The history of this year’s NBA playoffs has been the rise of Trae Young.
The 22-year-old has his Hawks three wins away from the NBA Finals. A trip to the Finals would be the franchise’s first since John F. Kennedy was president of the United States in 1961 and the Hawks were based in St. Louis. The team has the second-longest finals drought in the league, but Young is ready to rewrite history, which has caught the attention of Basketball Hall of Famer Reggie Miler.
“People say that Trae Young is almost arrogant, but that doesn’t matter to me,” said Miller, who joins the legendary Marv Albert on TNT’s broadcast team for this series. “I like a boy who is so confident in his abilities.”
In the first game, Young painted a 48-point, 11-assist masterpiece. His brilliance was on full display in the third quarter, when he delivered the round shimmy basketball heard while punching another three quarters. Young is as charismatic as he is convincing on the court, and he seems to enjoy playing the villain in front of the opposing team’s crowd, also a trademark of Miller throughout his career.
“Becoming the villain, that’s almost a gift,” Miller said. “It was awarded to me for my matches with the New York Knicks. Not everyone will be able to put on the white hat and be applauded and worshiped in important buildings. Michael Jordan was adored everywhere he went. I agreed to wear the black hat, and it seems that Trae likes to be on the road, performing at the highest stakes, and silencing crowds. His skill set is very good and he’s very talented, and people cheer and boo because they really respect his game. I think he will appreciate it as he gets older, but it has been a pleasure to watch. “
Young can manipulate a defense in the middle of the court in a way unlike any other player in the league. His skill set includes elite shooting and ball handling, as well as a variety of tear jumpers, floaters, pull-ups, kickbacks, and runners. All of these are a by-product of countless hours in the gym, and his bravery on the court embodies the sacrifices he has made in pursuit of greatness. But for the Hawks to advance to the Finals, they will need the scoring depth of players like John Collins, Kevin Huerter and Clint Capela.
“They’ve been doing it by committee, but they need a secondary scorer,” Miller said. “You need to trust a guy who will give you buckets to keep you in the lead or keep you at attack distance. That is something I will be looking for as this series progresses.
“But Atlanta is playing with the house money. No one expected them to be here. They’re playing loose, they’re playing free, and all the pressure is on the Bucks. “
Miller also provided information for the Western Conference Finals, where the Phoenix Suns lead the Los Angeles Clippers, two games to one, in their best-of-seven series. The Clippers defended the home court with a victory last night, despite the return of Chris Paul, who had missed the first two games of the series while in NBA health and safety protocols.
This is the sixteenth season in Paul’s league. Miller eventually reached the Finals during his thirteenth season, and he has the ability to relate to Paul’s long journey to the championship round.
“I certainly know the emotions he’s going through from being so close,” Miller said. “I certainly appreciate it, being in my thirteenth year and finally making it to the Finals. He had been to the conference final four or five times before. It’s funny, people always want to talk about the big shots and the moments I had. Personally, I relive the moments that could have helped me reach the final. So I’m sure he’s appreciating the moment ahead. “
Another integral element in the Suns’ success has been the play of Devin Booker, who has elevated his game to an even higher level this postseason.
“I wanted to see how Devin Booker was going to handle the pressure of teaming up with Chris Paul, who demands so much, seeing how they were going to be able to perform, especially in that first-round matchup against the Lakers,” Miller said. “It has not disappointed. It’s nice to have fresh blood with these last four teams. People want to see the old guard, but it’s good to see new faces performing at a high level. “
Miller also shared his excitement for Rick Carlisle’s return as coach of the Indiana Pacers. Longtime Dallas Mavericks coach Carlisle just agreed to a deal with Indiana, where he had the opportunity to work with Miller more than two decades ago when he was the team’s associate head coach when Larry Bird was head coach. Since then, Carlisle has had head coaching jobs with Detroit, Indiana and Dallas, where he won a title in 2011.
“Pacer Nation has to be excited,” Miller said. “They are going to have one of their own at home. In terms of preparation, game management, practice plans, I know your attention to detail. It took my game to a different level. You saw that in Detroit and, obviously, in Dallas. “
It’s been seven years since the Pacers passed the 50-win threshold, and they just wrapped up a disappointing season that saw them finish four games under .500. Carlisle will mark the third head coach in as many seasons for the underperforming Pacers.
“It’s more time for the players who are currently with the Pacers to start looking in the mirror,” Miller said. “They ran out of Nate McMillan, who is a coach of the final four here. Freshman head coach Nate Bjorkgren left within a year. Players no longer have excuses.
“They’re going to get a Hall of Fame coach, a guy who’s won a championship, [so] it’s time for these players to start looking in the mirror a bit. But it’s a sunny day in Indiana to get coach Carlisle back. “
More coverage of the NBA playoffs:
• Pina: the all-money NBA playoff team
• How does it feel to see the team you built prosper without you?
• Bromberg: The Falcons found an unlikely hero in Kevin Huerter
• Trae Young silences another visiting crowd with his pro performance in Game 1
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.