SALT LAKE CITY -- As the Boston Celtics players mingled around their locker room after Tuesday’s summer league loss to Philadelphia, James Young spent some time talking with his godfather, Sean Mahone.
Moments later, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge wrapped his arm around Young and took him around a corner for a few more encouraging words.
“He said the shots are going to fall,” Young said of his conversation with Ainge.
Celtics fans have high expectations for Young this season, but they pale in comparison to the pressure that he’s putting on himself to perform.
And that pressure maybe more than anything else, why the 6-foot-7 wing player has been, to be blunt, awful shooting the ball from the field this summer.
In two Summer League games, Young has shot 6-for-22 from the field (27.2 percent) and a woeful 16.7 percent (2-for-12) from 3-point range.
He has made getting to the rim a greater priority, but every player in this league has a specific go-to skill. For Young, it’s making perimeter shots -- the one thing he has not done much of thus far in the Summer League.
“I was just thinking too much, every shot I was taking,” Young said after Tuesday’s 76-62 loss to the Sixers. “I have to be more calm and not think so much.”
Young and Marcus Smart are the only members of last year's Celtics team to see action in the Summer League. And on Tuesday the Celtics decided to give Smart the night off, which meant even more attention would be paid to Young.
He'll be the first to acknowledge he didn’t handle the situation as well as he should have.
“I need to do a good job of being composed and staying calm and just playing my game,” said Young, who, at 20, is still the youngest player on the team despite having a season in the NBA under his belt. “But I think too much. I had some good looks. They just didn’t go down.”
While all involved would like to see Young shoot the ball better, no one is ready to panic right now.
Despite his struggles, Young has been able to get some really good looks from the field.
“[Tuesday night] for the most part he was pretty open,” said coach Brad Stevens, who watched the game from the stands. “It’s just one of those days. Maybe a couple of those lay-ups and free throws late will help him feel better.”
Part of Young’s struggles might also have to do with him putting so much more focus into becoming a better defender, and that energy and effort has affected his perimeter shooting.
After two Summer League games, it’s clear that defense is still an area of Young’s game that’s best classified as a work in progress. But the 20 pounds of added weight he has put on has certainly been put to good use defensively, which is the easiest path to getting minutes under Stevens. Aware of this, Young has made becoming a better defender a priority . . . and that may be why he has struggled so mightily with his shot.
But Stevens’ confidence in Young getting into a nice shooting rhythm remains strong.
“I always thought he could make the next one and get on a roll,” Stevens said. “The biggest thing is, to be a great shooter you have to have -- I don’t know if it’s the right term -- but I always call it shot amnesia; you have to forget the last one. Whatever the case may be, you have to move on to what’s next.”