BOSTON (CBS) — Less than one month ago, James Young was on the cusp of being cut from the Boston Celtics roster. Saturday night, he was the X-Factor for a shorthanded Boston squad that squeaked out a road win in Indiana.
With rookie Jaylen Brown struggling in the first half, Brad Stevens summoned Young to replace him midway through the second quarter in the Celtics lineup. The third-year wing made it hard for Stevens to take him off the floor for the remainder of the evening. Young posted 12 points, one shy of his career-high on 5-of-6 shooting (2-of-3 from 3-point range). The 21-year-old also added three rebounds, two steals and a assist in his 16 minutes.READ MORE: CDC Director Overrules Panel, Approves Pfizer COVID Booster Shots For Frontline Workers
“I told James to be ready [Friday against the Knicks]. He never got in when it was still a game, but I told him one of the next two games he’ll probably be really impactful,” Stevens said in his postgame press conference. “He’s shot it at such a different level than he shot it two years ago when he got here, as far as accuracy in workouts, in practice, and everything else. He’s certainly always a capable shooter with a beautiful stroke, but he’s really really worked hard on becoming accurate. He either shoots it or moves it and I thought, with that group, that was a good thing.”
The performance was quite the breakout for Young who had gone 0-for-4 in 18 total minutes during the 2016-17 season prior to Saturday. With Jae Crowder sidelined and Gerald Green also struggling with his shot, Young made the most of his opportunity.
“It felt really good just to go out there and play the game right,” Young told Celtics.com. “Coach said for me to stay ready, and I was. I’ve just been working hard ever since the summer, trying to stay consistent with the little things, and really just try to help the team out.”READ MORE: Severe Thunderstorms Possible In Central, Eastern Massachusetts
On-court progress for Young has been gradual during his first two years in the league and there is still no guarantee it will last. The Celtics declined his fourth-year team option on Oct. 31, making this a contract year for the 6-foot-7 as he tries to find his footing on a competitive Celtics roster. His play against the Pacers was a sign of the potential that made him the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for Boston and that was a development his teammates were happy to see.
“He comes in every single day and works hard,” Avery Bradley said after the game. “Some games he doesn’t play, some games he does. But he’s just being a professional and every opportunity he gets he’s making the most of it, so I’m very happy for him tonight.”
With Crowder expected to miss at least another week, odds are good that Young will have a chance to build upon his potentially career-best outing. Whether he can sustain some consistent production will be a test of just how much Stevens and the Celtics can look to him for a boost when the roster reaches full strength.MORE NEWS: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.