Reporters’ notebook: Hawks’ Trae Young changed by fatherhood

Hawks guard Trae Young poses for a photographer during the Hawks Media Day on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.
Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Hawks guard Trae Young poses for a photographer during the Hawks Media Day on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

The following, a weekly feature of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, allows our reporters to open their notebooks and provide even more information from our local teams that we cover daily. We think you’ll find in informative, insightful and fun.

Changed by fatherhood

Just a couple of years ago, Trae Young’s priorities looked a little different. But after welcoming his son, Tydus, into the world last June, things shifted for the 25-year-old guard.

“I mean, (fatherhood) put things into a different perspective for me,” Young said. “Obviously, growing up, basketball is my all day, every day. It’s important. When I lose, I’m so hard on myself. When I play bad, I’m hard on myself. And I feel like everybody should be. But as a dad, like just, certain things matter more, and that ain’t gonna change from what my job is and how important that is to me. But my son is my first, most important thing to me right now. I got another one on the way, but so those are the most important things to me, for sure.”

Young announced that his wife, Shelby is pregnant with the couple’s second child, a daughter.

The Hawks guard is not the only member of the Hawks to expand their families. Young’s backcourt partner, Dejounte Murray and his girlfriend, Jania Bania, welcomed their daughter in April.

For Murray, the support that’s he’s received from his family has been a guiding light for self-improvement on and off the court.

“They understand who I am as a person,” Murray said. “They know I always want to grow. There’s always room to improve as a man, as a person, a father, a basketball player, whatever I’m doing.”

Share the ball

Georgia Tech basketball fans won’t get a first look at the Yellow Jackets until next month, but first-year coach Damon Stoudamire and guard Lance Terry recently provided some insight on what to expect from the team’s offense this season.

“They did do a great job toward the end of the year (last season), but they were last in the conference in assists. I don’t want to be last in the conference in assists,” Stoudamire said. “I want the ball to move, I want it to flow, I want guys to play together. I want to create advantages offensively, and I need guys to read and react.

“With this crew of guys that we have, I don’t know if we necessarily have a lot of breakdown guys. So that’s why the ball needs to be moving.”

Tech actually wasn’t quite last in the ACC assists in 2022-23. The Jackets finished eighth of 15 teams with 14 assists per game (105th nationally) and tied for seventh with 13.9 assists per game against league matchups.

Kyle Sturdivant averaged 3.3 assists per contest last season. A former Norcross star and Southern California transfer, Sturdivant returned for his final college season, and that should help the Jackets become a better ball-moving team and thus, they hope, become a better shooting team.

“We’re gonna move a lot, screen a lot,” Terry said. “If you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not, pass it to someone who is.”

Robinson moves like Iverson with a football

Falcons coach Arthur Smith, who played football at North Carolina, likes to use a lot of basketball references.

“When you’ve got a player like Bijan (Robinson), that is a friendly to the quarterback – pick your poison,” Smith said. “You want to bail out of there? Got a guy underneath. You can get 1-on-1s. He looks like Allen Iverson with the ball in his hands sometimes. That helps convert some third downs, but we have to be more consistent there.”

Iverson, who played at Georgetown and in the NBA for the 76ers, was a quarterback in high school at Bethel High in Hampton, Virginia. His nickname was Bubba Chuck.

“A.I. was a great football player, too,” Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder said. “You see the shiftiness, the change of speed and the change of direction. He does a great job of that. I guess A.I. was the first person to come to (Smith’s mind).”

Hollins’ revisionist history

Falcons wide receiver Mack Hollins tried to explain his sideline blow-up at Ridder during the Jaguars game Sunday by at first blaming the media.

“Ya’ll did it,” Hollins said. “Ya’ll the ones that wrote it up. We don’t fool with Des. There was never anything.”

After Ridder overthrew an open Hollins, Ridder tried to give Hollins a fist-bump, but Hollins wanted no part of the love.

But several days after the fact Wednesday, Hollins tried to paint an altogether wholesome picture.

“I know what my intentions were, and my intentions weren’t toward Des,” Hollins said. “It was like no matter who would have walked up there, that would have happened because I was kind of at that boiling point. Like it’s 17-0, and we are not playing anywhere like what we have at that point. We had like 10 plays. That’s just not our standard.”

