Trae Young has assumed the mantle once held by Reggie Miller and Michael Jordan:
Young is public enemy No. 1 among Knicks fans.
If Young hadn’t already earned the crown — as evidenced by the “f*** you Trae” chants in Madison Square Garden Sunday — he grabbed hold of it with both hands after silencing the crowd with his game-winner to beat the Knicks in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
At the top of the list of Knicks’ fans issues with him was Young hunting fouls, something that has been a complaint of opponents all season. Young hunts contact and has mastered the “running up the back” foul by stopping in front of a defender trailing him over a pick. He got to the free throw line nine times in Game 1, which is right on par with his season average of 8.7 attempts per game (tied for fourth-most in the league).
Now, in a move that is in no way blatant political pandering, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used part of his address to the city Tuesday to tell Trae Young to stop hunting fouls.
“This is very serious, want to get this message to Trae Young on behalf of the people for New York City and anybody that cares about playing basketball the right way: Stop hunting for fouls, Trae,” de Blasio said.
“I want to quote Steve Nash — great player, great coach — ‘that’s not basketball.’ Trae, that Hawk’s not going to fly in New York City, come on. Play the game the right way, see if you can win, and I think the Knicks are going to teach you a lesson.”
Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks will have plans to rein in Young in Game 2 — and not foul him as much. However, the Knicks’ challenge with Young is bigger than his foul hunting: They do not have a good defensive matchup for him. Young is an All-Star player (and deserves All-NBA consideration), no team has a lock-down way to slow him, but the Knicks guard rotation of Elfrid Payton, Derrick Rose, and Immanuel Quickley is not going to get the job done. Thibodeau tried to throw his best point guard defender Frank Ntilikina in cold at the end of the game to get a stop, but that was unfair. The problem with more Ntilikina is it hurts the New York offense (and they don’t want to take minutes away from Rose, who played well in Game 1).
The only thing we know for sure: Knicks fans are going to let Young hear it in Game 2. And that is going to fuel him.