Ex-Sixer Sam Young fitting in with Pacers

Ex-Sixer Sam Young fitting in with Pacers
February 7, 2013, 9:00 am
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Former Sixer Sam Young is averaging 15.5 minutes per game with the Pacers so far this season. (USA Today Images)

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.”