Atlanta Youngs shine on maiden NBA playoff trip
ATLANTA (AP) – When the Atlanta Hawks were kicked out of the bubble last summer, Trae Young was cooking at home.
He watched games on TV, tweeted longingly what he was missing, and envisioned what it would be like to take a lead when it really matters in the NBA.
Now he has his chance.
Talk about rising up.
Young joined an extremely rare group of playmakers and guided the Hawks to a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series against the New York Knicks.
Atlanta will look to wrap up Wednesday night in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, where a fan spat at Young as he returned the ball the last time he was in New York.
No worries on Young’s side. It shows how much he is under the skin of the Knicks and their fans.
“I love it,” Young said. “It’s a fun series.”
He became only the fourth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points and 10 assists in his first four playoff games.
The others: Oscar Robertson, Kevin Johnson and Stephen Curry.
The 6-foot-1 Young confused the Knicks with a dazzling range of moves and passes. When they sag in the lane, it will stop for the rider. When they crowd him outside, he’ll take him to the hoop. When the rest are open – and the Hawks have plenty of shooters – Young delivers assists in every way imaginable.
“He really doesn’t have a weakness,” said Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan. “He takes what the defense gives him. “
As good as he is as a shooter – Young’s reach is about right inside the half-court line – his pass maybe even better.
Sometimes he is even surprised.
“I always know in my mind where I want to go with the ball,” Young said. “Sometimes it trips me up. A few games ago I passed a back pass to Tony (Snell) in the corner. I knew where I wanted to go with that. I just hoped he would get there. . The fact that he got there, I was quite taken aback by that. “
The charismatic Young has never escaped the spotlight, making it clear from the day he arrived in Atlanta that he was more than willing to be the face of a team that has largely been a forgotten NBA outpost. .
Even though the Hawks made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, most of the hype was about the Knicks – a flagship franchise in the league’s biggest media market that ended an eight-year playoff drought. playoffs.
The role of outsider suited Young well. He often complains about how the Hawks are overlooked, from the lack of national television appearances to being ignored for a spot in this year’s All-Star Game in his hometown.
“We’ve been disrespected this whole year and neglected a lot,” Young said.
With Young as the centerpiece of a massive overhaul, the Hawks went 49-100 in his first two seasons in the league. Last year, after the season closed due to the pandemic, Atlanta was one of eight teams that did not participate in the Disney World bubble.
It was difficult for Young to watch.
“I started training the first day everyone got into the bubble and started playing,” he recalls. “Being home late at night, watching those games, seeing all those playoff games, seeing guys in play-in games, even when they were just playing (the last games of the regular season), for me it was frustrating. I wish I could have done more to help our team get there. To us being here now means a lot to me. And that’s just the start. “
Young apparently attracts new fans with every stellar performance.
After the Hawks claimed a dominant victory in Game 4, Hall of Fame member Isiah Thomas took to Twitter.
“He’s the real deal,” Thomas wrote. “Let it be known!
McMillan worked with Young to reduce his turnovers. After averaging 4.14 per game in the regular season, he has only given up 11 times in four playoff games.
“He shows growth in running and managing a team,” said the coach. “He needs to cut down on turnovers. He’s too good a passer to have five or six turnovers a game. Two is good. But five or six is a big number for a guy who passes as well as him.
Young was selected fifth overall in 2018 outside of Oklahoma, going to the Hawks in an overnight draft deal that sent All-Star Luka Doncic to the Dallas Mavericks and also brought Atlanta a future first-round pick. (which was used for Cam Reddish).
It’s a profession that is still hotly debated in the league, but neither team is complaining about who they ended up with.
Either way, Young and Doncic will surely be bonded for the rest of their careers.
This is not a problem for Young.
It welcomes attention. I want to, actually.
“I want to do something special,” he said. “I want to be different. It’s a fun opportunity, a fun step to really do it.”