It’s often said that injuries are a part of professional sports. Some injuries are more untimely than others, but the reality is that there is no “good” time to endure an injury. Players are left wondering if they’ll ever to return to full strength and play at a high level again.
Patric Young was playing some of the best basketball of his career last season when he suffered a torn ACL while with Olympiacos in Greece. Young was just 10 games into the season when a player collided into his left knee, sending him crashing to the court. His season was over just as it was getting underway.
Advances have been made in recent years to improve the recovery time with ACL surgery. It’s still tough to gauge how a player will return from an injury inside of the knee. Some players have been able to come back at 100 percent as if the injury never occurred, while others have endured further complications down the line.
As devastating as an ACL injury can be, it’s important for guys to maintain a positive mindset during the rehabilitation process. It can be a very tough road back from such an injury, but players know that it can be done. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson suffered an ACL tear during the 2011 season and returned the following campaign and finished eight yards short of setting the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from following Young on social media or talking to him in person is that he has a very positive attitude and demeanor. It’d be very reasonable to think that an ACL injury could impact a player in a negative way, but he maintains a great outlook on his current situation and his road back.
“The thing with having an injury like this is people don’t tell you – you already have free time as a basketball player, but you have so much more free time with an injury,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Having people around you to keep you occupied, help you stay busy, stay positive through all of the process is everything. If you’re just thinking about things you have no control over, it’s going to eat you alive. You can’t allow that to affect the present moment that you can enjoy with your friends and family and people around you.”
The former University of Florida center was producing at a very high level prior to his injury. In 10 games in Greece, Young was averaging 9.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. He was named the Euroleague Week 1 Most Valuable Player after recording 16 points, six rebounds, four blocks, two assists and two steals.
Perhaps the biggest facet of his game that was on display was his shot-blocking ability. Through his 10 games played for Olympiacos, he recorded 16 blocks. Former sixth overall pick Ekpe Udoh set the Euroleague record for most blocks in a season at 61, a mark that Young could have flirted with had he stayed healthy.
Admittedly, there was a bit of a learning curve for Young as he transitioned to his first season with Olympiacos. He struggled at first as he got used to playing with a new group of teammates. Things like when to pick, when to roll and how to play pick-and-roll defense took time to figure out. He applied the things he learned from Billy Donovan at Florida to get on track in Greece and finally it began clicking for him.
“What I was able to do is just realize that, ‘Pat, you’re stronger than 95 percent of everyone in this league even though you’re an undersized center.’ What I was able to do is just kill people with my energy, run the floor [and] seal guys under the basket,” Young said. “I was averaging 2.6 blocks a game [in the Euroleague] as well, which is something that I’ve never been able to do in my career as far as maintaining that. Defensively, in the pick-and-roll situation and post defense, guys weren’t scoring on me so I was able to be an anchor for my team while I was on the court.”
Young has spent much of the summer back in Florida, training and continuing his rehab process. He’s mixed in trips back to his hometown of Jacksonville, returned back to Gainesville to check in on his former school and spent the past several weeks in Orlando training at TNT Elite Hoops. Wherever he’s at, he still manages to hit the weight room and stay on a pretty rigorous training schedule.
“I just love working out,” Young said. “The number one thing that I’ve learned growing up is that you can have talent, but if you don’t have a work ethic to back up that talent, it’ll only get you so far. Same with being an athlete coming to basketball; you can be an athlete in basketball and jump really high and do certain things really well or hustle, but it’s only a certain small niche of guys that can do that.
“At the top level, you need to be able to make some hook shots, be confident with the ball in your hands that you’re not going to turn it over [and] things like that. It’s important that I can build my confidence outside of just being an athlete so if that’s taken away from me, I can bring something else to the game.”
Following his four years at Florida, Young went undrafted in 2014. He played on the New Orleans Pelicans’ Summer League team that year in Las Vegas and signed a two-year contract shortly after. He went through training camp with the Pelicans and was cut shortly after the season started.
He played the rest of that season for Galatasaray in Turkey with the hope of returning to the NBA. Young averaged 9.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and .8 blocks per game in Turkey. He was set to play last year for the Los Angeles Clippers in Summer League, but was offered a two-year, $1.6 million contract by Olympiacos.
