I’ve probably said it before but I’ll go ahead and get it out the way. I hated the Draft Day trade that brought Trae Young to Atlanta. As a first year Season Ticket Member, my reaction, along with most, was a smattering of boos at the Draft party.
I was wrapped up in the Luka hype and was a Dennis Schroder believer.
I got over it, quickly. We all know how Summer League started but I was able to see past the shooting struggles. Trae had a natural gift. His passing abilities were unmatched for someone just coming into the league.
Fast forward to Preseason where things were looking up. Collins and Young looked like they were ready to take the league by storm. Then Collins got hurt. At the time it didn’t look too bad but he would miss the rest of the preseason and a good chunk of the season.
In perhaps the most entertaining preseason game of the season, Trae did this!
That was just a taste of what was to come.
Then came the regular season. Let’s just say things did not get off to an ideal start. After back to back blowouts where the Hawks looked hapless on defense, they finally had a great showing in Cleveland. Trae Young would go absolutely off, exploding for 35 Points and 11 Assists.
Finally, it was time to open StateFarm Arena.
I have to give it to Steve Koonin, Tony Ressler and anybody who had a hand in the renovation. I’ve been to a hand full of NBA arenas and they had transformed the dated Philips Arena to the best building in the NBA. Yes, I’m biased but from everyone I’ve talked to agrees that a great job was done.
As for the game…National TV, Trae vs Luka, an Atlanta team…what could go wrong?
Well, the Mavs jumped out to a 26 point 2nd quarter lead and Luka was completely dominating Trae. But in what would become a theme for the team through the season, they would not quit.
The Hawks continued to chip away and some clutch plays from Trae in the 4th propelled the Hawks to victory.
The crowd that night rivaled those of the playoff runs and brought back memories. Twitter was a fun place that night too with people honestly thinking we had a shot this year. Hey, we were 2-2 coming off a 24-58 season. We needed that moment.
The Hawks would come back to earth, quickly by the tune of a 4-21 stretch.
The next game came against the Bulls and the Hawks couldn’t find their rhythm. I consider myself a NBA expert and honestly I couldn’t name half of the players who played for the Bulls that night. It was a gross preview of what the next month of ball would bring.
As the season unfolded, things would not go well. Not only was the team struggling, Trae Young’s shooting had fallen off a cliff. And, John Collins still wasn’t back.
The Hawks looked so bad for a stretch that many people were calling to question the hire of Lloyd Pierce.
Rock bottom came against the Kings. The Hawks would lose by what felt like 40 and as a first year member, I wasn’t even enjoying coming to the arena every night.
Me at every hawks game pic.twitter.com/HrsNXUF0yQ
— Phil (@_ATLPhil) November 23, 2018
As Trae continued to struggle mightily from deep, the whispers became shouts around the league. Even Hawks fans thought we had made a terrible mistake. I know I said I was mad draft night but once he was in Hawks uniform I was one of his biggest defenders.
I think it’s safe to say people didn’t #KeepThatSameEnergy.
Any shooter, even the greats go through struggles.
Finally with Collins back, the Hawks began looking like an actual NBA team. They would win five out of six after starting 6-23 to get themselves out the basement and gave me hope for the future.
Yup, that also happened. Perks of being a member, which I highly suggest doing by the way.
As the calendar turned, the Trae and Collins tandem continued to improve along with the team.
The Hawks would get as close to six games back of the 8th spot which probably saved us from trading Lin, Dedmon and maybe a few others at the break.
You could see the team gelling and adapting to one another as well as Coach Pierce’s system.
I think most Hawks fans would say All-Star Weekend was Trae’s introduction to the world. After a tremendous showing in the Rising Stars game, Trae would nearly win the the Skills Competition.
He wasn’t done putting the haters on notice though.
In the three games after the All-Star Break, Trae would drop 36, 36 and 49. I’ve been a die-hard Hawks fan since 2006. That was by far the best individual run I’d witnessed. The city was taking notice too. Game by game you could feel that 2015 energy returning to StateFarm Arena.
The Hawks would go on to lose that game in 4OT but Trae Young would lead off SportsCenter that night.
The Hawks finally had a face. Something even the 60 win team lacked. Trae has been featured on SportsCenter, NBA TV, the Jump as well as local commercials this year. He’s just a Rookie.
It wasn’t just a one game thing either. Trae would put up elite numbers down the stretch and sink two more game winners to completely ignite the Atlanta fan base.
We’ve been waiting a long time for talent like this, Atlanta.
Each year, I try to get to at least one road game. This year it came last week in Orlando where they thought it’d be funny to feature me alone on Kiss Cam and play “All by Myself”. They may have gotten the laugh that night with their 40 point victory but I think it’s safe to say the Hawks will be around for years to come. I’m still waiting on the Hawks to make up for that by the way. I guess it’ll have to wait until next year.
Last year’s season finale was a snoozefest that featured many players we wouldn’t see again. At 24-58, I was just ready for it to be over.
This year, I was legit sad that the season was ending. The energy in the crowd down the stretch felt like we were in the midst of a playoff race.
Don’t you dare tell me Atlanta doesn’t care about the Hawks.
The Hawks have a load of young talent surrounding Young and Collins. In addition we have a decent amount of money to spend on Free Agency and a high lottery pick (hopefully two) in June’s draft.
Don’t give me that crap about Atlanta not attracting Free Agents either. These aren’t your old Atlanta Hawks. The ones with owners infighting and suing each other, or having racist views, having incompetent basketball staff, a practice facility in the basement and a stale team. I could go on but you get the point.
Top the bottom the Hawks have world class infrastructure, an elite basketball staff and an exciting young core that players will want to play with.
No I’m not saying we’re going to sign KD but I wouldn’t put a limit on the possibilities over the next two summers.
If Atlanta can make some decent signings, hit on our draft picks and continue the development trend, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in the playoffs next season. It is the East after all.
It’s time to get excited, Atlanta. If you aren’t already, what are you waiting for? As you heard in those videos, you know I am.
Be sure to stick with ATLSportsHQ all summer as we’ll do our best to bring you coverage of the team for the fans, by the fans.
From the Draft to Summer League, Free Agency and preseason, we will have you covered. We didn’t have the greatest year coverage wise but as with any fan run startup, it’s a process. Huge shoutout to the ones who bring us complete coverage daily. HawksBeat, Brad and the guys over at PeachTreeHoops, Jameelah, KL Chouinard, Bob and Nique, Holman and many more. You guys are my inspiration.
I think I speak for everyone when I say I can’t wait to be back in StateFarm Arena in October.
All uncredited photos/videos are from me.
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Phil Veasley | @_ATLPhil Twitter/IG | @ATLSportsHQ Twitter/IG