Hawks’ Trae Young wasn’t done dirty by All-Star voters

Trae Young was not grievously wronged Tuesday night. He was not snubbed. (Meaning: To rebuff, ignore and spurn disdainfully). Although whenever given the chance to use a great word like “snub,” one should never snub it.

Because of a long list of worthy backcourt candidates in the East, the Hawks’ alpha guard merely was omitted from an All-Star event that no one really wants to go to anyway. It was like not getting invited to game night at Bill Belichick’s house.

Not voted in as a starter earlier in the month, Young was left off the reserves list announced Tuesday. While Hawks players have a lot of experience at toiling in meaningless games in State Farm Arena after February, none of them have been asked to appear in this one. But Young, a starter in last year’s All-Star game, is not entirely off the hook here. There are skills competitions and 3-point shooting contests to fill. And there’s a better-than-even chance that there will be some injuries, real or imagined, closer to the March 7 game and he’ll be asked to sub in. After all, he can Uber to the game at the last minute.

ExploreHow State Farm Arena became home to All-Star Game

For his part, Young appeared blasé Tuesday night about the league’s coaches leaving him off the All-Star roster with their final vote. His team had just suffered another dispiriting lost fourth-quarter lead — this one to, ugh, Cleveland. And he had contributed, going 0-for-4 in the final 90 seconds of a one-point loss while forced to burn a final, precious timeout before being muscled out of bounds near the end. So, understandable if his mind was elsewhere.

“Confused” was the strongest verb he’d employ. “I don’t know. It’s kind of confusing on how I didn’t make it, I’m kind of confused,” he said. “It happens. For me, all I’ve been focusing on is my team and how we can improve as a team. I’ve been an All-Star before, so for me it’s all about how I can improve and help our team win.”

Yeah, but was he peeved? “I don’t know,” Young said, trailing off to the land of unspoken thoughts.

His coach stood up for his guy.

“It’s unfortunate,” Lloyd Pierce said. “I think he’s had a tremendous year, an All-Star year without a doubt.”

Team leaders

Just look at the way other teams game plan for Young, Pierce testified. “He’s at the forefront of everyone’s scouting report, with the blitzes, the denials, the box-and-ones – I think more than any player in this league, if you were to ask me,” he said. “It’s a sign of respect in terms of the way teams are playing him, and he’s backing it up with his play. It’s unfortunate and I’m sure that weighed on him, but I thought he came out and was competitive and gave us a fighting chance all night.”

Young finished with 28 points and 12 assists against Cleveland.

In the other three games after the All-Star starters were announced, Young seemed to be making a convincing last-minute case to be included as a reserve. He averaged 35 points and 11 assists in that span, shooting 62% from the field. And better yet, the Hawks went 2-1.

But the cold truth is that there is a generation of pretty good guards out there and only limited space inside the All-Star concierge lounge. And it certainly didn’t help Young’s standing when James Harden moved into the neighborhood in the East.

Young has the bona fides for All-Star consideration. He ranks top 10 in scoring (No. 10 at 27.0 points a game) and assists (No. 3 at 9.6 per). He is more vital to his teammates than the laces in their shoes. The Hawks have wandered this season because of injury issues, but without Young they’d be shipwrecked.

And those who follow this one team passionately are apt to look upon that and say it was an outrage that Young was not voted onto All-Star island for a second time. Looking beyond the tunnel of fan loyalty, though, is to see some other perfectly acceptable options.

Young’s scoring is no more important to his team — 24% of the total — than, say Bradley Beal’s is to Washington (nearly 29%). He’s a couple of assists a game behind Harden, who in Brooklyn has better options to feed.

Everyone in this beauty contest is a star. Where Young does have it over the field is in his team’s utter reliance upon him to put up points to have a chance to win. The Hawks are 5-13 this season in games in which Young doesn’t score at least 30. No one — not Boston’s Jaylen Brown (10-13) nor Chicago’s Zach LaVine (7-8) nor Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving (11-5) — is leaned upon as heavily.

Young’s scoring is a couple of points a game less from a year ago when he was anointed an All-Star starter. His assists are up about one a game. He is no less the dynamic player he was in 2020 just because he didn’t get to sit with the cool kids this year.

He is only 22, so let’s not spend too much time on this one lost opportunity. If he’s never satisfied, and if the Hawks perhaps pump up his profile a little bit by winning more, then Young can rejoin the All-Stars when their gathering is a true celebration again.

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