The guaranteed contract in Greece appealed to Young the most. He would have had to grind his way through Summer League, training camp and the preseason with the Clippers to have a chance in the NBA. The chances of landing a guaranteed contract in the NBA were much lower than overseas, so Young wanted to play overseas and use that as an avenue to return to the NBA.
Players are just one injury away from losing the ability to make a living, so Young went to Greece. As his ACL injury proved, anything can happen and now playing in Greece (and earning that guaranteed money) looks like a great decision.
Young is hoping that a successful season in Greece can be what’s needed to get him back in the NBA. He hopes to be a player who can come in and impact games with his ability to make hustle plays and dominate defensively in the paint. At 6’10 and 247 pounds, Young has great agility and quickness for his size, and he boasts a 7’1 wingspan.
Despite the league’s movement to more small-ball, big men in the NBA are still needed. We saw the demand this summer in free agency for big men, as players like Bismack Biyombo, Timofey Mozgov, Ian Mahinmi and Miles Plumlee were all paid handsomely even though this group of players may not be the prototypical fit best suited for the pace-and-space style that many NBA teams are using.
Most players, Young included, are using what happened this summer in free agency as motivation to get to the NBA. As he is set to enter the final year of his contract with Olympiacos this season, he wants to showcase his complete skill set and take his game to another level to have an opportunity to get back into the NBA.
“I’m not even going to say any names, you guys see the contracts that are being signed for the sub-par production of some players,” Young said. “If I can take care of my business and do my job… I pray that I can stay healthy, I have no control over that. If I can finish out a full season healthy in Europe and hopefully bring Olympiacos to the championship, then hopefully it can do me wonders to come back to the NBA.”
In the meantime, Young is busy planning the First Annual Patric Young Charity Golf Classic on August 6 in Gainesville to benefit the Stop Children’s Cancer Foundation. The organization has raised more than $6 million to help fund research at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine.
Young has donated his time to visit various children in the hospital and is excited to give back. There will be a silent auction at the tournament and among the items to bid on are an autographed pair of shoes from Anthony Davis and autographed jerseys from Chandler Parsons, Carlos Arroyo and Young.
Young will continue rehabbing his left knee in order to return to 100 percent. He’s about eight months removed from surgery and believes he’s about a month away from being cleared to play again. Once his recovering leg improves to 90 percent of the strength of his strong leg, he’ll be able to resume playing. He’ll likely return to Greece some time next month.
NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode
With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.
After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.
Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.
First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.
Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.
In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.
Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?
Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.
The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.
Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.
“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”
That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.
Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.
After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.
At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.
The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.
In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.
An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.
It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.
Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.
Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.
Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.
Fixing The Detroit Pistons
David Yapkowitz looks at how the fading Pistons can turn things around moving forward.
We wrap this week up with another installment of our “Fixing” series here at Basketball Insiders. The next team up is the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons came into this season with playoff aspirations after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign that saw them regress instead of building on their playoff appearance the season before. To begin the season, they looked like they were on their way to accomplishing that objective. Then Reggie Jackson got hurt and the season began spiraling out of control.
They tried to inject some life into the team by trading for Blake Griffin, but it hasn’t worked out as expected. The Pistons have gone 8-12 since acquiring Griffin and the postseason looks like a pipe dream at this point.
What Is Working
Not a whole lot. Despite trading for a superstar player, the Pistons have tumbled down to the point where playoffs are looking extremely unlikely.
If there’s one thing that’s a welcome sight, it’s the bounce back of Andre Drummond. After being named to his first All-Star team in 2015-16, Drummond had a bit of a let down the following season. This season, he was once again an All-Star while putting up career-highs in rebounds (15.7) and assists (3.2). Drummond is still only 24 years old and has his best basketball years ahead of him.
The Pistons have also received encouraging signs from rookie Luke Kennard. A lottery pick in last summer’s draft, Kennard he’s been one of the few bright spots at times for the Pistons. About a week ago, his playing time had diminished some and he racked up a few DNP’s, but Stan Van Gundy has since reinserted him into the rotation.
They’ve also gotten solid production out of Reggie Bullock. When Bullock came over to the Pistons in a trade with the Phoenix Suns almost three years ago, he was little more than a seldom-used wing with the potential to become a solid 3&D guy. This has been his year, however. He’s the best shooter on the team at 43.5 percent from the three-point line. His numbers, 10.8 points per game and 49.1 percent shooting from the field, are career-highs.
