The Atlanta Hawks blasted the Dallas Mavericks in their season opener, 113-87, with Trae Young racking up 14 assists and Deandre Hunter holding Luka to 18 points on almost as many attempts (17). Afterward, Young had a message for the haters:
“We don’t talk about it. At the end of the day we’re going to go out and compete at a high level regardless of what people are saying about us. We know we don’t get the respect we deserve. We were in the Eastern Conference Finals for a reason, we believe. It’s up to us to go out and prove it again.”
Our Hawks prediction had them taking a step back, not so much because they aren’t still good, but more because they had a lot of things fall their way last year. They played a Knicks team in Round 1 that treats every game like it’s the playoffs, which is why they didn’t have another level to go to in the playoffs. They played a Philly team whose second-best player refused to shoot in the fourth quarter/had a mental breakdown. And then got beat by the eventual champs because Giannis is a T-1000 who’s capable of self-healing while missing minimal time, and Young couldn’t overcome stepping on a ref’s foot.
It’s entirely reasonable to think that they won’t make the Eastern Conference Finals this year. But, again, it’s not because people think they suck. We’ve reached the point that it’s a trope that the best players find motivation in every slight — real or perceived. However, if he wants actual motivation/disrespect, let me provide it.
Atlanta got incredibly lucky last year. It was a fluke. If they had sustained the injuries their opponents did, they’re not going past the second round. In addition to Young, I know Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish all were hurt, but those guys kinda suck, right?
Never mind the fact that they were almost able to overcome a plethora of injuries that would sink pretty much every other team in the league; it was an aberration. We all know the playoff atmosphere at Madison Square Garden is overrated. They might as well have been playing in the bubble.
They gave Ben Simmons a hemorrhage in real time and made The Process implode, yet I’m still not impressed. Happiness isn’t good enough for me! I demand euphoria!
Trae was just doing a Reggie Miller impression, but what did Reggie ever win either? I know he was responsible for the best of all the 30-for-30’s and Knicks fans still shudder at the mention of 8 points in 8.9 seconds, but who cares about legendary performances in one of the most iconic sporting venues on the planet?
Did you see what I did there? I know some internet troll has stopped reading by now and is teeing me up for my horrendous — and intentionally tongue-in-cheek — takes, but the best competitors find slights even if they don’t exist. Be thankful, Trae, that the media hasn’t anointed the Hawks yet. I’m sure Jack Harlow would happily name a track after you, but look at what it did to Tyler Herro.
Guy felt himself so much he inserted his name in the Luka, Trae, Ja conversation. Herro may be fucking delusional but good for him that he now appears motivated and not complacent.
If I had one real criticism of Young (it’s not his defense, I’m a Dame fan so that’d be highly hypocritical of me) it’s the Ice Trae nickname. I understand it’s a play on words and the connotation behind being “icy,” but it’s a reach. Ask anyone on the planet if they like ice trays. It’s a weird criticism but, seriously, I’d almost rather have an ice machine than a dishwasher. You have to refill ice trays, they break/leak and it’s hard to get the cubes out. It’s like picking Slap-Chop as a moniker.
I don’t know if that helped motivate or what but, if it did, I take full credit. The Hawks are good and, more importantly, hungry.