Thaddeus Young scored a game-high 26 points off the bench Wednesday night in his return from a leave of absence. (AP)
ORLANDO, Fla. – Thaddeus Young returned to the court Wednesday night with a heavy heart. One week earlier, after participating in a morning shoot around in Philadelphia with his team preparing for the Raptors, Young received horrible news that his nephew had died.
“My nephew passed away in a car accident,” Young said before Wednesday’s game with the Magic, his first game back since his leave of absence. “I had to be with my family and get through it. I left Thursday to be with them and make arrangements. Everyone is being strong. They have been texting me, asking if I am OK.”
“I haven’t really done anything on the court since that last shoot around,” Young said. “But emotionally, I mean, my nephew was like my brother. He was one of my closest family members. I am just ready to get back, put this behind me, and just play basketball.”
Young missed three games in the week he was gone and the Sixers went 1-2. He is currently the team’s fourth leading scorer with 14.3 points per game. He's also averaging 6.5 rebounds.
He had started the 12 games the Sixers played before his departure, but Brett Brown opted to bring Young off the bench Wednesday if an effort to be considerate of the week Young had experienced.
Young entered the game with 7:42 to play in the first quarter, and 15 seconds later, he hit a step-back jumper. By night’s end, he led all scorers with 26 points.
“It was great having Thaddeus back,” Brett Brown said. “He had 11 free throws and that is a reflection of him being aggressive and him playing really gave us a needed lift. With Tony (Wroten) and Spencer (Hawes) out we were thrilled to have him back.”
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Young, despite the tragedy still being a fresh wound, expressed tremendous gratitude to the Sixers.
“The team has been very, very good helping me through the situation,” Young said. “My hat goes off to them for giving me time and space and the opportunity to be with my family and get through this situation. I appreciate everything they have done for me. I am just ready to get back and get in the motion of things.”
“I will never get over it because it’s a difficult situation. But at the end of the day he (his nephew) wouldn’t want me to dwell on what happened; he would want me to get past it and keep playing. And these guys in here are family also.”
Brown repeatedly talks about how proud he is that he has players who genuinely care about and like one another, often using the example that when a player falls to the floor, his teammates run over to pick him up.
The whole organization sprinted to Young's aid this past week. That’s what families do.