Thad Young on Raptors being an ‘elite organization’, free agency priorities

Thaddeus Young discusses why Toronto is one of the best organizations he's played for, why the Raptors can be scary going forward and what he will prioritize in free agency.

Video Transcript

- [INAUDIBLE]

THADDEUS YOUNG: Well, one, I'd like to start saying that this organization is elite, one of the top I've ever been a part of. Amazing from day one, me coming here. Toronto, the city, the fans, another amazing source and opportunity. And I loved everything about this experience.

But as far as the team, the team is-- the sky's the limit for every individual on this team for the simple fact of, like, I think we have a good mixture of young guys with some veteran guys, and obviously, like, me being the elder statesman. But this team can be really, really scary. You seen what we were able to do and almost able to kind of overcome a huge deficit.

But the one thing about this team is its will, its fight, its continue to be resilient, fight through adversity, speaks volume to the character of everybody on this team. We're not just going to go down without a fight. We're going to continue to play as hard as we can through that last horn and live with the results. Obviously, the outcome didn't come out the way that we wanted it to come out, but we learned a lot about ourselves as a team. We learned about ourselves as individuals. And I think we did a really good job of just going out there and just being there for one another. And I think that was one of the biggest things.

But by far, this is one of the best organizations that I've played for. Some really, really great employees and staff. And the medical staff down-- up to the coaches and front office is elite, and it's the reason why this organization has had success over the years.

- Was that, Thad, about the style of play? You've played, like you said, a lot of places and seen a lot of different styles. But does a bunch of 6' 8", 6' 9" guys flying around work over time?

THADDEUS YOUNG: I think it does. The one thing about this league is there's like a cycle. All right? And I've seen several different cycles over the course of time, where to win a championship you had to have two dominant bigs, to now to you don't have to have two dominant bigs to win a championship, to bigs spacing the court out and shooting, to every team has to have a dominant point guard, on so down the line. And this can be a new phase of where the league can possibly go.

So it's been a cycle. And I've seen several, several different cycles, you know, throughout this league. And, you know, I think this team is on the cusp of doing something that's very unique, but it's effective. I mean, you've seen, we're able to win games with a bunch of 6' 8" guys. So-- [LAUGHS]

- Yeah.

THADDEUS YOUNG: You know, and the good thing about this group is there's a lot of interchangeable pieces that can play a lot of different parts in a lot of different roles. And everybody can step in and fulfill any role that's needed to be fulfilled. And that's the great part about having so many guys that's versatile guys.

- Thad, to follow up on that point, you guys just played a 7-foot center, one of the most skilled guys in Joel Embiid. In the games that you guys did win, that 6' 9" kind of vision did work because it did stifle him. So does that give you confidence that this could work against really anyone in the league?

THADDEUS YOUNG: Yes, for sure. I mean, he's-- him and Jokic is most dominant centers in the league by far. They're Hall-of-Fame players, superstar players. And we-- we've beat both of those teams.

And, yeah, those guys are gonna get their points. They're gonna get their touches. But we've done a really good job of just throwing bodies at them, and making them see multiple guys, and making them have to pass the ball and get other guys involved into the game, you know.

Because that's where you lose the game. You lose the game when you let Jokic get 70% of the touches and you let Joel get 70%, 80% of the touches. You know?

So I think we did a really good job of like just executing the defensive plans that we've been setting out to do. And that goes-- hat's off goes to the coaches. You know, they put together these schemes and these plans. And we go out there and try to execute them to the best of our abilities, but, you know, they're putting it down on the pen and paper.

- About those defensive schemes, pre-game, you were pretty much on your stuff, and you win twice and one coin flip. But then there were three games where they scored pretty easily and regularly. Is that just a matter of experience and execution, or is there something else that we're missing?

THADDEUS YOUNG: I think it's experience and execution. You know, just being locked in for the 48, that was one of the things that when I was in San Antonio, like, the focus was always being locked in for 48. And we break huddles, we say 48 all the time. You know, so I think that's-- and I think that's what we should strive to do, and try to be there for all 48, and make sure that we're executing at the top of our game for all 48.

