Why Thad Young's Bulls role under Billy Donovan makes the vet happy

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K.C. Johnson
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Why Thad Young is thriving in Billy Donovan's system originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

You don't make it season No. 14 in the NBA unless you pride yourself on some essential elements.

Thad Young prides himself on plenty -- durability, availability, adaptability -- but following Sunday's practice at the Advocate Center, the veteran forward underscored perhaps his biggest.

Coachability.

Last season's usage under previous coach Jim Boylen has been well documented. Young, a player who long has made his living either utilizing his baby hook and flip game in the post or as a passer out of the high post, largely lived on the perimeter. Young adapted, as he typically does. He shot 35.6 percent from 3-point range on the second-highest volume of his career, 3.5 attempts per game.

But it didn't take near the near back-to-back triple doubles that Young posted to know he's happier in Billy Donovan's system.

"I think you’re getting what I signed up for and who I am as a player," said Young, who is in the second season of a three-year deal that isn't fully guaranteed next season. "I think Billy has done a good job of putting me in position to where I can help the team succeed and I can succeed myself.

"Last year was just so different for me and it was hard to adjust to because it was something that I had never done in my whole career with just kind of being placed outside on the 3-point line and just trying to make plays and reads from there. I’ve always been  a player that, yeah, I’ll step out and take some (3-pointers). But put me in the middle and let me make decisions and reads and we’ll take it from there."

Where Young has taken it is a 4.1 per game assists average on the young season, by far a career-best. His 11 assists in Saturday's gut-punch loss to the Portland Trail Blazers marked a career-high. And his assist rate of 24.7 percent is double his previous best.

"I’m playing much more comfortable," Young said. "I’m able to do a lot of the things I was doing with previous teams as opposed to last year, which is catching the ball in the pocket, playing and reading the defense, stepping out and taking an occasional shot here and there -- but also when I get mismatches, being able to take advantage of those mismatches on the post. If they come with the double, make the read, make the pass out. If they don’t, then try and abuse the guy that’s guarding me.

"Billy and the coaching staff have done a phenomenal job of just kind of putting us all in successful positions and putting us in position where we could all be good for the team, but also be great for this organization."

At one point last season, Young's agent voiced his client's dissatisfaction with his playing time and role. But that's the last you heard of it. Young professionally addressed the business side of matters and continued to play the way Boylen asked him to, adapting his game and trying to set an example for younger players.

"I've always been a player that tries to make the best out of each and every situation. Not going to be a head case or a distraction to the team. If I have something that’s wrong with me and people see it, I just tell them, ‘I’m fine, don’t worry about me.’ I’ll just figure out how to get the job done. That’s always what I’ve been my whole career. Just a guy that figures out how to get the job done to the best of his abilities and also go out there and listen to the coaches," Young said. "Like last year, Jim was saying, ‘Hey, go out there and shoot 3-pointers,’ even though I knew that wasn’t what I do, what I did for my career. I’m going to listen to my coach.

"Just like the same thing with Billy. He’s telling me, ‘Hey, we need you to play in the pocket, we need you to make reads for us.’ Like, ‘No problem.’ I’ve always been a coachable guy, a coachable player, and I’ve always been a player that will voice my opinion but also just go out there and do my job. Do what I’m being asked and try and help the team win at all costs."

RELATED: How Young getting back to 'bread and butter' is helping Bulls

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