PHILADELPHIA – In the same city where they once booed Santa Claus and did the same when the Timberwolves’ other four starters were introduced Friday, Thaddeus Young received a warm welcome in his return to the team for which he played his first seven seasons.
Philadelphia fans generally applauded him — and some stood and clapped — when his name was announced before Friday’s game against the 76ers. They did so again when a video-board tribute was played during a first-quarter timeout.
“I gave my blood, sweat and tears literally to this franchise for seven years,” Young said Friday. “It’s great to have these fans behind you because sometimes they can be pretty brutal, but they always stuck behind me, no matter what. … It was a great seven years, amazing seven years. It’s a business and you have to move on, but definitely I miss this place.”
Young found three of his 76ers jersey framed and set on easels along with a handwritten note from General Manager Sam Hinkie when he entered the visitors’ locker room.
“They had a black Sixers jersey from when I first came into the league,” said Young, who was part of August’s three-way trade that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland and Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota. “I didn’t even think they still had those. It was a great gesture.”
Rubio’s return nears
Point guard Ricky Rubio practiced with the team Thursday, worked out before Friday’s game, will do so again before Saturday’s game and could return for the first time since Nov. 7 as early as Monday’s game at Dallas.
“He came through practice pretty good,” coach Flip Saunders said. “We’ll see how he feels Monday. I don’t know if he’ll go Monday, but we’re hoping sometime this next week.”
Saunders said Rubio definitely won’t play Saturday.
Sixers coach Brett Brown praised Young’s presence in team meetings and cited his response last season when his team sent away veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and LaVoy Allen.
“He did what I guessed he might, and it confirms his maturity, leadership and class,” Brown said. “He grabbed an even younger team and led us. He’s someone I personally appreciate for the energy and effort he gave while I was with him.”
LaVine sprains ankle
Wolves starting point guard Zach LaVine sprained his ankle midway through the third quarter when he landed on somebody’s foot. He went to the locker room and returned to the game briefly in the fourth quarter but couldn’t finish the game because his lateral movement was limited.
“I didn’t want to hurt the team or anything trying to play,” LaVine said, “so Coach made a decision to go sit down.”
LaVine planned to ice the ankle on the flight home but has only hours for it to improve before Saturday’s game.
With Mo Williams nursing a hip injury, Rubio still out and even emergency backup Robbie Hummel out as well, just-signed Lorenzo Brown could be the only point guard left.
“Hopefully, he’ll recover a lot in the next 24 hours,” Saunders said of LaVine.
A veteran’s advice
LaVine sat at his locker room 50 minutes before Friday’s game, eating an arena-made Philly cheesesteak.
“That your first Philly cheesesteak, in Philly?” veteran Kevin Martin asked. “You need to get one on the street corner. Another rookie mistake …”