Hollins did admit to being frustrated. The underthrown pass nearly was intercepted.

“But my frustration was … I think it got turned into, he missed you on that post,” Hollins said. “But I can care less about that. My frustration (was) here we are 17-0. Nine-hour flight, and it seems like we’re still asleep on the flight. It was like, everybody wake up.”

Here’s where Hollins’ version gets odder.

“If the clip would have rolled on longer, it would have been me following Des down to where he sits,” Hollins said. “’Bro, you missed me on that (expletive) post. This is (expletive).’ I literally like stood up and rotated to everybody and was (like), look guys we need to wake up. We are getting embarrassed honestly.

“We flew all the way over here to win a ballgame. Not to just go through the motions. We’re too good of a team to just allow this to happen. Like 17-0, you could just go out there with no game plan and find a way to score seven points. Why are we playing at that level and that standard? That’s why I was frustrated. Des clearly had nothing to do with it.”

Always polite

Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda typically is very polite.

He will shake the hands of everyone before every press conference. He will come over to talk to reporters before some training sessions to explain what the team is working on.

That gregarious behavior is why his angry reaction to the refereeing stood out in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Philadelphia.

Sitting in a very smelly locker room used by Philadelphia Union 2, Pineda almost looked like a hostage as he hammered referee Alex Chilowicz and the Professional Referee Organization.

Asked a question about a six-minute stretch in which his team allowed three goals, Pineda instead looked directly into the camera recording the interview and began a diatribe about several calls that weren’t made that would have benefitted his team.

Seven minutes later, after answering several questions with remarks about the poor officiating, Pineda stood up, shook a journalist’s hand, thanked them for coming, and walked out.

Quite an environment awaits Braves

Quite the environment awaits the Braves in Philadelphia for their National League Division Series. Those comparing it with raucous soccer crowds and SEC football stadiums aren’t off-base. Phillies third baseman Alec Bohm said they have the best home-field advantage in MLB. Two-time MVP Bryce Harper said the team is bolstered by that energy.

“We have such good vibes with our fans, the city. It’s just a blast,” Harper said. “We all love doing this. We know we’re a really good team. We just have to continue to do that.”

On the matchup with the Braves, Harper said: “Atlanta is really good. They’re one of the best teams in baseball. They have really good hitting, an unbelievable lineup. Three hundred homers this year, that’s incredible. It’s going to be fun. It’s exciting. It’s going to be an electric series, and we can’t wait.”

Braves fans saw that comment and noted Harper said “one of” the best teams. The Braves, of course, led MLB with 104 wins. Still, it’s understandable why Harper didn’t crown them. He did acknowledge that his Phillies are underdogs again, though, which is something they embrace.

“We’re still an underdog as well,” Harper said. “We’ve got four or five teams in front of us right now. We’re still a wild-card team just like anybody else. Everybody restarts and starts over.”

Like last season, the Braves finished 14 games better than the Phillies. But like in 2022, that doesn’t tell the story. Phillies manager Rob Thomson was asked about the sizable gap between the clubs’ win totals.

“The one thing the Braves did is they played consistent baseball all year long,” Thomson said. “From Day 1, they really didn’t go into any large losing streak that I know of, and we struggled getting out of the gate, so it’s something we’ve got to work on in spring training. But I think we’re playing very good baseball right now, and I think it’s going to be a really good series.”

Better than last year?

Outfielder Nick Castellanos, Bohm and other Phillies said this year’s team is better than the 2022 club that won the National League.

“That’s nothing against the guys that were here last year that aren’t here anymore,” Bohm said. “It’s just I think the team has grown together more over the course of the last year. It’s a lot of the same guys. Now this is our second year with most of this group. So, I think guys trust each other a lot more. I think guys know their roles. I think guys just are becoming more and more of a family.”

By the way, this was the second consecutive season the National League East placed three teams in the postseason. The Braves, Phillies and Mets a year ago; the Braves, Phillies and Marlins this year. Just as the Mets were eliminated by the Padres in the Wild Card Series, the Marlins were eliminated by the Phillies.

-Staff writers Lauren Williams, D. Orlando Ledbetter, Gabriel Burns, Doug Roberson and Chad Bishop contributed to this report.

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