Joe Young makes first NBA start, plays 34 minutes in Pacers win

Pacers guard Joe Young make his first career start in the NBA Wednesday night in the team’s whipping of the Phoenix Suns, 116-101.

The Pacers didn’t know until game day that usual starter Darren Collison would not be available due to personal reasons. Coach Nate McMillan wanted to keep the second unit intact, featuring a Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson backcourt, so he decided Young would get the start.

This wasn’t unusual. McMillan started veteran Damien Wilkins earlier this month to accomplish the same thing.

So around 3:00 pm on Wednesday, hours after participating in an optional shootaround where guys get shots up and some play three-on-three, Young got word that he would get the start.

“It felt good,” he said afterwards. “From sitting there three years, just getting better and waiting on my opportunity. I got my first opportunity to start and I went out there and gave what the coach wanted — picking up full court, making sure Vic and other guys got the ball, and score.”

Young, a third-year guard out of the University of Oregon, has played a limited role this season as the third-string point guard. Although he’s played more lately, he’s averaging less than nine minutes per game.

In addition to starting, he played more minutes than any other player in the game: 34, a new career high. During that time, he intentionally wasn’t looking to score as he usually would off the bench but instead focused on playing full-court defense.

Young finished with six points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three turnovers.

“I thought he did a nice job of just being solid defensively, offensively letting it come to him,” coach Nate McMillan said afterwards. “He gave us solid minutes tonight.

“He has worked hard all season long. When he has gotten minutes, he’s been productive and done good with those minutes. And tonight he was ready to play, stepped in and did a nice job for us.”

The Pacers, who won for the seventh time in 10 games, had five players reach double figures. They were led by Thad Young’s 22 points, and Victor Oladipo contributed 21 points and nine assists one day after being named an All-Star.

The Pacers have been without Glenn Robinson III (left ankle rehab) all season and center Myles Turner missed his eighth straight game because of a sore right elbow.

“You got to be ready at all times,” Young said. “That’s one thing I’ve learned about being in the NBA.”

[Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

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