Ex-Sixer Sam Young fitting in with Pacers


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.”

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since reaggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points, one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.