Trae Young looked uncharacteristically passive in the Hawks’ loss to the Hornets on Wednesday. His shots (nine), 3-point attempts (three), free-throw attempts (three), assists (three) were all season lows despite playing his second-most minutes this season (35). He even drew comparisons to Kobe Bryant’s infamous Game 7 against the Suns in 2006, when the Lakers star appeared to purposefully check out.
What prompted Young’s performance?
Maybe comments from Atlanta big John Collins the day before.
John Collins, the fourth-year big man who just weeks before bet on himself in a big way during his failed extension talks with the Hawks, shared his unfiltered and unhappy views about the way franchise centerpiece Trae Young was running the offense. According to three sources who were either in the session or had knowledge of what was said, Collins raised several issues about the way these Hawks were functioning with Young at the helm.
Collins talked about the need to get into offensive sets more quickly and to limit all those early shot-clock attempts that leave his teammates on the outside looking in. He shared his desire to be more involved and expressed a desire for more ball involvement and flow on offense.
There was no back-and-forth between the two, but the pointed criticism caught the attention of the room. And Young, sources say, made it clear to others later that he strongly disagreed with Collins’ assessment.
At least one Hawks player told The Athletic he believed the aftermath of Tuesday’s film session carried over into Wednesday’s game and was the reason for Young’s passive and lethargic performance.
If a Hawks player believed Young remained bothered by Collins’ comments, that itself is a problem. Perception alone can be powerful.
The best thing everyone can do is try to gain understanding of each other.
Young ought to realize him dominating the ball (especially when his defensive effort wanes) can alienate teammates. Collins ought to realize the offense is best served with Young dominating the ball. Young ought to realize he has more help this season (due to both outside acquisitions and internal improvement). Collins ought to realize Young is still young and learning how to adapt to new circumstances.
There’s plenty of room for a happy medium – if everyone carries healthy mindsets.
That means not means not sulking. Young has a history of showing frustration – especially amid losing. It’s no coincidence this happened after Atlanta dropped games to the Cavaliers and Knicks, not during a 4-1 start.
Ideally, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce would help navigate the team through these rough waters. But there are questions about his ability to do that.
If Atlanta starts winning again, it’ll be far easier for Young and Collins to work through these differences. Of course, these differences make it more difficult for Atlanta to start winning again. Sometimes, small breaks can snowball – in either direction.