Ex-Sixer Sam Young fitting in with Pacers

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Ex-Sixer Sam Young fitting in with Pacers

Sam Young has found a home again.

At least for now, that is.

The Indiana Pacers re-signed Young last month three weeks after releasing him. The move was made after Young injured his left ankle during a practice in January. With Young’s contract on the verge of being guaranteed, Indiana made the tough decision to part ways.

But it didn’t last long -- head coach Frank Vogel made sure it didn’t.

Vogel said he told the Pacers front office that he was not on board with releasing Young if it meant they wouldn’t bring him back.

“Really excited,” Vogel said of Young’s return. “As soon as we got him back healthy, we signed him, got him right back in the rotation.”

Young, who last season was traded to the Sixers from Memphis for the rights to forward Ricky Sánchez, is helping the Pacers in the area they are best -- defense.

The Pacers have one of NBA’s best defenses statistically. Indiana is second in the league in points allowed, averaging 90.3, holding their opponents to an NBA-best 42.1 percent shooting (32.5 percent three-point shooting), and first in rebounding, averaging 45.4 per game.

Vogel admired Young’s attitude with defense, which is one reason why he’s averaging 15.5 minutes per game. That’s more playing time than Young has seen since 2010-11, his sophomore season with the Grizzles.

“He shows it,” Young said of Vogel’s confidence in him. “When a coach consistently tells you that what you bring to the table is needed on the team, that’s pretty much everything you need.”

You won’t see Young light up the scoreboard -- most games his name probably wont be mentioned at all (unless he utilizes that highly effective pump fake, which Young said he’s never worked on). However, the University of Pittsburgh product does his damage quietly.

“He’s just a winning player” Vogel said, “that does a lot of little things. Not a guy that’s going to go out and put up 20 points a game, obviously, but make all the hustle plays.”

Heading into the matchup with the Sixers on Wednesday, the Pacers were riding a four-game winning streak with wins over Detroit, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.

Knowing Miami is the best team in the Eastern Conference, one would probably guess if there was a blowout in that win streak it didn't come against the reigning NBA champions. 

That guess would be wrong.

The Pacers blew out the Heat, 102-89, last week and Young’s stat line wasn’t a key factor. But what he did in his 11:21 minutes of playing time was make life tough for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. No, he didn’t completely shut down James, who finished with 28 points on 9-of-17 shooting, but anytime a team has a player like Young who can challenge James just a little, the Pacers will take it.

In fact, one reason Vogel was so vocal about bringing back Young was his ability to guard guys like James and Carmelo Anthony, two of the best scorers in the league.

Told of this, Young smiled and said: “Before I stepped on the floor to play a game, they’ve been emphasizing that. I already know, when the big guns come out, I’ll be on them.”

Young described his brief time here in Philly as “incomplete.” When the trade occurred, Sixers head coach Doug Collins admired Young’s defense. He thought adding another wing defender would only help the Sixers down the stretch. And maybe it would’ve, had the Sixers beaten the Boston Celtics and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals last season, where the Heat awaited.

Young played in 14 games and averaged a little over nine minutes with the Sixers, seeing the majority of his playing time at the end of games.

“Before I even got on the floor, we had a [losing streak],” Young said of his lack of playing time with the Sixers. “So when you have that streak like that, red flags go up. You don’t want to start taking a chance now. I came in, and I had to kind of sit back and wait until the team started to play [well]. … Just learning the plays and getting comfortable in the system, it wasn’t enough time.”

And of his new team, Young seems comfortable. When he was released, he never left Indiana and continued to work out at the team’s facility before getting re-signed.

Asked if he feels the Pacers are the team for him moving forward, Young said, “Hopefully. And I hope they feel the same.”

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

Best of NBA: Heat stun Warriors on Dion Waiters' 3 with 0.6 seconds left

MIAMI -- Dion Waiters' 3-pointer with 0.6 seconds left capped his 33-point effort, and the Miami Heat beat Golden State 105-102 on Monday night to end the Warriors' seven-game winning streak.

The Heat wasted a 10-point lead in the final 4 minutes, and Kevin Durant tied the game on a dunk with 11.7 seconds left. With no timeouts, Waiters walked the ball up the court and drilled what became the game-winner over Klay Thompson.

Stephen Curry missed a 3-pointer as time expired for the Warriors (see full recap).

Rivers, Crawford lead Clippers past Hawks
ATLANTA -- Austin Rivers scored 27 points and Jamal Crawford broke out of a shooting slump with 19, helping the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Atlanta Hawks 115-105 on Monday night.

Crawford had eight points in the fourth quarter, including a driving basket after Atlanta cut the Clippers' lead from 24 to five points.

Kent Bazemore led the Hawks with 25 points. Dennis Schroder had 21, and Dwight Howard added 16 points and 12 rebounds (see full recap).

Wizards beat Hornets behind Wall’s 24
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- John Wall firmly believes the Washington Wizards are a good team with plenty of playoff potential.

The key, he said, "is we just got to believe it every time we step on the court."

Wall had 24 points and seven assists, and the Wizards looked plenty confident as they continued their run up the Eastern Conference standings with a 109-99 win against the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night (see full recap).

Kings snap skid with win over Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak with a 109-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.

Ty Lawson added 19 points and helped Sacramento turn the game around with a strong second quarter. Lawson scored nine points in the second, and the Kings outscored the Pistons 37-24 in the period to take a 65-62 lead into halftime.

A 3-pointer by Lawson put Sacramento up 101-90 in the fourth, and the Kings held on from there to stop Detroit's three-game winning streak (see full recap).

Jones, Holiday lead Pelicans past Cavs
NEW ORLEANS -- Terrence Jones filled in brilliantly for injured All-Star Anthony Davis, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking LeBron James' dunk attempt in the fourth quarter, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-122 on Monday night.

Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists for the Pelicans, and Langston Galloway capped a 12-point night with a clean steal on James' drive in the final minute, preventing the Cavs from erasing a deficit they had trimmed from 22 late in the first half to three with 1:32 left in the game.

Kyrie Irving scoring 35 of his 49 points in the second half, but the Cleveland fell to its fifth loss in seven games. James had 26 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (see full recap).

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens, really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going, it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period, it got kind of sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being 100 percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded, as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014.

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.