VIDEO: Joe Young breaks down his Thursday performance
ORLANDO — Just say Joe Young showed up hungry for the start of Summer League. He’ll pretty much leave that way, too.
But in between, the 6-foot-2 point guard has given the Pacers a steady diet of the things they want him to do. Speed, smarts and a desire to learn.
A stomach ailment prevented Young from working out with his teammates back in Indianapolis last week, but he hit the ground running and hasn’t missed a game at the Orlando Pro Summer League.
With their big man Myles Turner getting a rest on Thursday, it was Young who led the Pacers to their first win by putting up 28 points, shooting 5-for-9 on 3-pointers, and adding three assists and three rebounds.
“To watch him go from that first game where I thought he was still sick and just too frantic and a little too wild, which is natural, to playing a game like this, was very satisfying to see,” said Pacers summer league coach Dan Burke.
“In that first game you could tell the adrenaline was running and he was so stoked. Today’s game I thought he looked more controlled. His eyes were up. He was seeing shooters in pick-and-roll. He was seeing the roll man. I thought that was a quick progression. So I was excited. It’s the kind of play we expected when we drafted him.”
Young was a second-round draft pick, 43rd overall, after playing four years of college ball, two at Houston before transferring to Oregon. He was the Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015 and comes with the basketball DNA of his father, Michael Young, who was a member of the famous Phi Slama Jama teams at Houston.
What also lit up Burke’s face was the commitment that Young showed when he was ill and couldn’t be on the practice floor with his teammates.
“He’s a sponge. He’s an eager learner,” Burke said. “And he took it upon himself to catch up as quick as he could. He was in there drawing up the plays that we wanted him to learn for himself. He was studying constantly. Then when we got down here to Florida, he met with (fellow rookie) Myles Turner in the lobby of the hotel and was going over plays. That’s the kind of kid you love to have on your team.”
Young’s week was an uphill climb as he took the floor for the first game on Sunday barely able to keep any food in his stomach.
“I’m still not necessarily 100 percent, but I’m tough,” Young said. “I don’t want no red flags saying, ‘Oh, he gets sick and can’t play.’ I’m just trying to be a warrior. I thought each game I got better and the team took a step. It wasn’t me by myself. I couldn’t have done stuff I did without my team.”
Everybody is a virtual stranger in summer league, which is what makes play often ragged and doesn’t lend itself to teamwork. It’s trickier even for a point guard to be making something out of the chaos.
“But that’s part of a being a point guard,” Young said. “You take control. You’ve got to be vocal. You’ve got to put the teammates where they’re supposed to go.”
Young showed that he could feed the 6-foot-11 Turner in the post when they played together, get the ball to his shooters and also create his own shot.
“For one, he’s a smart guy and that helps,” Burke said. “He’s also vocal and we haven’t had too many vocal point guards the last couple of years. He’s not afraid to take charge and once he gets comfortable with our system and around our guys, where he knows exactly where he’s telling a guy to go, he’ll probably even be more vocal.”
Young also looks like a good fit for the more up-tempo style that team president Larry Bird and head coach Frank Vogel want the Pacers to play next season.
VIDEO: Larry Bird on what he sees for Pacers in 2015-16
“We don’t want to go helter-skelter,” Burke said. “But get it up quick and get into our stuff quick. Look to score in the first eight seconds. If you don’t, then you’ve got to score in the last eight seconds and execute. Joe’s that kind of guy.
“I think we’ve had good defensive teams. So we need more stops and continue to get those stops and shots and runs. Joe’s about the best I’ve seen that we’ve had in the last couple of years in getting it up the court. C.J. Watson wasn’t really a push guy like that. Donald Sloan wasn’t that fast. And George Hill can be fast, but he’s more comfortable just getting up at a decent tempo. He’s going to be an interesting player to watch. Joe’s fast, aggressive, confident.”
And still hungry.