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News » Inside the Sixers: Sixers' Young endures slump

Inside the Sixers: Sixers' Young endures slump

Inside the Sixers: Sixers' Young endures slump In many ways, this season feels like Thaddeus Young's second, instead of his third.

The 76ers' starting small forward, and one of the better young players in the NBA, has yet to look comfortable on the court for more than few-minute stretches, and just when he looks like himself again, like when he went 8 for 10 from the floor against the Utah Jazz, he'll shoot a combined 7 for 25 in his next two games.

Through the first month of the season, Young, learning coach Eddie Jordan's new systems, has at times looked like a still-learning sophomore - when, as a sophomore, he looked like a veteran.

Just when the "What's up with Young?" question starts to seem too pressing to ignore, he'll toss in a 20-point game, fending off worry with a spin move or a thundering transition dunk.

But you know there's something off. You can see it.

You saw it especially in Wednesday's 86-84 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, when Young was 2 for 10 and looked as if the harder he tried, the less he was in control.

He's missing contested layups he made last season, and his outside shot - although he's 5 for his last 11 three-pointers - somehow seems out of rhythm.

After 11 games this season, Young was averaging 13.5 points per game, shooting 42.4 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from the three-point line.

Last season, Young averaged 15.3 points per game on 49.5 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from the three-point line.

When Young missed the final seven games of the 2008-09 regular season with a sprained ankle, we saw how Young's offensive efficiency affected the Sixers : They were 2-5 without him, losing five in a row.

During that time, Tony DiLeo, then the Sixers' coach, spent much of his news conferences reminding us how crucial Young had become to the team's success.

A few months later, is that no longer true?

And what's wrong with Young?

It is still true. It's just that Young is treading water when it comes to his numbers, so at first glance it doesn't seem like a concern. Only 1.8 points less than last season? At this early stage of the season, that's nothing - that's one 30-point game.

But for those watching closely, you know Young's points have come much less efficiently than last season, which in turn has made the Sixers' offense much less efficient.

Young's ability to finish around the rim, which has come and gone this season, was one of the linchpins to last season's midseason success: Get Young anywhere near the iron and he'll find a way to drop it through the net.

So what's the deal?

The problem seems three-fold: new systems, smaller defenders, and what appears to be a change in preshot rhythm.

Oh, and the issue of issues compounding themselves: Like anything, Young's probably overthinking every shot, made or missed.

Realistically, last season's style of play - mostly transition, easy-to-digest sets, react-oriented style - fit Young about as perfectly as his high-top Nikes.

This season, he's thinking on both sides of the ball, reacting less.

One of the reasons Young excelled last season, one of the reasons he seemed to pass defenders as if they were two steps slower, is because, well, they were two steps slower. Last season, the Sixers went small: Young had to score against power forwards.

Not so this season. Young isn't going from wing to rim with one long step, he's bringing a defender that's quick enough to badger him on the way to the hoop.

From the perimeter, Young is getting the same open shots as last season. His footwork, though, is slightly different. Instead of stepping on balance, one foot then the next, he's hopping into the shot.

If you watch Young as he catches, he looks very different from last season.

Young has admitted to letting some of the misses get in his head, which is inevitable, as the more shots you miss the more you concern yourself with missing the next one - until the feeling upon making a shot isn't indifference but relief.

Knowing Young, he'll study every minute of game tape from now until he has returned to his free-flowing self.

And maybe when he does, the Sixers will be that much closer to becoming themselves.

Inside the Sixers :

Read Kate Fagan's 76ers blog, Deep Sixer , at http://go.philly.com/sports.

Blog response of the week

Posted 04:37 PM, 11/16/2009


What they are running is not really a Princeton offense . . . it's a sad, basic offshoot, and the players don't understand why they are running it. Princeton ran it b/c they werent as athletic as other teams. It was/is a way of beating overaggressive players backdoor for easy baskets, and if teams start sagging and playing the backdoor, that is when a dribble handoff or backscreen would happen for a 3.

These players are just running around wasting precious shot-clock minutes without any concept of why they are running the offense. No one looks to throw a backdoor pass, partially b/c NBA defenses are so lazy and already sag into the lane, and also b/c players are not taught to look for this. Yes, the offense can be complicatged at times - we ran the offense in college and spent about 3 percent of the time on defense and the rest on offense. After all, the offense was so slow and calculating that it actually served as your defense too as it kept the other team from possessing the ball and scoring points . . . which is why Princeton offense teams consistently lead the nation in points- allowed categories in college. This offense can work as a watered-down version in the NBA with the right players. This group doesnt get it and is a collection of what is wrong with NBA players - no fundamentals, passing ability, can't see the court, too focused on dunks and threes. Passing the ball, moving, and creating shots for your team is what the team and the league need - now.

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.

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Added: November 23, 2009


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