Returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three weeks, Thaddeus Young's first game back wasn't exactly a tune-up. Tossed into the fire against one of the league's better teams, the New York Knicks, the 76ers big man played 36 minutes in a 99-93 loss Sunday night.
Clearly, when Philadelphia coach Doug Collins called Young the team's most important player after the injury first happened, he wasn't merely making a passing compliment.
Without Young in the lineup, the Sixers struggled badly in losing five of six games. Though the 24-year-old doesn't always fill up the box score, he's making a major impact in his return to the starting lineup this season after a two-year stint as a reserve, playing a career-high 35.5 minutes per contest.
Those minutes were usually piled up when Young was mostly healthy, though, not immediately after a lengthy time in the trainer's room. In many instances this season, we've seen key players returning from significant injuries in diminished roles initially.
The Sixers aren't taking that route with Young, something he appears to be fine with for the most part. "I'm feeling pretty good and I'm ready to get out there and play. It's all about just getting out there and getting a feel for the game. I'm just happy to be able to go out there and give it a go," he told Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News.
He did note that his conditioning isn't where he wants it to be, something that shouldn't be particularly surprising considering, "he hadn't taken part in full-contact practices recently, or run much up and down the floor with his 76ers teammates," before Sunday's start according to Cooney.
Still, Young mostly played well over his 36 minutes -- 11 points, 10 rebounds, four steals -- even if his conditioning is a work in progress, so it's difficult to argue with the results barring another injury.
Then again, Sixers writer Michael Levin wrote, "I’d also like to point out that 36 minutes for Thad in his first game back, when they were losing by A LOT for most of the game, is probably — no, definitely — a horrible coaching decision," in the comments of the game recap on Liberty Ballers, SB Nation's 76ers blog, so there's that.
One way to put it: Young played the final eight minutes of a game in which his team was losing by double-digits most of the time even though he had spent the past three weeks either not practicing or avoiding contact in practices. That's probably at least a tad questionable.
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