But, you know, there will be some-- sometimes where there's defensive breakdowns and lack of focus on the defensive end. You know, this league is about scoring now. You know, I think defense sometimes it's a lost art.

But this team this year, for the time that I've been here, you know, we've been pretty focused and locked in on the defensive side of the basketball and done a pretty good job of turning teams over, and pushing the ball down-- down their throats, and making sure that we're getting easy-- easy buckets in transition, but also executing on the offensive end as well.

- Thad, you'll have a big decision to make this summer. What-- I'm not asking you what it's going to be, but what factors will go into it?

THADDEUS YOUNG: I mean, you know, obviously, like, my family, that's number one overall. Like, my kids and my wife is number one. And just looking at the team's build, and their structure, and what we're trying to do and where we're going, and the focus on the future.

You know, obviously, like, I don't know how long I'm gonna play. But, you know, I'll be going into year 16. So, you know, just locking in on getting my body right right now. And then however I'm feeling, we'll go from there.

- You injured your thumb in this series. How much of an impact [INAUDIBLE]?

THADDEUS YOUNG: It was-- I mean, it was a major impact. Like, it's on my shooting hand. So, you know, it's a little hard to do certain things. But I tried to get myself involved in a game in other ways, which is playing defense, being there for the guys vocally, getting reads and passes, and getting assists.

Me and Chris, we've kind of got this little hook up thing now. Right? [LAUGHS] Just finding him on cuts, and reads, and stuff like that. But just trying to unlock the intangibles part of my game. When you're not scoring, you have to find other ways of getting into the game. And that's one of the things that, you know, I'll be able to unlock this my ability to make reads, and plays, and passes, and just doing the right things on the court to help the team win.

- Is that thing gonna need surgery, or--

THADDEUS YOUNG: I have to talk to Doc to see exactly what he would suggest. At one point, we were talking about surgery. And, you know, obviously, like, I ruled that out as opposed to playing, so-- because I wanted to, you know, at least finish the series and just focus on it in the summer. Or I can just wait it out and see if it gets better, but I do have the option of having surgery, and just correcting everything, and making sure everything's good.

- What did you like most about the city, just living here?

THADDEUS YOUNG: I like that is very diverse. It's a multicultural city. And that the fans are-- you know, they're amazing. Like, they'll say great game and stuff like that, but they're not, like, overbearing fans. You know, they-- they're not stopping me and asking for 25 pictures and stuff like that or-- [LAUGHS] or they're not, like, breaking up me and my wife at dinner or breaking up me and my kids hanging out.

You know, yeah. They're looking, and waving, and stuff like that. But, you know, I like that about the fans. I like that about this city.

And then just the fact that there's always something to do. You know, this is a great city. Toronto is amazing. The fans are amazing.

Like I said, this organization is amazing. Everything is just elite about this experience. And it was a great experience for me.

- Thad, when you're looking this summer to potentially go to-- you could go to a team where you're not the only old guy on the team [INAUDIBLE].

THADDEUS YOUNG: [LAUGHS] Yeah.

- But did you enjoy sort of being a veteran, and mentoring this group of young guys, and sort of playing that role? Or would you rather go, or--

THADDEUS YOUNG: I enjoy the experience of playing basketball. Like, I love everything about the game. My passion hasn't changed from me walking into this league seven days after my 19th birthday to, you know, me being 33 years old.

So I love the game of basketball. And whatever happens in free agency, you know, I'll weigh the options when free agency starts. As of right now, like I said, I'm just focused on family and giving them the opportunity to enjoy having their-- my wife having her husband around and my kids having their father around.

You know, first thing my son said [LAUGHS] after the game was, you know, now I can start playing.

[LAUGHTER]

So he's ready to go. Both of them are ready to go. And they're ready to get to playing AAU. And I'll be at games, watching them, and cheering them on, and helping them get better at basketball. So that's my only focus right now.

- Hey, Thad. How much does that factor in? You touched on it a little bit earlier. But after 15 years, it might be easier maybe when they're young to kind of move around and bounce them around? And now they're at that age where maybe they want to settle in friendships let alone basketball, and other sports programs, or whatever? How much does that factor in?

