A Moment Of Hesitation

Sam Young

 The cat, as they say, is out of the bag.

Former NBA player Sam Young has signed with the Sydney Kings and will quite possibly be on court as soon as next Sunday.  This would have Young in uniform for the Kings just in time for their marquee showdown with the league-leading Perth Wildcats.

It appears that the Kings had hoped to keep Young’s signing on the low-down for a little while in order to get one more game of production out of current import point guard, Jesse Sanders, prior to Young’s arrival.  However, that plan got blown out of the water yesterday when Sam Young’s agent leaked the signing to website RealGM who ran the story.  The result was an awkward conversation between Kings Coach Shane Heal and Jesse Sanders in which Heal informed the young import that he was on the way out.  To Sanders’ credit, he intends to stick around and don the purple jersey one more time this week before moving on.

Now….. Sam Young!  What a coup!

Young was the 36th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft after a 4 year college career at the University of Pittsburgh.  He played 192 games with Memphis over the following two and half seasons, including 13 playoff games, before being traded to Philadelphia and then, eventually, signing with Indiana at the beginning of last season.

Young came into the NBA with a reputation as being one of the hardest working players around.  His college coaches would often find him playing pick-up games on the outside courts in between his classes.  In fact, in 2007 Young was asked about the origin of the knee injury he had suffered the year prior.  This was his response:

“I had a workout with my personal trainer for about two hours, doing legs, and then we hit the track for 45 minutes. And then somebody had recommended me to another trainer, and I guess he was trying to impress me, so he took me through about two hours of leg workouts — lunges, leg press, squats. My knee was hurting, and I should have said something to him, but I didn’t. I had also promised some people I would play pickup with them at about 9 p.m., and I did about two hours of that, too. The next day, my knee was worse than it ever had been. I overworked it and it followed me through the whole season”

Hopefully you’re starting to get the impression that Sam Young has an intense work ethic.  But if you’re not quite there yet, try this one on for size: he lived for a month in the locker room at the Pittsburgh arena so that he could work out and practice whenever he wanted.  I know what you’re thinking but I didn’t make that up.  The man actually brought in an air mattress, blew it up and would sleep in the locker room next to the court.  He lived at the friggin practice court!

After being drafted, Sam Young became known in The Association as a strong, tough, defensive-minded player.  A swingman who could be plugged into games to shut down explosive wing scorers such as Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant.  He was extremely active defensively, displaying a knack for disrupting opponents’ offensive possessions and generating steals – plays he would often finish with powerful breakaway dunks that would spark his team and build momentum.

Last year, with the Indiana Pacers, Sam was playing an important defensive role off the bench for a really good team and things were looking up for the 6’6’’ forward.

Unfortunately, however, the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals vs Miami didn’t go very well for Sam Young.

It began with the final 2.2 seconds of overtime in Game 1.  These were 2.2 seconds that Sam Young, Paul George, Frank Vogel, Roy Hibbert and every single Pacers fan will remember painfully for the rest of their lives.

The Pacers led by one point and needed a single stop to clinch Game 1 and steal home-court advantage from the defending champions.  Sensing Miami’s intentions to spread the floor and create space for their shooters, Indiana coach Frank Vogel decided to insert Young (#4) into the lineup in place of shot-blocking center Roy Hibbert.

It didn’t work.

After some misdirection sparked by Ray Allen and Norris Cole (and involving Chris Bosh), LeBron flashed to the ball, received it, spun and drove straight past Paul George for the game-winning layup.  George was beaten badly on the catch and it was Young that hesitated (just for an instant!) at the back line of the defense and failed to rotate over and challenge LeBron to make the extra pass.

Was he worried about leaving his man, Chris Bosh, open for a potential game winning shot? Of course he was.  But what would you prefer, allow LeBron James a wide open layup for the win or force him to make an extra pass with time quickly expiring?

Maybe Young gets a hand to the pass. Maybe Bosh fumbles. Maybe the clock beats Bosh to it.  We will never know.

And, of course, there was the option of fouling.  LeBron is a career 75% FT shooter.

Vogel copped serious heat for his decision to play Young instead of Hibbert.  His star player, Paul George, sat at the postgame press conference in a really terrible shirt and labelled it a mistake.


In Game 2, two days later, a technical foul from Young (that was immediately followed by another from assistant coach Brian Shaw) sparked a mini Miami run.

Fourteen solid minutes in a Game 4 win was followed by a disappointing performance in Game 5.  Vogel essentially withdrew Young from the rotation for Games 6 and 7 and as the series came to a close and Miami advanced to the NBA Finals, so ended Sam Young’s tenure as an Indiana Pacer.

Less than 6 months later, after a short preseason stint with the Spurs, Young has signed on to play with the Sydney Kings for the remainder of the 2013/14 NBL season.  It may not have turned out for Young in the big dance over the past 6-12 months but the result could prove to be a massive shot in the arm for the NBL.

Sam Young could very well prove to be a highlight package waiting to happen.  Plays like these will go down very nicely in the big smoke of the harbour city.

James Ennis is already playing here in an effort to return to the NBA and now Sam Young will do the same.  Gone are the days of big-name, high-calibre imports refusing to play in Australia.  Jonny Flynn came and played here last year and James Ennis and Sam Young are here right now.  Listen up, hoops fans… Our league is respected by the international basketball community, including high-level talent and their agents.  It’s time for you to respect and appreciate it right here at home.

In the meantime, let’s just hope the cleaners at the Kingdome get the heads-up about Sam Young’s work ethic and that the locker rooms there are heated overnight.


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