Hawks’ McMillan: ‘What I respect about Trae(Young), he’s going to always stay aggressive’

Trae Young has taken full advantage of his first playoff experience, and if you did not think he was a star before the playoffs, your mind has probably been changed.

Young had a playoff career-high 48 points, to go along with 11 assists, and seven rebounds as the Hawks defeated the Bucks 116-113 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night.

Game 2 is on Friday night in Milwaukee.

According to StatMuse, the 22-year-old Young is only player with at least 45 points and 10 assists in a conference finals game, and his 48 points is the most points in a conference finals’ debut. In addition, Young’s 48 points tied LeBron James for the most points by a player age 22 or younger in a Conference or Division finals game, according to ESPN Stats & Info

Young scored or assisted on 72 of Atlanta’s 116 points, and according to Elias Sports, that is the most in a Conference or Division Finals game all-time.

“What I respect about Trae, he’s going to always stay aggressive,” Hawks head coach Nate McMillan said. “He continued to stay aggressive and take his shots, and tonight those shots were falling for him. I thought he did a good job of, again, reading the defense and getting the ball and putting the ball in the hands of guys who had their matchups.”

Young added: “I’ve seen pretty much every defense. It’s really just figuring out what type of defense they’re showing that night. So I’m not surprised. For me, it’s just trying to make the right read and figure out how they’re going to guard. They guard a certain way and just trying to make plays and attack that way.”

For the third straight series, Atlanta won Game 1 on the road, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, the Hawks are the first team to win Game 1 on the road in three series within a postseason since the 1998-99 Knicks (excluding the bubble last season). In addition, Atlanta is 6-2 on the road in these playoffs.

“We didn’t get a high seed, so we’ve got to try to steal one on the road,” Young said. “Game 1 is definitely a game that you can really surprise that team. I think with the way we’ve been playing coming out of the gate; you can just tell we’re really focused on our attention to details when it comes to the other team.”

John Collins, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds in Game 1, added on team’s success on the road: ‘I feel like it definitely puts some respect on our name for sure. Going into hostile environments and coming out with victories in Game 1 is definitely something to be proud of. I feel like it’s prepared us for moments like this right now.”

The Hawks and Young are for real, and now after stealing Game 1 against the Bucks, Atlanta got the split that they needed, and Young’s stature in the league continues to grow.

Notes:

-Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 34 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists on Wednesday night, and Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

-Collins and Young had the highlight of the game when Young threw a lob pass off the glass to Collins, who finished it with a dunk in the third quarter. Young discussed the play after the game.

“Yeah, like we said in the locker room, he(Collins) knew it was coming,” Young said. “He knew the difference between one of my floaters and one of my passes off the backboard. That’s just the connection we have, the type of chemistry we have. So it’s fun playing with him.”

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Hawks’ Collins wins Sekou Smith Award

The Atlanta Hawks tonight announced forward/center John Collins as the recipient of the inaugural Sekou Smith Award, which annually honors the player on the team’s roster who best represents themselves and the franchise with professionalism and integrity in their interactions with the media.

Several members of Smith’s family were in attendance at tonight’s game to take part in a pregame presentation. Collins was selected via a vote from a select local media panel.

Sadly, Smith passed away in January due to COVID-19. He was 48.

In addition to the award, the Hawks will name the media workroom at State Farm Arena after Smith, redesigning the space to honor his memory. The Sekou Smith Press Room will formally open to media for the 2021-22 NBA season.

The team will also launch an annual Hawks-NBA Summer League internship in Smith’s name. Each summer, a journalism or multi-media student from a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) school will be selected to serve as the Hawks’ beat writer for NBA Summer League, and their work will appear on the team’s digital team properties, providing valuable experience and clips. In addition to covering associated travel costs, the Hawks will provide a stipend to the intern. The SWAC is comprised of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) including Jackson State University, Smith’s alma mater.

Smith served as the AJC’s Hawks beat writer from 2005-09 before joining NBA Digital as a multimedia reporter and analyst. He also spent time at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, MS and the Indianapolis Star, where he covered the Indiana Pacers as the team’s beat writer.

Photo Credit: Scott Cunningham/Hawks

Hawks’ John Collins: ‘I plan to fight my suspension’

The NBA has suspended Atlanta Hawks F John Collins for 25 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

According to the NBA, the second-year player tested positive for Growth Hormone Releasing Peptide-2 (GHRP-2).

Collins is expected to appeal the suspension, which begins tonight when the Hawks host the Spurs.

Here are statements from Hawks GM Travis Schlenk and Collins.

TRAVIS SCHLENK:

On behalf of the entire Hawks organization, we are disappointed to learn that John put himself in an unfortunate situation and violated the league’s anti-drug policy. We hold ourselves and each of our players to a high standard, and we are committed to supporting John as he learns from this setback and continues to grow as both a player and a person. Head Coach Lloyd Pierce and I have both talked to him and we believe that he is truly remorseful for his actions. We will provide John with support on and off the court while we look forward to his return to the team.”

JOHN COLLINS:

“First I want to apologize to my teammates, the Hawks organization, our fans, partners and community as a whole for this situation. I understand the impact this matter has on what we are trying to achieve together this season, and I am incredibly frustrated and disappointed in myself for putting all of us in this position. I have always been incredibly careful about what I put in my body, but I took a supplement which, unbeknownst to me, had been contaminated with an illegal component. I plan to fight my suspension in arbitration so I can get back on the court as soon as possible and continue to contribute to our 2019-20 campaign.”

Hawks pick up contract options on Young, Huerter, Collins

The Atlanta Hawks have exercised the fourth-year (2020-21) option on the contract of John Collins, along with the third-year (2020-21) options on the contracts of Kevin Huerter and Trae Young, it was announced today.

Entering his third season in Atlanta, Collins averaged team-highs of 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds along with 2.0 assists in 30.0 minutes (.560 FG%, .348 3FG%, .763 FT%) in 61 games (59 starts) during the 2018-19 season. He ranked 15th in the NBA in rpg, 16th in FG% and 33rd in ppg. He was the first sophomore in NBA history to average at least 19.5 points and 9.8 rebounds in 30 minutes or fewer per game. During All-Star Weekend, he participated in the MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars and AT&T Slam Dunk. Collins was named NBA All-Rookie Second Team after the 2017-18 campaign.

Huerter was named NBA All-Rookie Second Team last season after averaging 9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 27.3 minutes (.419 FG%, .385 3FG%, .732 FT%) in 75 contests (59 starts). Among qualifying NBA rookies, he ranked third in 3FG% (36th in the NBA), sixth in apg, seventh in spg and mpg. His 136 three-pointers were the second-most in Hawks history and the sixth-most in NBA history by a rookie age 20 or younger.

Young was a unanimous NBA All-Rookie First Team selection last season as he averaged 19.1 points, 8.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 30.9 minutes (.418 FG%, .324 3FG%, .829 FT%) in 81 contests (all starts). Among qualifying NBA rookies, he was first in apg (fourth in the NBA), second in ppg (34th in the NBA) and FT%, third in mpg, sixth in spg and 10th in rpg. The four-time Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month was also NBA Eastern Conference NBA Player of the Week for March 18-24, the only rookie in either conference to win the award last season. Young also led the Eastern Conference in total assists (653, second in the NBA), becoming the first rookie to lead a conference in assists since 1995-96.