Thad Young thriving despite wrist injury

Thad Young has been a steady hand in the starting lineup for the Pacers. At least when his left hand has been steady.

Since early February, Young has been bothered by a left wrist sprain. That’s important when you are left-handed, like Young is. The eight games he did not play this season, from Feb. 4th to the 16th, was due to this wrist injury. The Pacers went 2-6 during that stretch.

Young, who was acquired from Brooklyn last June for Indiana’s first-round pick (20), returned to game action on Feb. 24, after the All-Star break, for a home win over Memphis. That ended Indiana’s six-game losing streak. Upon his return, he played with it taped, obviously limiting moving and comfort for his shooting hand.

Thad Young has averaged 11 points, 6.0 rebounds per game this season. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

“Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it doesn’t,” the 28-year-old starting power forward explained. “It’s just a matter of how it feels that day. When I get hit throughout the course of a game, it’ll sometimes go numb and I have to find other ways to play. I’m just going to keep fighting, keep playing, and keep doing other things to keep myself involved into the game.”

Yes, Young’s primary hand would go numb during an NBA game. Like when the Pacers hosted the Jazz and Gordon Hayward attempted a pass around him. Young reached in for the deflection, leading to the steal. Right away that left wrist went numb.

“I was hoping and praying that they didn’t pass me the ball,” he joked.

He was severely limited. A few weeks later against Philadelphia, he went 0-for-7 from the floor, missing mostly layups, and had reached double figures in just once during that a seven-game stretch. His shots that went in were around the basket, and were less so shots and more him shoveling the ball towards the hoop.

“Just try to be creative and crafty,” he said of his adjustment. “I think that’s one of the biggest things. … Try to bring guys to me so I can hit Myles [Turner] on big-to-big passing. I think he got two or three dunks off me just passing him the ball because I know they tend to gravitate to me when I get the ball in the post.”

Like C.J. Miles and most players in that Pacers locker room, Young is outgoing during media sessions and happily talks after every game. But one thing he hasn’t done is complain. In several conversations with him about it, about adjusting, and not having a 3-point shot, he explained his circumstance and how he tried to adjust.

It’s an injury he had never dealt with before, and he did admit that “this is by far one of the worst things ever.”

Finally in April, before playing in Cleveland, Young decided that he had had enough with the wrap on his wrist and he told head athletic trainer Josh Corbeil that he was going without it. That could allow him to be him.

“My decision completely,” he said. “I just felt like I was restricting myself. If somebody is going to hit me on it, they’re going to hit me. Just want to go out there and be able to get after it and try to be as close to 100 (percent) as possible.”

What the Pacers do miss is his 3-point shooting. Before the injury, he was second in 3-point percentage at over 40 percent. He was 44-of-109. But since February when the injury occurred, he has attempted only nine shots from range and made just one. And now he’s fifth in 3-point percentage on the team.

“He’s been battling an injury the last month or so,” said coach Nate McMillan. “That’s been somewhat of a struggle for him. That guy that can play the four position that the league is going to, more of a smaller, spread forward, his ability to defend, handle [the ball], and make reads at that positions has helped us.”

The Pacers brought Young in for his ability to space the floor, knock down an open jumper, and to be a stretch-four type player that NBA teams are using more often. And because of his accuracy from deep, coach McMillan had given Young the green light to shoot more 3-pointers rather than moving in for short-corner jumpers.

Young, 28, says the injury isn’t necessary and that it just needs time to heal. Averaging 11 points and six rebounds per game while starting in all 73 games he’s been available, Young has been a quality addition to the roster.

And since going without the wrap, Young has averaged 16 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He’s reached double figures in eight straight games, including two double-doubles. The Pacers hope for that to continue into the postseason…

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