from being a championship team right now. What they're trying to do in this rebuilding process is get to that level, get back to the playoffs, start with baby steps. We have to take it step by step. I think that's the biggest thing and also try to win basketball games."