EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Thaddeus Young was stunned when he heard on Sunday that Flip Saunders had succumbed to cancer at age 60.
The Nets power forward played under Saunders last season and was aware the Timberwolves president of basketball operations and coach was sick. But the news still was unexpected.
"It's definitely shocking to see him go so early," Young said on Monday. "Great man, great coach. It definitely was too soon for him to go and we're definitely going to miss him. He's a true pioneer to the game."
Young started all 48 games he played in with the Timberwolves, averaging 14.3 points and 5.1 rebounds for a young team that was rebuilding under Saunders. The Nets acquired Young at the February trade deadline in exchange for Kevin Garnett, a move that paved the way for them to ink Young to a four-year, $50-million contract in July.
Garnett waived his no-trade clause and happily went to the Timberwolves because of his affection for Saunders, who was Minnesota's general manager in 1995 under then-team president Kevin McHale when they drafted Garnett fifth overall. Young is grateful Saunders and current Timberwolves general manager Milt Newton allowed him a say in coming to Brooklyn.
"[Saunders] and Milt, they basically gave me a chance to pick a few destinations I would like to be in," Young said, "and they were willing to work with those teams, and those teams only, to help the situation we were in. That's something a lot of teams definitely wouldn't do. The 76ers definitely didn't do that."
Young's reflections mirrored the outpouring of affection for Saunders emanating throughout the league. Young said Saunders was well-liked by his peers and players, in part because of his genuine nature.
"I think that's the biggest thing for us. We all believed in him as a coach," Young said. "I think every team he's coached for believed in him and they still do to this day. You've seen the tweets, you've seen the Instagram posts and everything else about what type of person he was, what type of coach he was. He was a great man."
Notes & quotes: Jarrett Jack (sore left hamstring) sat out his third straight practice, putting his availability for Wednesday's season opener against the Bulls in jeopardy. Jack said he felt it initially tighten during the final drill of Thursday's practice, and it apparently hasn't loosened up much since. "It was a little tight today," Jack said. "I did some stuff today on the court. Shooting and did some drills. I felt it was a little tight, so I am an optimistic man." . . . The Nets trimmed their roster to the 15 players allowed by waiving Justin Harper and Dahntay Jones.