THADDEUS YOUNG: It factors in a lot in my mind. But for my kids, like, my kids are very unique. Like, they-- they indulge in, like, the moving and traveling around. And they still have friends from like Indiana, Chicago, even Philly when they were, like, babies that they still talk to, still play video games with.

And, you know, I think they-- I think they like moving around more than I do.

[LAUGHTER]

You know, and they adapt to any situation, like any situation. I've seen-- seen them grow up and adapt to these situations. And I'm surprised at some of the things that they're able to adapt to.

So, you know, I know they love like being around at the arena, and being able to move around and talk to the players, and take pictures with the players, and stuff like that. But for me, like, I know that when I sit down with them that I'll be able to have a conversation with them, and they'll tell me exactly what's on their mind and how they feel as of right now.

You know, they-- they want pops to keep playing and [LAUGHS] keep enjoying this experience. And they want to keep enjoying this experience. And for them, it doesn't matter where they're at because they're going to adapt and adjust to every situation.

They've been home schooled for the past couple of years. So, you know-- but we're definitely looking to get them in school. They can't stay home with daddy and mama no more.

[LAUGHTER]

- Thad, really quick? Thad, you mentioned your chemistry with Chris Boucher. And Chris himself said last year he'd put up big numbers when the team was losing, and he wanted to learn to be an impact player. What have you seen from him that makes him an impact player?

THADDEUS YOUNG: He's an immediate spark off the bench, like immediate. Like, he brings so much energy. And, you know, it really honestly reminds me like of, like my younger self. Because I would be-- like, those Sixer teams when I was coming off the bench with Louis Williams, I would be an immediate spark off the bench, just out there just jumping around, and making shots, and rebounding, and always around the basketball, and just having a knack for it. And he does the same exact thing.

You know, Chris is a really good player. He knows his role. He knows how to play in his role. You know, obviously, like, sometimes he might get out of his comfort level a little bit. But that's any player.

But the good thing about him is it's easy to reel him back in. You talk to him. You say, hey, I need you to do this, this, and this, and he's gonna go do it. You know, and I think there is a certain respect level between like me and all the guys because I'm not coming in like trying to take over or anything like that.

I'm coming in to try to make everybody better, along with making the team better and the organization better. And, you know, that's what I've always set out to do. You know, whatever I come into a situation, it's how can I help everybody around me get better. And how can I help myself get better in the process? And how can I help myself become a better leader?

- Thad, a little bit on that note, Precious Achiuwa mentioned very early in your time here that you had an influence on him. What could share or would share, like what kind of conversations would you have had kind of of where he can go, building off this year, going into the off season?

THADDEUS YOUNG: Well, I've always told him from day one, like, hey, you're the most athletic on the team. Let's use that. Like, let's use your athleticism.

Let's make sure, like, if you're out there playing, like, you're on a defensive side of basketball, you're blocking shots. You're rebounding. You're getting your body into guys, defending multiple positions, you know.

And then when you get shots, you're open, take them. Guy closes out hard on you. Drive him. Straight line, drive him to the basket. So just trying to keep it simple.

And, you know, I think it's just a matter of just continuing to just talk to them and continuing to keep his confidence up. Like, sometimes with young guys, like, they'll have a bad game, or they might miss a couple of free throws, or something happens and stuff like that. And they get down on themselves, you know?

And I'm always gonna be the one that's always saying, OK. Like, it happened. Let's move past it. Like, you're a great player. You're a great individual. Let's continue to-- continue to play.

You know, these things happen. It's human nature. You know, you're not gonna always be perfect. You know, I know everybody wants to be perfect, but it's not going to happen.

So let's focus on continuing to get better. Keep your confidence high. Like, I believe in you. I'm passing you the ball because I believe that you can make that shot. I'm telling you where to run to or where to get to because I believe that that's the spot that you need to be in in order for you to score the basketball.

So just always helping, and always making sure that I have a helping hand, and making these young players into to great players.

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