Despite all the changes, Thad Young still thriving

slideshow-sixers-thaddeus-young-ap.jpg

Despite all the changes, Thad Young still thriving

Glen “Big Baby” Davis came barreling down the lane on Tuesday night, dribbling the basketball with all 289 pounds of him taking aim directly at Thaddeus Young.

Davis seemed stunned when Young timed his vertical leap perfectly to get in the air and block what would have been the go-ahead basket for the Magic with 2:11 to play in the fourth quarter.

With 33 seconds left, Young drove the lane himself just as Davis had done, only the Sixer forward’s quickness allowed him to leave his defender in the dust and make a left-hook bank shot.

Young’s shot was supposed to seal the game. As it turned out, that bucket only allowed the Sixers to reach the first overtime after Davis hit his first three-pointer in two years to force the extra session.

Young didn’t let that discourage him as he ended up with 25 points and 12 rebounds to help the Sixers claim a 126-125 win over the Magic in double overtime.

Young is 25 years old and playing for his fifth coach in seven years. He’s gone from starter to reserve and back to starter again during his career.

The lefty forward was allowed to shoot from the outside and then asked not to. Now that the door has been opened again under Sixers head coach Brett Brown.

Such a whirlwind might have frustrated other players, but Young has simply been able to take on every obstacle.

“I feel like he is starting to figure out how his new coach is going to use him and him use himself,” Brown said. “I see the evolution of him slowly embracing roles and accepting how he can help the team.

Young flashed just how much he is adapting to Brown’s system during his stellar effort in Tuesday’s victory.

“He was fantastic. We are going to remember him catching and going on two big layups at big moments in the game,” Brown said. “We are going to remember him stepping out and making some threes.”

“But what I remember is him engaged in timeouts and making sure all the young guys are on point with our pick-and-roll defense and how we are going to guard the post and him making sure he would perfectly execute whatever play we drew. He was engaged right across the board and he showed tremendous character, tremendous leadership, and the stats will show skill.”

At 25, Young is still youthful in age and an elder statesman all at the same time. While he has come to grips with another new coaching style, Young has also realized that he must now be the one to help instruct teammates put them on the right path.

“It is definitely different. We have a lot more young guys, so paying attention to detail in timeouts and coming into games, knowing the scouting reports, that is huge,” Young said. “When a team figures out a weak link, they are going to take advantage. When they figure out which weakness ours is, they will take advantage of us. So we can ill afford miscues.”

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

Sixers officially sign guard Brandon Paul

The Sixers continued to add to their roster Monday, announcing the signing of guard Brandon Paul. 

Paul participated on the Sixers' summer league squad in Las Vegas, where he averaged 10.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 19.5 minutes. He also played for the Hornets in Utah. 

The 25-year-old went undrafted out Illinois in 2013 and has been playing overseas and in the D-League since then. Last season, he led FIATC Joventut (Spain) in scoring with 13.2 points per game. Paul also has been a member of the Canton Charge (D-League) and Nizhny Novgorod (Russia). 

Next season he could play for the Sixers' Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers. 

Paul is one of several offseason additions for the Sixers. The team has signed Ben Simmons, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez, James Webb III and Shawn Long. The Sixers also have reportedly agreed to a deal with Cat Barber.