Hawks’ Trae Young eager to represent Atlanta again at NBA All-Star game

Team Giannis' Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks is celebrated after making a three-point basket during to end the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago.

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Team Giannis' Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks is celebrated after making a three-point basket during to end the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020, in Chicago.

A handful of moments stand out from Trae Young’s first time starting in the All-Star game, in his second NBA season.

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The time he heaved a half-court buzzer-beater just before halftime, with all of Team Giannis mobbing him; teammate Pascal Siakam collapsing under the basket in celebration. The time he joked with Luka Doncic during the Rising Stars challenge to forgo a pass and try a half-court shot, with the two laughing together after the shot fell. When he finished the All-Star game with a game-high 10 assists despite garnering the least amount of playing time among the starters.

But what Young remembers most vividly was one of the simpler moments – when his name was called and it all finally hit him.

“When they announce you as a starter, and you stand out there, and the light is on you, and everybody’s looking at you, I think that’s the moment that it hits you,” Young said Friday at the Hawks’ shootaround, a day after he was voted an All-Star starter for the second time. “And for me, this is going to be my second time, God willing, many more, but that’s a crazy feeling whenever they walk out there and they call your name and they tell you whose team you’re playing for, and you see all the fans and they show love, it’s just fun.”

After that first stint as an All-Star starter in 2020, Young was snubbed from the All-Star game altogether last season, despite the Hawks’ success and Young’s numbers putting him in the conversation (at the time, he ranked third in the league in assists at 9.5 per game and 10th in scoring at 26.9 points per game).

But, now he’s back as a starter for 2022, and gets another shot to put Atlanta on the national map.

“I still feel like I should be a three-time All-Star right now, but I’m definitely honored to be here this year and to be going and representing, like I said, my team and the city in All-Star weekend, it’s one of the biggest weekends in the NBA, and to go out there and represent them, I’m going to try to do my best,” Young said.

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As a franchise, the Hawks are in a very different place from the last time Young went to All-Star weekend. At that time, Young wanted to draw some positive attention to the Hawks amid their rebuilding phase. Last year’s Eastern Conference finals run (and Young’s wild success against New York in the first round and Philadelphia in the second) achieved that, but now he gets a chance to put an extra spotlight on Atlanta.

The Hawks had a poor start to the season at 17-25, but are gaining traction and chemistry, inching closer to .500 (22-25 as of Friday afternoon) with a five-game win streak.

“It’s always an honor, and I try to do it as much as I can, make our playoff run, do that same thing. All-Star weekend is the same thing for me. It’s just I want to go out there and represent not only myself and my family and my last name well, but I know I’m representing Atlanta and this city and everybody who’s a Hawks fan as well,” Young said. “So I know I’m not just doing it for myself.”

It’s also a point of pride for Young already to have two All-Star starting bids in only his fourth NBA season, at age 23.

“I take a lot of pride in it,” Young said. “I mean, coming into the draft, I’m sure a lot of people didn’t think I’d be where I’m at now. So for me, every summer, every time I get a chance to work on my game and get better, that’s what I’m thinking about, is how I can do more and how can I achieve more. I always tell y’all it’s about winning, and I always say winning will take care of everything, and I wish we could have had another player or two join the team, and we still may have a chance, but I know winning will take care of everything. So that’s why it’s always the first thing that’s on my mind is winning because I know things like this can come with it.”

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