There will be no official record of Trae Young’s debut in the Utah Jazz Summer League. Young will be judged by his play next season, when the stakes are higher. Summer games are tune-ups for the real thing
But the optics of Young’s first game as a pro were not good.
Young’s first two (unofficial) shots as an NBA player were 3-point tries that failed to hit the rim or the backboard. Young’s next eight shot attempts were misses, too. His first field goal didn’t come until more than two minutes had elapsed in the third quarter.
It wasn’t all bad for Young against the Grizzlies. But his 4-for-20 shooting from the field with a few ugly misses caused some murmurs among fans at Vivint Smart Home Arena. The Hawks lost to the Grizzles, 103-88.
“I definitely didn’t want to want this, have a game like this,” Young said. “But overall this is a process. This is just the first one. I felt a lot more comfortable in the second half. Hopefully I can carry that over to tomorrow and just keep going and getting better every day.”
Young finished with 16 points, three assists and two turnovers against the Grizzlies. It was his first competitive game since Oklahoma lost to Rhode Island on March 15 in the NCAA Tournament. Young’s pre-draft workouts for NBA teams were all solo, so it had been a long time since he even scrimmaged.
Young settled down after halftime as he focused on passing out of pick-and-rolls.
“Getting the jitters out,” Young said. “Looking forward to today, not being able to take my usual nap before the game because I was excited about playing. That first half was just getting some under my belt and I felt a lot more comfortable in the second half.”
Young wasn’t the only Hawks player struggling with his outside shot. The rest of the Hawks combined to shoot 8-for-29 on 3-pointers.
New Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said he expected Young to struggle shooting in his first game. He brushed it because he wants Young and the rest of the Hawks to take a high volume of attempts.
“Excited that we shot 40 3’s because that’s what we want to do, get them up,” Pierce said. “Excited for Trae (that) he got 20 shots up. He can get his shot off. He’s going to make a lot of shots. We’re going to be fine.”
There were some positives for Young. In addition to making plays as a passer in the third quarter, he played aggressive defense against Grizzlies counterpart Jevon Carter, who had a hand in making Young look bad in the first half.
Young fought hard to get around screens, moved his feet well when Carter tried to get around him and held his ground when bumped. In the second quarter, Young forced two turnovers by Carter with ball pressure.
“I really worked hard on the defensive end when my shot wasn’t falling,” Young said. “That’s a great sign. (Pierce) knows my shot is going to fall eventually. I’m not too worried about it. It’s just one game.
“It’s getting in the flow of things. It’s a different level. This is my first one. I’m excited to get ready for tomorrow.”
The Hawks play the Spurs on Tuesday, and all eyes again will be on Young, the player the Hawks acquired by trading the No. 3 overall pick. He may be the most famous player in his draft class after becoming the first player to lead the NCAA in scoring and assists.
Young has plenty of detractors who question whether he can be a good NBA player because of his relatively small frame. The players at summer league who are trying to make NBA rosters certainly can gain notice by taking it to Young.
"He's a big name,” Hawks guard Tyler Dorsey said. “He's a top guy. They are going to come at him. He just needs to play his game. No need to panic."
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