What Needs To Change
Quite a bit. Acquiring Griffin was a move the Pistons needed to make. On the verge of losing control of the season, they needed to make a move to try and turn things around. It’s been a disaster thus far, however. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and although they’re in ninth place, they’re falling farther and farther away from eighth.
Who the Pistons are really missing is Reggie Jackson. Ish Smith, who has proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is an NBA player, just isn’t Jackson. They desperately need Jackson’s playmaking abilities to help take the pressure off everyone else. Even if he returns this season, it’s already too late. The Pistons need to focus on getting him healthy and ready for next season.
The Pistons also need to improve their offense. They’re in the bottom half of the league in both points per game (25th) and offensive rating (24th). A big part of that is Jackson’s absence, but they could also benefit from additional outside shooting. Right now they have one long-range threat on the roster and that’s Bullock.
Focus Area: The Draft
To make matters worse, the Pistons will likely give up their draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the Griffin trade. The only way the Clippers wouldn’t acquire the Pistons’ pick this year is if it falls in the top four, and that’s not going to happen.
The Pistons will have a second-round pick though. The draft is never 100 percent guaranteed, and the second round is even more of a crapshoot, but talented players can definitely be found. That’s what the Pistons’ main objective in the draft should be. It sounds silly, but they truly need to buckle down and do their homework in hopes of finding that one overlooked guy in the second round. That’s pretty much all they have to look forward to come draft night.
Focus Area: Free Agency
The Pistons are going to have a couple of minor decisions to make this summer regarding their free agents. Jameer Nelson, James Ennis, and Anthony Tolliver are all unrestricted free agents. Out of the three, Ennis has given the team the best on-court production, but it isn’t necessary that any of them are brought back.
Bullock and Dwight Buycks have non-guaranteed contracts, and those are the two guys that the Pistons should work towards bringing back in the fold. Both should have their contracts guaranteed for the following season. Bullock is their only three-point threat. Buycks began the season as a two-way contract player splitting time between the Pistons and the Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League. He’s since been converted to a standard NBA contract and has done enough to earn his spot on the team next year.
In terms of adding new players to the roster, as mentioned before, the Pistons need outside shooting. Marco Belinelli and Wayne Ellington are possible options that the Pistons might be able to afford. Joe Harris is another option, but it will be interesting to see what the market is for him after the strong season he’s been having in Brooklyn.
It’s tough to gauge the Pistons’ true potential without Jackson. If he returns before the season ends, it will be too small a sample size to accurately assess the team. There are only 14 games left. Although things look pretty bleak right now, it can’t be argued that injuries haven’t played a big role in the Pistons disappointing season.
The team deserves a shot at seeing how a healthy Jackson, Griffin, and Drummond trio looks on the court together. If they start off next season the same way despite all three being healthy and in the lineup, then it would be time for serious changes.
Fixing The Chicago Bulls
Spencer Davies says the Bulls have a long way to go, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all they can ask for.
Next up on Basketball Insiders’ “fixing” series is a stop in the Windy City.
In spite of the criticisms over last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, it feels like the Chicago Bulls at least have a sense of direction. Many members of the media—including this one—expected them to finish dead last in the NBA, yet they have 23 wins, with seven other teams worse off.
Obviously, the goal for the organization this season was to establish an identity and see what they had with their new cornerstone pieces. To a good extent, there’s optimism regarding those players because of the potential they’ve shown.
There’s still a good chunk of the year left, but the Bulls are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 15 games to go.
What Is Working
If it weren’t for the spectacular seasons by Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons, Chicago stretch big man Lauri Markkanen might be the Rookie of the Year. Even with some second-half struggles, the entire body of work is impressive.
The 7-foot Finnish forward continues to stay aggressive with a high usage and great mentality in snatching up those boards. It’s normal for a first-year player to go through those ups and downs. Add in a back injury that’s been bothering him as of late and the slump make a little more sense. Markkanen has shown the skill and consistent effort that it takes to be a mainstay in this league.
Bobby Portis is another member of the frontcourt who’s made a noticeable impact off the Bulls’ bench. In his third year, you can see the confidence continue to grow as a versatile offensive threat with a ton of touches. He’s taken a responsibility upon himself to lead the second unit and the proof is in the pudding. According to Cleaning The Glass, the team is a net plus-11.5 per 100 possessions with him on the court.
