Bulls' Thad Young contemplated retirement after trying 2019-20

NBC Sports Chicago Staff
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Why Thad Young contemplated retirement last offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Between the Bulls’ losing and his different usage, Thad Young’s frustration with his first season in Chicago was well documented.

But appearing on this week’s edition of the “Bulls Talk Podcast," Young revealed just how deep the frustration cut.

“Last year was real tough on me. I actually thought about last year just like, ‘Man, after this I’m done,’” Young told co-hosts Jason Goff and K.C. Johnson. “I had never really been frustrated. And I had got so frustrated with just a lot of the stuff that was going on to the point where it was like, ‘Is it even worth it to continue to even deal with it?’ But then I talked to my wife. And she always kind of reels me back in. Like, ‘What are you talking about? You ain’t a (expletive) quitter.’”

So Bulls fans can in part thank Young’s wife, who he has dated since high school, for contributing to this renaissance season. Young is averaging 12.4 points on gaudy 58.5 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists, the latter well over his previous career-high of 2.5 set in 2018-19 with the Pacers.

Young also leads the Bulls in charges taken and his assist rate of 24 percent dwarfs his previous career-best of 12.4 percent from the 2014-15 season he split between the Timberwolves and Nets.

“Close, yeah,” Young said, when asked if his 14th season represents his best. “Obviously when I was younger, I was more athletic and could do a little bit more. But I think for an older guy, yeah I am having probably one of my better seasons. Simply for the fact that I’ve been able to adjust with the times. It used to be you had to have two dominant big men to win a championship. And then it switched to, ‘Oh, you have to have all 3-point shooters.’ Now it’s like you have to have the best facilitators.”

Young cited improved “structure” for his revival.

“Last year, I think we kind of tried to play out of our talents a little bit. We weren’t a high-volume shotmaking team as far as 3-pointers. And we were trying to shoot 3s. And I was hovering around the 3-point line, which is something that I don’t do. I haven’t done it for my whole career,” Young said on the podcast. “And I think a lot of guys were being played out of their position of how they’d been orchestrated and moved throughout the offense. We were trying to play like the Brooklyn Nets team that made it to the playoffs with D’Angelo Russell.

“When I backtrack and I start looking at how we were structured, I would tell them all the time, like, ‘Yo, we’re not built that way. We’re built Ford tough to play midrange on in.’”

Young said he had multiple conversations with former coach Jim Boylen about his usage and if the team’s goals were to win or to develop players. His conversations with his wife helped him realize his talents hadn’t suddenly disappeared.

“I appreciate her for just being 100 percent honest with me. I had to really start thinking about it, like, ‘No, I just went from playing in Indy at a super high level to coming to Chicago. It’s not me. I know exactly what the situation is so I’m just going to burn through it. I’m going to be there for my teammates each night,’” Young said. “Obviously, last year wasn’t the best. But I still averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds and was playing up-and-down minutes.

“So I’m like, ‘You know what? Hopefully we make some changes.’ And I’m not even saying like if we would’ve made the change with the coaching situation. I’m saying if we had just made changes as far as how we played as a team and felt like we were being listened to as far as how we need to play and how things need to be structured. Then I would’ve been much more happy because I would’ve felt like we wasn’t going into every single game taking a knife to a gunfight.

“This year, I don’t feel like that. I feel very confident in each thing we’re doing. I feel like the franchise is going into the right direction. (General manager) Marc (Eversley) and AK (executive vice president) Artūras Karnišovas want to win. (Coach) Billy (Donovan) wants to win. The team wants to win. We’re hungry.”

Young emphasized he can play for any coach and in any system. That’s why the change didn’t have to necessarily be Boylen for Donovan, but a stylistic one.

“One thing I can say about Coach Boylen, like, he really cared about the franchise. He really cared about winning. He really cared about everything that was going on. I mean, he cared to the point where he was crying in some of our damn meetings,” Young said. “I understood where his passion was coming from and what he wanted to do. Great guy. But some people are just not made for certain situations. He might be a better coach somewhere else with different personnel.”

Now that Young is back playing at a high level, how much longer does he want to play? His contract for his 15th season carries a partial guarantee, and his play makes it clear he can still contribute.

As a devoted father to two sons, Young said family will be a main factor in what decision.

“I really don’t put a number on it,” Young said. “I want to play and be able to walk away from the game on my own terms. As of right now, I’m super happy, super focused and super healthy.”

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