Thad Young ponders future after loss to Grizzlies

ap-sixers-thaddeus-young.jpg

Thad Young ponders future after loss to Grizzlies

BOX SCORE

MEMPHIS -- Sixers forward Thaddeus Young watched with his hands on his hips as teammate Tony Wroten flew by him and attempted a 39-foot prayer as the third-quarter horn sounded.

By that time, the Sixers trailed the Memphis Grizzlies by 23 points -- a mountain the Sixers weren't going to climb -- and Young retreated back to the huddle, shaking his head with the team on its way to a 117-95 road loss Friday night at FedExForum (see Instant Replay).

It was the Sixers' third straight loss and fifth in its last six games since snapping its NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak.

And with three games left in the regular season, they could be Young's last as a Sixer.

"Yeah, all the time," Young said before the game when asked about his future. "One thing I've always said: Just like upstairs, they put their GM hats on. I put mine on also. It's not just about basketball. It's about me as a player. This is a business, and it's about doing what's best for my family. It may be here, or it may not be here."

The losing -- the Sixers fell to 17-62 Friday -- has admittedly taken a toll on Young, who at 25 years old and in his sixth season, has become one of the "elder statesmen" on a team with 10 players with no more than one year of experience in the league.

Young has two more years on his contract with the Sixers, but he can opt out after next season.

"It's been very, very difficult," said Young, one of three Sixers returning to his hometown of Memphis on Friday. "But I've been making it through just by going out there and just playing, continuing to try to have fun and and help these guys be better.

"We all know the situation at hand. There's a rebuilding process and restructuring. We have a lot of guys in this room. Some won't be here [next year], some will. We know we have a lot of second-round draft picks and two first-round picks. This is a big draft, and personally I think the future is big for this organization and this team for what we're trying to accomplish right now."

For the rest of the season at least, Young will continue to play the role of leader and mentor, shepherding and offering advice to the team's younger players like fellow Memphian Adonis Thomas, a former University of Memphis forward whom the Sixers signed to a 10-day contract this week.

Thomas saw his first action as a Sixer on Friday, finishing with four points on 2 of 3 shooting while playing the game's final eight minutes.

Young and Wroten both scored a team-high 18 points for the Sixers, who were outscored 24-7 over the final seven minutes of the third quarter after Young picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench.

Elliot Williams, another Memphian and former University of Memphis player whom the Sixers signed this season, added 13 points (on 6 of 11 shooting) and four assists off the bench. It was eighth time in the last nine games Williams has finished in double figures.

"We let the game get away from us in the third [quarter]," Williams said. "We've got three more games -- games against playoff contenders. One against Boston, but we've got Miami and Charlotte (on Saturday) on the road. We just want to keep getting better offensively and defensively in our rotations because it wasn't too good today."

Asked about his future with the team, Williams said: "This year was big for me because it was my first year of being healthy. Just getting my body right. Just working hard in the offseason and coming back better -- that's all I can focus on."

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

Sixers-Celtics 5 things: Slowing down Isaiah Thomas

The Sixers (4-15) continue their homestand against the Boston Celtics (11-8) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7:30 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. A green giant-sized challenge
Just crumple it up and move on.

That's about the only thing the Sixers can do after getting ran out of the gym by the Orlando Magic on Friday. Instead of looking like a team that hadn't played since Monday, the Sixers appeared flat in a 105-88 loss.

Outside of Joel Embiid's first 20-point, 10-rebound game (he had 25 points and 10 boards) and a strong effort from Jahlil Okafor (16 points and 13 rebounds), not much else went right for the Sixers.

Now Embiid will sit the second game of a back-to-back set and Okafor will be thrust into the starting lineup, as the Sixers try to deal with Boston big man Al Horford. 

Horford, the Celtics' prized free-agent acquisition, is coming off his best game so far for his new team. He recorded 26 points, eight rebounds and six blocks in the Celtics' 97-92 win over the Kings on Friday.

