With so many high-profile players dropping out of USA Basketball activities this summer, new Chicago Bulls signee Thaddeus Young got the call for the Team USA training camp in Las Vegas last week. Young accepted the invitation and participated in the camp, which culminated in the Blue vs. White scrimmage on Friday night.
Young suited up for the Blue squad, scoring five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 11 minutes in a 97-78 victory. Unfortunately, the veteran was also a minus-14 in his short time on the floor, and he wasn’t named a finalist for the 12-man FIBA World Cup roster.
Although Young won’t be playing in the World Cup, spending time with Team USA was still a worthwhile endeavor, even with the top stars not in attendance. He got to be around coaching luminaries Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr while playing against impressive young talent from around the NBA.
Now, Young gets to turn his focus to his new team in Chicago, where he’ll be playing a key role as a veteran leader who will still offer plenty on the basketball court. While nothing is set in stone, the 31-year-old will likely be the Bulls’ sixth man, acting as the third big behind Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
It’s hard to ask for a much better veteran option in this role as the two young big men try to develop into stars. Young brings a stellar two-way game and impressive work ethic to the table, and he’s ready to lead by example after being Chicago’s top priority in free agency. He agreed to a three-year, $41 million contract right when free agency opened.
Young has already talked a big game about changing the Bulls’ culture, which is badly needed given the general ugliness of the last few seasons. The forward has plenty of experience in these matters, via Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
‘‘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.’’
Young got into the specifics of what the Bulls need to do to make this work:
‘‘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.’’
Chicago won just 22 games last season and became a laughingstock when Jim Boylen took over for Fred Hoiberg as head coach, so there’s plenty of work to do when it comes to establishing this culture and becoming respectable again. Young seems like the right man for the job, though, and there’s some optimism swirling around the 2019-20 Bulls thanks in part to his signing.
There are still plenty of ways this upcoming season can go terribly wrong for the Bulls, but no matter what happens, Thaddeus Young is going to keep grinding.