Why I Love Thad Young – A Eulogy, Probably

Took you by surprise, didn’t I? You thought I hated everything, right? And if you think that, you’re pretty damn close to understanding me. But there are a few things in the world for which I still have genuine affection.

My kid, obviously. He’s awesome, and I’ll shoot any man in this bar who tells me different.

The feeling of reading anything written by Michael Baumann and realizing I got almost all of his obscure references (including references to Jude the Obscure). It makes me feel smarter than I probably am. Of course, he’s smarter than I am, so that might have something to do with it. And I love nothing more than to feel smart.

The pilot episode of Bosch, on Amazon. See this if you haven’t already. It makes NCIS look like NCMyAss. More on this another time.

And the play, and general existence, of Thaddeus Young.

We drafted him 12th in 2007, and he came in with the reputation of having amazing atheticism,  quality character, and no actual game of any type.

It was all true. He was a wonderful athlete without a clue of how to play basketball, and God bless him, he worked hard as he could to get one. He couldn’t shoot. Suddenly, he could, after spending a summer doing nothing but shooting. He couldn’t rebound. He couldn’t play defense. Now he can, after devoting offseason after offseason working on his game. He lost, and regained, his 3-point game (still a touch inconsistent).

He’s the only legitimately good player left on the ragtag fugitive fleet known as the Philadelphia 76ers (I remain slightly unconvinced about Michael Carter-Williams, but it may be that he is also a good player, as may be Nerlens Noel, when we do finally get to see him play). All his buddies were shipped out at the trade deadline, essentially for nothing. He was left standing by himself. He was asked to step it up, to be the Man, and he did it, even though that’s not really his personality. He didn’t complain during the epic 26-game losing streak, he stayed relentlessly positive, and was generally about the Best Human Being in the NBA.

That’s not even taking into account the amazing amount of stuff he does in the community, how he’s constantly raising money for charity, or how he’ll pretty much talk to any fan that talks to him.

Ever since they traded away my favorite Sixer, Andre Iguodala (still missin’ you, Dre!), Thad’s been My Guy. Ever since they traded away their entire NBA roster for second-round draft picks and D-Leaguers on 10-day contracts, Thad’s been the only player I have any genuine affection for as a fan. The rest, as they say, is just rooting for laundry (although I’m looking forward to being a Nerlens Noel fan…the hair. It’s the hair. Who doesn’t love a good hi-top fade?).

This piece sounds, at least to me, a little more like an obituary than I might like, but that’s because it seems obvious that there is no way Thad Young is part of the Sixers’ long-range planning. He has already implied pretty openly that he wants to be traded to a team with a chance to win. He has one more year (plus a player option I can almost guarantee he won’t take) on his contract. Even if, however unlikely it is when we all live in Sam Hinkie’s world, he isn’t traded this offseason, or at the deadline next season, next year is it.

Whether it’s to move up in this draft, or get an extra first-round pick, or dumped at the deadline for a fistful of second-rounders, he will be moved while he retains value.

And I will be sad. No matter how necessary it is within the context of Sam Hinkie’s plan for Total World Domination, he’ll be a Cavalier or a Wizard or a Piston or a Trail Blazer, and he’ll be great there, wherever there might be, and that will make me sad. And to replace him, I’ll be offered another flailing D-League twit like Brandon Davies, or a one-dimensional 3-point-jacking “stretch 4” like Doug McDermott (Sam, I know you’re reading this, please don’t draft McDermott. We’re buds, right? Hermanos? Do this for me), and I’ll be expected to at least pretend to like it, or at least all my basketball friends will like it and I’ll feel vaguely stupid for not liking it, even why I fully understand why it was necessary.

But I’ll miss Thad, like I miss Dre, and like Dre, I’ll be happy when he does well, even for someone else. It’s getting to be where there are more players I give a crap about around the league than there are on the Sixers’ roster.

And this summer, when the Pelicans sneak into the Top 3 so the Sixers lose their pick (and therefore got exactly nothing for Jrue Holiday) and the Sixers end up falling to 5th and end up drafting Marcus Smart (“because the numbers love him”) when they already have Carter-Williams, who is the exact same player, I will smash my head against a cinderblock wall over and over and over again, and wonder why I was cursed to be a fan of the Most Ridiculous Basketball Franchise In the Universe.

It’s the laundry. Dammit.


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