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 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Sixers 2016-17 player evaluation: Nik Stauskas

Nik Stauskas

Position: Shooting Guard

Status for 2017-18: Guaranteed — $3,807,147

Stauskas in 2016-17
In his second season with the Sixers and third in the NBA, Nik Stauskas saw himself generally improve across the board, albeit by a small amount. The Sixers as a whole had a plethora of injuries that kept nearly every player off the court for extended periods, yet Stauskas remained healthy enough to play 80 games, start 27 and play 27.4 minutes a contest. Health is certainly a skill and Stauskas has it.

As for his play on the court, Stauskas got better in essentially every category. His field goal percentage rose from 38.5 to 39.6 percent, he shot a career-high 36.8 percent from three and he improved his scoring to 9.5 points per game while also sporting career highs in rebounds, assists and blocks with only a 2.6 minute increase in minutes per game.

His consistency was pretty notable. He played at least 23 minutes in every game after Jan. 20 and was a constant in an ever-changing Sixers rotation. He had eight straight games with double figures to end February. While he began the year as the backup two-guard, Stauskas started at shooting guard by the end of the year with Gerald Henderson nursing an injury. Coach Brett Brown even had Stauskas play point guard down the stretch with injuries to Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez creating an opening. In that way, Stauskas diversified his skill set

Signature game
Stauskas' season-high 21 points came against Phoenix in mid-November, a win against a team even worse than the Sixers. Stauskas had 20 points on back-to-back games in Orlando and Oklahoma City in late March, hitting eight threes over the two games.

But what is a signature game for Stauskas without a little measure of revenge? On Jan. 30, Stauskas made four threes and scored 16 points against the Kings, providing some key baskets in a 122-119 win over his former mates.

Looking ahead to 2017-18
Next season for Stauskas will be a critical one. It'll be the final season of his four-year rookie contract. While he's improved year to year, he's not quite the product one may expect out of the former eighth overall pick. At this point, a few years removed from that 2014 draft, it is unfair to continually compare him to that draft and instead focus on what he is.

Well, what is Stauskas? He's a shooting guard who can play a little bit of the point in a pinch and can hit a decent, albeit not elite, clip of threes. There's value there for sure. However, with a bevy of potential draft picks coming the Sixers' way, the guard known as Sauce Castillo could see his role downsized in 2017-18 with a rookie taking his minutes.

Even players getting healthy could take minutes away from Stauskas. He's already competing with veteran Gerald Henderson, also a free agent after 2017-18, for minutes and Bayless may be squeezed into more of a two-guard role with Ben Simmons at the point. Simmons, Bayless and T.J. McConnell likely take away the few opportunities Stauskas would have to play point guard, but he only took that on because of injury anyway.

Still, even in a roster squeeze, Stauskas brings a fair amount to the table. Brown's system needs shooters and despite a few slumps, Stauskas can drain jumpers. He's developed chemistry in the locker room and has earned enough trust and stayed healthy enough to play 27 minutes a game in the NBA. 

On Stauskas
"We're seeing a skill package that everybody talked about when he came out of college. You're seeing a lottery pick play. I'm personally happy for him because he cares sometimes too much and he's so self-conscious at times and extremely prideful and he's being rewarded for the work he has put in."

- Sixers coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

NBA Playoffs: John Wall scores 42 as Wizards eliminate Hawks

ATLANTA -- John Wall had that look in his eye at morning shootaround.

Bradley Beal knew it was going to be a big night for Washington's star point guard.

Wall scored 42 points -- a career playoff high, with 19 coming in the fourth quarter to single-handedly hold off a furious Atlanta comeback -- and the Wizards eliminated the Hawks with a 115-99 victory Friday, capturing the opening-round playoff series 4-2.

"You could just tell he was locked in," Beal said. "He was ready to go. We just feed off that."

Beal wasn't too shabby either, scoring 31 points (see full recap).

Celtics complete series comeback, eliminate Bulls
CHICAGO -- The Boston Celtics kept reminding each other not to let up as they closed in on a lopsided victory and a trip to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

No need to worry about that.

Avery Bradley scored 23 points, and the hot-shooting Celtics pounded the Chicago Bulls 105-83 to win their first-round series 4-2 on Friday night.

The top-seeded Celtics simply torched Chicago to finish off a tougher-than-anticipated series and advance in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Boston regrouped after dropping the first two games at home and will meet Washington in the Eastern semifinals. Game 1 is Sunday (see full recap).

Clippers beat Jazz on road to force Game 7
SALT LAKE CITY -- Chris Paul scored 29 points and the Los Angeles Clippers forced a Game 7 in their first-round series with a 98-93 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

The Clippers will host the only do-or-die game of the first round Sunday, with the winner advancing to face the Golden State Warriors.

Los Angeles began to edge away in the third quarter and appeared to be in control when Austin Rivers capped a 9-2 run with a step-back 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 91-77 with 3:58 remaining.

He hit another with 1:29 left to make it 96-86, but Gordon Hayward scored seven straight to bring the Jazz within three before Joe Johnson missed a 3-pointer in the waning seconds (see full recap).