MIAMI - You can see the strain of the season on Thaddeus Young's face at this point. The smile is wry, the eyelids heavy, the overall look one of exhaustion. Eighty-two games is always a long season, even for Young, who last night completed his seventh with the 76ers. But this season was different - way different. The only holdover from a team that was a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals only two seasons ago, Young can't hide what a toll this 18-win season has taken.
"It seems like it's been a long season, both mentally and physically," said Young, who finished the season with career-best averages of 17.9 points, 2.3 assists and 2.1 steals. "Of course, at the end of the season, players are going to not feel up to par physically. Me, I feel good. I've been in the treatment room, just getting worked on and making sure I stayed healthy.
"Mentally, it's been very, very crazy. It's been a roller-coaster ride, up and down. But we're finally at the end of the season, and we just have to finish this thing out right. It definitely is the toughest season of my career. This is not the season I imagined. But guys got better. There's a lot of growth around the locker room, a lot of growth with the coaches. We're just ready to get to the summer and enjoy ourselves and get ready to go."
Getting ready to go could have a couple of different meanings for Young. It could mean preparing for another season in a Sixers uniform, of being the leader on a team that again will be filled with youngsters and players who will have borderline talent when it comes to the NBA.
It also could mean he is ready to play elsewhere.
"It's just one of those things where I have to sit down with Brett [Brown], sit down with Sam [Hinkie, general manager] and we have to discuss the situation, the scenarios and just take it from there," said Young, who is due to make $9.16 million next season, with a player option for $9.72 million in 2015-16. "I wouldn't want to discuss anything until after June. It's been a crazy season. I have to sit down with Sam and Brett at the exit meeting [today]. As far as anything else being said, I probably won't want to sit down [with them] until after the draft."
That could be the one element of next season that Young would want to be a part of, as the Sixers have two high first-round picks - their own and that of the New Orleans Pelicans, which was acquired in last June's draft night trade of Jrue Holiday.
"It does intrigue me," Young said. "I think this is a very talented draft, with a lot of young guys, a lot of 19- and 20-year-olds. It's a chance to lead those guys and help them grow as players. But as far as my future or anything else, I wouldn't want to talk until June or after the draft."
With that, Young slowly made the walk to rejoin his teammates, the heaviness of the season seemingly piled on his shoulders. Whether he's back next season to endure a similar type of year will be the big question.