James Young set to grow in the NBA

BOSTON -- Before members of the Boston Celtics took the stage at the Westin hotel as part of the team's glitzy tip-off gala on Thursday night, player development coach Ronald Nored, who has spent much of the past two months shadowing James Young, was asked if there was anything he had uncovered about the rookie that the casual observer might not know.

After a minute to ponder the question, Nored shrugged and apologized while noting, "He's a pretty laidback, quiet kind of guy."

About an hour later, there was Young in the middle of the rookie skit, performing the Carlton Dance -- hips swinging, arms flailing -- as the veteran players behind him roared with laughter and Nored could only shake his head.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens would later opine that Young has "got some moves; he's got some ability on the dance floor." Now, with only a limited glance at his basketball moves since June's draft, the Celtics must determine if Young has the ability to get on the basketball floor.

If other teams were leery of Young because of his age and a car accident that cut short his pre-draft workouts, the Celtics were the beneficiaries and they left Grantland's Bill Simmons pumping his fist after snagging Young at No. 17 in June's draft.

Young's injuries, including whiplash and concussion-like symptoms, prevented him from participating in basketball activities with the team at summer league in Orlando. In the aftermath, the Celtics elected to pair Nored with Young and have the two spend additional time together over the summer months to help accelerate Young's acclimation process at the NBA level.

"It's interesting because when I first started working with him, it was the first time he'd ever done anything as a Celtic, because he didn't play summer league, he didn't practice with us, any of that," said Nored, who spent time in New Jersey with Young in August. "So this is the first experience I really had, except watching him on film, and I was impressed just how he knew how to play basketball. That was great to see. I knew there was some things, specifically, that we needed to work on, right away, like college to the NBA -- because he didn't have that experience.

"So when I was with him, we were working on attacking the pick-and-roll, working on coming off downscreens at an NBA level, working on defending different positions, different pick-and-rolls. That was sort of the basis for the things that I wanted to do, so that when he came in August for our voluntary workouts, he was ready and he wasn't behind. I think he did a good job of that."

Young impressed the coaching staff during those summer workouts and positioned himself to compete for a potential role at training camp. But before his NBA preseason debut, Young felt a series of pops in his hamstring. With the help of adrenaline, he scored 10 points over 20 minutes in the exhibition opener, but was forced to shut himself down for the next two weeks -- missing six games in the process -- while rehabbing the injury.

Young leaned hard on Nored during that stretch to help the rookie absorb what he was missing on the floor.

"For [Young], I think it's good to have someone he feels comfortable coming to," said Nored, a second-year assistant who played point guard on one of Stevens' Final Four squads at Butler University and spent much of last year working with the Maine Red Claws, Boston's D-League affiliate.

"I think that it's that way for any young player coming into the NBA, especially to a city they've never been to around people they don't know. For me to go out and spend a couple of weeks with him, then we come back to Boston, and we already have that familiarity with each other, I think it's really good for him. And I think it's been good for him so far. He's able to come up and ask me questions that maybe he wouldn't feel comfortable asking someone else. I'm able to speak to him and be open and honest with him and I think he trusts me. We've built that trust to where something happens in a game, something happens in a practice, something happens off the floor where I can speak openly and honestly and he responds well. I think that's been really important, I think it's been really good."

It is funny to hear the 24-year-old Nored talk about just how young the 19-year-old Young is. But it only hammers home the fact that Young is still raw and has a lot of potential to grow moving forward.

The Celtics have a crowded depth chart at the swingman spot with the likes of Jeff Green and Evan Turner in front of Young. But you can't help but wonder if the team would be better off giving any leftover minutes to Young, even if that means keeping a high-priced veteran like Gerald Wallace anchored to the bench at times.

Many have wondered if Young might eventually be bound for Maine, as the Red Claws potentially offer a better chance for consistent playing time and game reps. Young has stressed that his desire is to stay with the parent club, and Nored, despite working in Maine last season, said he hasn't even broached that possibility with the rookie.

"We have not discussed that at all; haven't said a word to him about it," said Nored. "I think that this is his focus. He's a Boston Celtic. It's important that he's doing everything he can to learn our system, learn how to play for Brad Stevens, to learn what it means to be a Boston Celtic. I don't see any need to speak about Maine or anything in that regards."

Nored has encouraged Young to tweak his diet ("Every kid coming from college into the NBA needs to change their diet," jokes Nored) and veterans like Green have taken the youngster under their wing, dispensing the advice that keeps Young comfortable despite the time he has missed.

Not unlike many rookies, there's a palpable buzz around Young. It wasn't unusual to see fans wearing his jersey T-shirt at TD Garden during the exhibition season. Fans like his left-handed stroke from the perimeter, and he has obvious athleticism (just think of that dunk against UConn in the national title game).

There's still an uphill battle to carve out his NBA role, but with help from Nored, Young is ready for what lies ahead.