2. Little big man
Even with Horford coming off a productive performance, the Sixers' game plan against the Celtics has to focus on slowing down Isaiah Thomas.

The 5-foot-9 guard continues to put up big numbers in the scoring department. Despite his shooting percentages taking a dip this season, Thomas still ranks ninth in the NBA with a career-high 25.7 points per game. 

And even though he is a willing passer (averaging a career-high-tying 6.3 assists), expect Thomas to try and score early and often against the Sixers. After all, the reserve-turned-All-Star has put up 21.5 points per game against the Sixers during his career, his highest mark against any opponent.

3. Dial up the long-distance defense
The Sixers need to be aware of Thomas and just about all of his teammates when they toe that three-point line.

The Celtics rank fifth in the league in three-pointers attempted (31.1), three-pointers made (11.3) and eighth in three-point percentage (36.3) per game.

The C's have four players shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps a bit surprising, three of them are big men. Jonas Jerebko (46.4 percent), Horford (42.4 percent) and Amir Johnson (40.0 percent) have all been on target from long range.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are both questionable. Embiid (rest), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

The Celtics have no players listed on the injury report.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost five games in a row overall and eight straight to the Celtics.

• The Celtics rank 25th in rebounding with 42.2 a night.

• Dario Saric had two points Friday against the Magic and has failed to reach double digits in scoring five of his last six games.

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

Sixers, Magic get glimpse into future with young talent on full display

The Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic on Friday was not the game to watch for those looking for competitive basketball, as the Magic needed just three quarters to put the game out of reach (see Instant Replay).

What the game did have was some of the NBA’s top young talent.

Friday night featured six first-round picks from the 2014 NBA draft. Joel Embiid (No. 3), Aaron Gordon (No. 4), Nik Stauskas (No. 8), Elfrid Payton (No. 10) and Dario Saric (No. 12) were all lottery selections in 2014.

Add in Sixers center Jahlil Okafor and Magic guard Mario Hezonja, who were both top-five picks in 2015, and that’s seven top-12 picks from the last three draft classes, not even counting the injured Ben Simmons.

“Basketball’s a small world, you grow up playing these guys," Gordon said of the Sixers. "Those guys are talented. They have a young group of guys that are going to get better and better each time they play.”

Though he played only 27 minutes, Embiid finished the game with 25 points and 10 rebounds to go along with four assists for the Sixers (see story). Okafor had a double-double of his own, adding 16 points and 13 rebounds.

Gordon, who is averaging 9.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, led the Magic with 20 points and also added two rebounds.

“He did pretty good,” Embiid said of Gordon. “He shot the ball pretty well tonight.”

The other four lottery selections struggled a bit. Payton played 24 minutes and finished with two points and four assists, while Hezonja missed both of his shot attempts in just three minutes of playing time.

Stauskas went scoreless, going 0 for 6 from the floor, finishing with five assists and three turnovers, while Saric went 1 for 5 from the field and turned the ball over twice

“It’s just about being patient, really,” Stauskas said. “We know our time will come eventually. It’s just about being patient and continuing to work hard, whether it’s next year or the year after, eventually things are going to click and this team is going to become a legit playoff team in the East, it’s just a matter of time before it happens.”

Even with a plethora of top-round talent, the Magic have struggled over the past two seasons, much like the Sixers. Orlando hadn't won more than 25 games in a season since 2012-13 before going 35-47 last year.

Despite the abundance of talent, both teams are waiting for their players to develop. Both the Sixers and Magic entered Friday’s game among the bottom four teams in the Eastern Conference. If their draft choices pan out, it wouldn't be surprising to see the two teams closer to the top of the conference and right in the thick of the playoff race in a few years. 

“Eventually they’re going to get there,” Magic center Bismack Biyombo said of the Sixers. “Like all young teams, you go through struggles before you face success. That’s just how life is. They have to learn the hard way. We’ve all been through the process like that but you always have to stay patient and see a great future ahead. Obviously they have a lot of talented kids that sooner or later, they’ll know more about the league and establish themselves.”