Veteran forward Thaddeus Young knows all about growing pains.
Yes, watching from the outside what Young helped build with the Pacers the last three seasons was impressive, especially seeing them still make a playoff push after losing All-Star guard Victor Oladipo to injury midway through last season.
That isn’t the only reclamation project on Young’s résumé, either. The newly acquired free agent comes to the Bulls after playing for the 76ers, Timberwolves and Nets before joining the Pacers. Those are four places that didn’t exactly have a lot of Larry O’Brien championship trophies being passed around at the time.
It was his final few seasons with the 76ers that Young might be the most proud of, however. He was on the roster at the start of ‘‘The Process,’’ when the 76ers took tanking to a whole new level in hopes of accumulating young talent through the draft. Winning only 19 games in the 2013-14 season was definitely no picnic.
‘‘We all know what happened in Philly,’’ Young said recently. ‘‘I was there at the start of ‘The Process.’ We had a horrible season, but I went out there and played my butt off each and every night. It was like bringing a knife to a gunfight, but I was swinging with that knife.’’
Getting a three-year, $41 million contract from the Bulls takes away some of the sting of joining a 22-victory team, but it’s about more than just a payday for Young.
‘‘I’ve taken on that role plenty of times in my career,’’ Young said of being deemed the leader on and off the court. ‘‘I’ve taken on that role as a leader and helping shape and build a culture. I know I can push them over the hump.’’
That’s music to Bulls coach Jim Boylen’s ears.
Boylen, who took over for Fred Hoiberg in December, immediately had to deal with criticism about his in-your-face style of coaching. It was highlighted by an attempted two-player mutiny that quickly was squashed once calmer heads prevailed.
And that was just in his first week.
Once the circus tents surrounding the
Advocate Center came down with the end of the regular season and Boylen was given a contract extension to remain the Bulls’ coach, the thought was that he would ease up on the gas pedal a bit.
But ‘‘ease up’’ and ‘‘Boylen’’ never should be used in the same sentence. His schedule has featured Summer League, practice blocks and visiting as many of ‘‘my guys’’ as possible this summer, including a trip to Finland to check in on big man Lauri Markkanen. It has featured meetings, late-night film study, practice planning and more film study.
Boylen said several times he couldn’t wait until the fall to have the team in the gym for his first full training camp. He was saying that back in April.
That’s where Young comes in.
Veteran forward Otto Porter Jr. already has taken on the role of Boylen translator in the locker room. Young not only adds to that, but he also brings a toughness needed throughout the roster.
Boylen has jump-started the culture change, and Porter and Young are going to push that message.
‘‘It starts by not getting tired of the grind, not getting tired of the competitive nature,’’ Young said. ‘‘A lot of guys, they tend to get tired of the competitive nature, of coming to practices each and every day and playing over and over. But when you do those same things over and over, it helps you get better as a team, and it helps you win more games as a team.’’