Former Pacers guard Joe Young is having a great season in China playing with Nanjing Monkey King but he’s looking forward to returning to the NBA as soon as the CBA playoffs are over. HoopsHype talked with him about his overseas experience, his improved play and more.
First time outside the States?
Joe Young: No. I’ve been to Paris and London, that’s about it.
Did you bring your family with you?
Joe Young: They are staying in the States. I’m just focused on my team here in Nanjing.
What has impressed you the most while in China so far?
Joe Young: The fans. They love you out here. Nanjing, Shanghai… Everywhere you go the people are great. The food here is pretty good. It’s way different I thought it would be. I didn’t think Nanjing was actually this big. Huge skyline.
When you and your agents decided to take the overseas route, which other options did you have?
JY: Two other Chinese teams were interested. Also, I had offers to play in Russia, Turkey… and I had a couple of NBA offers, but it wasn’t the right situation. It just was the wrong timing and I needed to play. I needed to find the best place to play, a team where I can help and lead a team. That’s the decision I made with my agent. It was a good decision. CBA is good basketball, and it’s also a short season. I’m putting all my attention on this team, trying to help this team win. After that, it’s all about the NBA, see where I can go in the [NBA] playoffs.
What did the Pacers tell you when they didn’t pick up your team option?
JY: When I had my exit meeting, I thought I was coming back, that they would sign me another year. I had earned it, I had a good season. You know how business goes in the League… But I left on good terms.
You told Scott Agness that Al Jefferson gave you some advice before going to China. Did any other player talk with you about your decision? Maybe your cousin Paul George?
JY: Yeah, I talked to them. They told me that this is a process, that I belong in the NBA. They said, “Go over there and handle your business, lead your team.” Right now I’m the youngest foreign point guard in the CBA, and I feel I’m the best.
You’re having a great season averaging 35.7 points, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds. Pretty impressive.
JY: I feel good. I wanted to really show the skills I have. Some people say it’s easy going here and get this type of numbers. It’s not that easy to come here and do that. I know how to play and I know how to win. I know we’re out of the playoffs right now but we’re doing some good things on the court. We’ve had times where we look great. These last few games I’ve felt this team is getting better and I know for sure we’re going to make the playoffs.
Your coach is Gintaras Krapikas, who won the bronze medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Spain. How is he helping you with your game?
JY: He tells me to make the right plays, to go out there and help this team win. On the defensive end, he wants me to guard their best player. I take that challenge – guard their best player on the court and then I have to help the team on the offensive end. That’s why I wanted to play here. The organization is great, we’re working hard.
You’re averaging almost two steals per game. How are you feeling about your improvement on defense?
JY: I’m feeling good, my defense is getting better. It’s not the NBA, but it’s the CBA. I’m here and I respect my team. It’s my first time as a pro that I actually get to do this. During my three years in the NBA, I played minutes but I haven’t played minutes like I’m playing now.
We talked recently here at HoopsHype with Jimmer Fredette, who is also trying to get another chance in the NBA. What would you tell a head coach or an executive about why this time will be different?
JY: I’d tell them that I’m a leader, a good guy on and off the court. And a winner. It’s not just about me, it’s about going out there and help the team win. I’m a winner and I’m ready to come out and show what I can do.