WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens continues to suggest that rookie James Young has made the sort of progress that could help him fight his way into the team's already overcrowded rotation sooner than later.
Young was back with the team Thursday after scoring 25 points during his latest one-game stint with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League. The No. 17 pick in June's draft has been slowed at times this season by injuries -- whether it was the pre-draft car accident that kept him out of summer league, a hamstring injury that kept him out of most of the preseason, or a shoulder injury that recently shelved him for two weeks. But Stevens said Young is making progress behind the scenes and positioning himself for potential playing time. Now he just needs an opportunity.
"I think that he’s really getting better," said Stevens. "He got set back by the shoulder; he got set back early in the season by the hamstring. Now he’s had two good days of practice Monday and Tuesday; he had a great day [with Maine on Wednesday]. And we didn’t go quite as hard [Thursday], so it wasn’t quite as evident, but he had another solid day today. I think just continuing to string those days together -- every time we go 5-on-5, if it’s for five possession or 20 minutes, those are huge critical moments for him. And he’s taking advantage of it, especially in the last week.
"We’ll see how that plays itself out for playing time in the near future, but again, we have a lot of roster depth as it is right now, but we’ll see. He does add something that we could very well need in the near future and that is the ability to play off some screens, and score and make passes off screens. He’s a very fluid offensive player."
The biggest area of focus with Young continues to be defense, something the 19-year-old acknowledges when he's asked about the area of his game he needs to improve. But the D-League assignments have helped his confidence, given him much-needed game reps, and prepared him for whenever that opportunity arrives.
"He’s getting ready. He’s progressing well. He’s getting better," said Stevens. "I understand the easiest way to see development for everyone is to watch the games, right? Then they can say, ‘Yeah, the guys that are playing a lot are developing.’ The hardest one is when you don’t see him play. We’re here everyday and he’s getting a lot better. I think this has been, going through the shoulder thing and having to rehab and he studied while he was doing that, then getting back out on the court, he seems to have a nice thirst about him right now."
A few loose balls from Thursday's post-practice access:
• Thornton sits out: Marcus Thorton, who has missed the past eight games due to a calf tear, did not practice Thursday and will not play in either game of this weekend's back-to-back. Stevens said Thornton, who participated in practice on Monday and Tuesday, did not have a re-injury, but simply hasn't felt ready to return to game action and the team, with an overcrowded rotation already, will not rush him.
• The Wright time? Brandan Wright was maybe the glitziest addition from the Rondo trade, but hasn't played much since his arrival in Boston. Is Stevens still hunting for where he fits into this rotation? "Hey, we’ve talked about this. I’ve kinda decided that we’ve got five really good bigs. We’re just going to utilize that depth," said Stevens. "We’re going to play guys that give us an advantage on matchups, and we’re just going to keep mixing and matching. Because I think all five of them add a great deal. I thought Brandan Wright was extremely efficient in his minutes [in Wednesday's win]. We’ll go from there."
• Rondo wanted out? Bass says no: Brandon Bass was asked about the notion that Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston before the trade that delivered him to Dallas. "He wanted out? Why would he want out? I don’t think that," said Bass. "He never told that to me. This is home for him. I thought he would want to finish his career here." One of Rondo's other close friends, Kendrick Perkins, had suggested in the aftermath of the trade that Rondo might have preferred to join a team with a chance to win now. Bass does think he'll find a new home with Dallas, even as he prepares to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. "I think he’ll finish his career in Dallas," said Bass. "What better way to start and finish your career?"