Second-year swingman Denzel Valentine has filled the stat sheet in multiple games as one of the most unselfish players on the roster. David Nwaba’s role from the beginning was to be a defensive menace and he’s come through for the majority of the year. Even two-way contract rookie Antonio Blakeney has shown flashes as a volume scorer in stretches.
Recently, Chicago has given a couple of cast-offs opportunities to display their skills. In 10 games, Cameron Payne looks as comfortable as he has in quite some time coming off a major foot injury. Noah Vonleh has been an effective late addition playing next to Portis and filling in for Markkanen. Let’s not forget that these two were lottery picks and are still in their early 20s.
What Needs To Change
Looking at what Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine have done, it’s been a mixed bag. With that being said, there’s clearly untapped potential between the both of them.
Dunn proved in very little time that the narrative of him being a lost cause was far from the truth. Hoiberg’s trust in him to be Chicago’s floor general has gone a long way. He’s been in attack mode with the ball in his hands, has seen his outside game get better and has been bothersome with his length defensively. It hasn’t resulted in wins, but remember—it’s this group’s first season together.
As for LaVine, it’s difficult to judge where a player is using a 23-game sample size. Yes, it’s a good amount of playing time, but let’s not forget he’s coming off a devastating left ACL tear. His defense has been subpar, but the bounce seems to still be there. The jumper is on and off, but he hasn’t been bashful at all. Starting the year off fresh in 2018-19 will benefit him.
Speaking of next season, the goal for the front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson should be simple—get younger. Currently, Robin Lopez is the highest paid player on the Bulls and he’ll have one year left on his deal going into the summer. The same applies to Justin Holiday. These are two veterans who could contribute on teams ready to win now, and it would be logical to part ways considering the direction the franchise is going.
Focus Area: The Draft
Due to the Nikola Mirotic trade on February 1st, Chicago acquired a first-round draft pick from the New Orleans Pelicans. That gives them two chances to add to their young talent pool in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft.
Typically you’d go with the best player available when you’re slotted in the top ten, but the Bulls should feel good about their backcourt and the power forward position. What they really are lacking are reliable shooters and perimeter defenders, as well as a player with a bulldog mentality.
Chicago doesn’t get to the free throw nearly enough and they don’t convert looks that they should. Considering a true wing is amiss, it’d be the ideal scenario for Michael Porter Jr. to fall right into their lap. The Missouri freshman just returned after missing basically the entire season with a back injury. He was a top name coming into the class because of his size and could be a steal with the eighth selection.
If Porter Jr. doesn’t make it to them, Miles Bridges would make for a heck of a consolation prize. Unlike Porter, he has a more muscular frame at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds that allows him to bully the opposition. There’s a relentless nature and fearlessness about him that will translate to the next level.
Using that Pelicans pick, the Bulls would be happy to see Duke sharpshooter Gary Trent Jr. fall to them in the early-to-mid 20s, but that seems more unlikely with Anthony Davis continuing to carry New Orleans to new heights. If they end up selecting towards to the back end of the first round, Arizona junior guard Allonzo Trier could end up being a good fit as well.
Focus Area: Free Agency
Entering the summer, Chicago doesn’t have too many decisions to make on the contract front.
The trade exception from the Butler deal expires on June 22nd. If it’s not used by then, the amount will be renounced if the team goes under the salary cap. The deadline to present Noah Vonleh and David Nwaba a qualifying offer is June 29th.
Everybody’s going to keep an eye on LaVine because of restricted free agency, but the Bulls have indicated they prefer him to be a part of their core. They’ll in all likelihood look to bring him back on a long-term contract. If he doesn’t approve of the terms, he can always choose to play on his qualifying offer and bet on himself.
Chicago has to decide whether or not to guarantee Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary for next season by July 18th. The extension deadline for Payne, Portis, and Grant is the day before the first day of the 2018 campaign and team option deadlines for Dunn and Markannen come on Halloween.
There probably won’t be too much activity on the Bulls’ part regarding free agency. The focus will lay on improving their young core and getting guys who are just getting on the upswing in the pros. There are talents out there who fit the bill. It just all depends on what comes from the draft.
All in all, Chicago has a long way to go to get back into the postseason conversation, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all you can ask for.