Thad Young improving, may return ahead of schedule

Thad Young improving, may return ahead of schedule

February 18, 2013, 10:00 pm

As the Sixers begin the final 31-game sprint to the finish line of the 2012-13 season, there still is no timetable for when Andrew Bynum will make his debut (see story). The All-Star center has been working out with the team, but still has not jumped into full-contact basketball action.

Still, Bynum’s teammates were excited to see the big man participating in shooting drills and dunking the ball. After all, nothing gets players as excited as when they get a chance to throw one down.

And during Monday’s practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, no one was more excited about his dunks than Thad Young.

Out for the last two weeks with a Grade I hamstring strain, Young says he’s progressing in his treatment and rehab and could return to the court just short of the three-week timetable that was set when he suffered the injury.

“Getting better each and every day,” Young said. “I was out there doing stuff with the team on the court and got a few dunks in … finally. But I’m progressing.”

Though Bynum’s return is unknown, coach Doug Collins said he anticipates Young getting onto the court for Sunday’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. In fact, Collins saw Young dunk, stretch and run around cones on the court during Monday’s workout and was pleased with the progress.

“I’m very encouraged with Thaddeus,” Collins said. “[Tuesday] he’s going to try and get up and down the floor a little bit. My guess would be that he won’t be ready for [Wednesday’s game in] Minnesota or ready for [Saturday’s game against] Miami. Is there an outside chance he will be ready for New York on Sunday? Possibility. I hope he doesn’t miss any more than three games. We definitely need him out there.”

Without Young, who Collins calls the Sixers' "most important player," the Sixers have dropped three games in a row. They were blown out at home against the Los Angeles Clippers, where Young undoubtedly would have guarded All-Star Blake Griffin.

Actually, Young’s absence from the lineup may have hurt the Sixers more than when Jrue Holiday missed four games with a sprained ankle in December. Without Bynum or Young, the already thin Sixers frontline was no match for big teams like Indiana or the Clippers and they struggled against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first-half finale.

The Sixers open the second half on Wednesday night against Minnesota, which will be without All-Star Kevin Love. However, it will have center Nikola Pekovic, who is sure to give the Sixers a rough time on the boards.

“We need a fourth big guy to be playing for us,” Collins said, noting that he has Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and rookie Arnett Moultrie in his frontcourt rotation. “If we get Thad back we have four guys to give us those minutes.”

Young certainly makes his minutes count, too. Averaging 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game with a 52.2 percent shooting percentage is just the icing for what Young really gives the team. On defense, Young is usually matched up against the opposition’s best scorer and along with that defense the Sixers get energy, grit and speed.

So when Young got hurt, Collins knew it was going to be a tough stretch.

“We don’t have great speed and he’s the one guy who can get out on the open court,” Collins said. “He flattens out the floor, he runs out in front of the ball and it allows some of our big guys to roll out and shoot the ball.”

That’s just one thing Young gives the team. Meanwhile, Young is just as anxious as his team is to get back on the floor.

“I just can’t wait to get back on the court because it sucks to be on the sidelines watching practice,” Young said. “I think that’s the most boring part of my day and it drives me crazy to watch my teammates practice and do drills while I’m on the sidelines.”