ATLANTA (AP) — When the Atlanta Hawks were excluded from the
bubble last summer, Trae Young stewed at home.
He watched games on television, enviously tweeted about what he
was missing, and longingly visualized what it would be like to play
a starring role when it really matters in the NBA.
Now, he's got his chance.
Talk about rising to the occasion.
Young has joined an extremely rare group of point guards and
guided the Hawks to
a 3-1 lead in their opening-round playoff series against the
New York Knicks.
Atlanta will try to wrap it up Wednesday night in Game 5 at
Madison Square Garden, where a fan spit on Young as he inbounded
the ball the last time he was in New York.
No worries on Young's end. That just shows how much he's gotten
under the skin of the Knicks and their fans.
“I love it,” Young said. “This is a fun series.”
He has become just the
fourth player in NBA history to average at least 25 points and
10 assists in his first four career playoff games.
The others: Oscar Robertson, Kevin Johnson, and Stephen
The 6-foot-1 Young has befuddled the Knicks with a dazzling array
of moves and passes. When they sag into the lane, he'll pull up
for the jumper. When they crowd him on the outside, he'll take it
to the hoop. When others are open — and the Hawks have plenty of
shooters — Young delivers passes in about every way imaginable.
“He really doesn't have a weakness,” said interim Hawks coach
Nate McMillan. “He takes what the defense gives him.”
As good as he is as a shooter — Young's range is roughly just
inside the half-court line — his passing maybe even better.
He even amazes himself at times.
“I always know in my mind where I want to go with the ball,"
Young said. “Sometimes, it trips me out the way it goes. A couple
of games ago, I did a
behind-the-back pass to Tony (Snell) in the corner. I knew
where I wanted to go with it. I just hoped it got there. The fact
that it got there, I was pretty tripped out by that.”
The charismatic Young has never shied away from 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.
the Hawks made the playoffs for the first time since 2017, most
of the hype was on the Knicks — a flagship franchise in the
league's biggest media market that ended an eight-year postseason
drought of its own.
The underdog role suited Young well. He's often griped about how
the Hawks are overlooked, from a lack of national television
appearances to him being passed over for a spot in this year's
All-Star Game in his home city.
“We have been disrespected all this year and overlooked a lot,”
With Young as the centerpiece of a massive overhaul, the Hawks
went 49-100 during his first two seasons in the league. Last year,
after the season shut down because of the pandemic, Atlanta was one
of eight teams that didn't take part in the Disney World
It was tough for Young to watch.
“I started training the first day everyone got in the bubble and
started playing," he recalled. “Being at the house late at night,
watching those games, seeing all those playoff games, seeing guys
in the play-in games, even when they were just playing (the last
few regular-season) games, for me it was frustrating. I wish I
could have done more to help our team get there. For us to be here
now means a lot to me. And this is just the beginning.”
Young is seemingly picking up new fans with every stellar
After the Hawks romped to a dominating victory in Game 4,
of Famer Isiah Thomas chimed in on Twitter.
“He’s the real deal,” Thomas wrote. “Let it be known!”
McMillan has worked with Young to cut down on his turnovers.
After averaging 4.14 per game during the regular season, he's given
up the ball only 11 times in four playoff games.
“He's showing growth in managing and running a team," the coach
said. “He has to cut down the turnovers. He's too good of a passer
to have five or six turnovers a game. Two is OK. But five or six is
a big number for a guy who passes as well as he does.”
Young was picked fifth overall in 2018 out of Oklahoma, going to
the Hawks in a draft-night 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 is a trade that is still hotly debated around the league, but
neither team is complaining about who they ended up with.
No matter what, Young and Doncic will surely be linked for the
rest of their careers.
That's not an issue for Young.
He welcomes the attention. Craves it, actually.
“I want to do something special" he said. “I want to be
different. This is a fun opportunity, a fun stage to really do
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at
https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and