There’s a chameleon playing basketball for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
He’s 6-foot-8, weighs 230 pounds and doesn’t change colors. But Thaddeus Young has done a copious amount of adapting in his long but young NBA tenure.
Five different coaches in seven years with the 76ers, some of which ended in the playoffs, another (last season) that was over before it began. Different owners, general managers, teammates, styles, roles — there are few transitions the 26-year-old hasn’t endured.
Except for a new city. That’s the next turn in Young’s ever-fluid journey.
"The biggest difference," Young told FOXSportsNorth.com, "is just basically switching jerseys, switching fan bases and switching arenas."
But Young expects the many previous required adjustments to ease this shift. Through it all, he says, he’ll be no one but himself — the well-rounded, well-spoken, affable Tennessee native who’s a pain on defense and a versatile offensive threat.
That means disconnecting himself from predecessor Kevin Love, the lynchpin in the three-team deal that brought Young to the Twin Cities this summer.
Love averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game last season. Young will likely start in his position, but nowhere on his list of goals is "replicate Love’s performance" inscribed.
"I’m not trying to replace 26 and 12," Young said at the team’s media day last week. "Twenty-six and 12 hasn’t made it to the playoffs. If we can get to the playoffs with me doing 10 to 18 or something like that, I’m great with that."
Indeed, Love’s six years in Minnesota came and went without a postseason trip.
Young, who acknowledged Love’s greatness as a player, wasn’t trying to degrade the latest superstar to skip town, he said. This was an expression of his focus on helping break a 10-year playoff drought, the longest active one in the NBA, rather than individual comparisons.
He lasted in Philly for so long by doing whatever was asked, whatever it took. That, Young said, will be his M.O. in Minnesota.
"I’m an all-costs type of guy," Young said. "If it means tripping my grandmother up, I’ll go out there and do it just to win a basketball game.
"Sorry, grandma," Young added with a toothy grin.
A child of the Deep South, Young grew comfortable in Philadelphia. For the average NBA player, spending more than a half-decade in any one market suggests relative stability. But these were the Sixers, an organization characterized by dysfunction that not-so-inconspicuously tanked for draft picks last year.
Young broke into the league under the direction of Maurice Cheeks. Eddie Jordan was the man in charge for a year before Doug Collins took over. Three more non-winning seasons later, Brett Brown replaced Collins.
I’m an all-costs type of guy. If it means tripping my grandmother up, I’ll go out there and do it just to win a basketball game.
General manager Billy King drafted Young. Sam Hinkie traded him. In between, Ed Stefanski kept him around amid massive annual turnover.
In 2011, Comcast-Spectacor sold the team to an investment group headed up by Joshua Harris.
"When you’ve been through so much change in your career, you learn how to adapt to a lot of different situations," said Young, who averages 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game for his career. "I think that’s one of the biggest things about me; I’ve been able to reform my role each and every year and still go out there and play and still be successful."
The most recent manifestation thereof is the re-addition of 3-point shooting to his game. After taking just 0.1 3-point attempts per game from 2011-13, he let fly 3.7 times per contest and made them at a 30.8 percent clip last year.
Collins had asked Young to be a more traditional four. Brown made him a central figure in his run-and-gun philosophy, essentially instructing him to fire at will.
The Wolves need 3-point shooters, so Young will be given the go-ahead again. His other primary duties include lock-down defense and leadership in a locker room full of fresh faces.
"Defensively, he’s always been a guy that’s had great skills and plays with a great amount of intensity and has helped sell that defensive intensity with the players," president of basketball operations and head coach Flip Saunders said of Young, whose 2.1 steals per game ranked third in the NBA last season.
Young’s ability to handle change goes back further than his Philadelphia days. Like Wolves rookies Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, he spent one year in college — at Georgia Tech — before entering the draft.
Born in New Orleans, Young and his family moved to Memphis when he was 10 years old. His parents, Lula Hall and Felton Young, never married, but both had a role in his life.
For dad, a former Jacksonville University star and 1978 draftee of the Buffalo Braves, that meant pushing his son on the hardwood — sometimes to excess.
"He talked about (his career) all the time," Young said of Felton Young, who never played in the NBA. "It’s one of those situations where you just kind of just have to play and try to get through it. You don’t want to hear about all those old memories all the time. But he’s cool; he doesn’t try to coach me anymore. He just kind of lets me just play and feel myself out throughout the process."
That process includes more uncertainty about his future; Young can opt out of next season, the final one on his contract, and become an unrestricted free agent if he so chooses.
It’s the same type of clause that allowed Love to push his way out of Minnesota. But Young says it won’t be an issue.
"I just want to go out and win basketball games," Young said. "All of that type of stuff will play itself out.
"Just basically go out there and do the job I’m supposed to do."