Bulls Veteran Feels ‘More Respected’ with Billy Donovan as Coach

Thaddeus Young

Getty Thaddeus Young is defended by Keldon Johnson in a March 17 game against the San Antonio Spurs.

Veteran forward Thaddeus Young joined the Chicago Bulls when he signed with the team as a free agent during the 2019 offseason. He came to Chicago following a stint with another Central Division team, the Indiana Pacers with averages of 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in 81 games. But Young’s first season as a Bull ended up being one of the worst of his career.

Young averaged 10.3 points per game during the 2019-20 season, which bests only his rookie season numbers. He also shot a career-low 44.8 percent from the field.

This past season, however, was a stark improvement.

Although the Bulls didn’t make it to the playoffs this year, Young played a key role in the success Chicago was able to achieve.

The veteran big man was one of the Bulls’ most consistent, reliable players during the 2020-21 season. His 12.1 points per game weren’t the best among his teammates but still made an important impact. His 55.9 percent field goal percentage was the team’s best, second only to Daniel Gafford — who played just 31 games for the Bulls this season before being traded. Young also had a steady presence in the paint on the defensive end, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game.

Along with the on-court improvement, Young also feels like he has a voice on the team — something he didn’t necessarily have when he first got to the Bulls.

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Young is Getting Veteran Treatment Now

Young recently appeared on fubo Sports Network’s “Drinks with Binks.” Among the various topics he spoke of was the differences between his two seasons with the Bulls.

“I felt like my first year there, the previous season, I wasn’t being listened to,” said Young, who just completed his 14th season in the NBA. “I would feel like I was being put in the same boat as I was like a rookie or a second-year player.”

During Young’s first season as a Bull, Jim Boylen was in his second year as Bulls head coach, and Gar Forman and John Paxson were still leading the front office. Young mentioned this when he was asked about how his mentality has changed from the first year in Chicago — though he didn’t say any names specifically.

GettyFormer Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and former Bulls general manager Gar Forman

After the 2019-20 season, which was shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Young actually considered retirement. But his wife, Shekinah, talked him out of the decision. That choice allowed Young to play for not only a new coach but new management as well.

With the change in leadership, Young now holds an improved perspective on the organization he plays for. In fact, he said with Arturas Karnišovas, Marc Eversley and Billy Donovan leading the Bulls, “the communication level is just, like, at an all-time high.”

“They asked me my perspective on what I think about the team and what I think about the players on the team and how do we get better,” Young added. “In practice, I’m being listened to.

“I feel way more respected. I feel like the team looks to me for advice and help, and then, they can rely on me to be out there to help lead the guys at any single moment in the games.”

Young Had a Preexisting Relationship with Donovan

Donovan has only been the Bulls’ head coach for one season, meaning he has also coached Young for just one season. But if things went differently in the 2000s, it may have happened sooner.

During his appearance on “Drinks with Binks,” Young also noted that Donovan recruited him in high school, trying to get the forward to attend Florida. Young ended up going to Georgia Tech for one season before being drafted at No. 12 in the 2007 NBA draft.

Chicago Bulls

GettyHead coach Billy Donovan addresses the Chicago Bulls during a May 11 game against the Brooklyn Nets.

But the preexisting relationship between the two benefitted Young. He even called it “perfect” for Donovan to be his coach now.

“We already had a developed relationship,” Young said. “And it was kind of easy to talk to (him), because I had already talked to him on the phone, had already had conversations with him previously. It was years back, but he’s a guy that hasn’t changed. He demands a lot out of you, and he understands the game. And he wants players that understand the game. He also wants players that he can rely on at any given moment.”

Young proved he is one of those reliable players this season.

Although he primarily came off the bench, the veteran forward also stepped into the starting lineup when needed. He was one of the Bulls’ top bench performers, and his versatility resulted in multiple near triple-doubles. Young made such a positive impact on the team that, earlier this year, Bulls All-Star Zach LaVine referred to the Young as “the MVP of the team,” as reported by NBC Sports Chicago.

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