MILWAUKEE — Atlanta’s Trae Young made one of his long 3-pointers in the third quarter against Milwaukee and backpedaled to defend along the sideline at halfcourt right by TNT NBA analyst Reggie Miller.
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There is poetic justice that TNT broadcasts the Eastern Conference finals this season because that gives Miller a courtside view of Young who led the Hawks to a 116-113 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday.
Game recognizes game.
“It’s his confidence, that’s what I love most about him,” Miller said. “People say borderline cocky. I don’t mind that. I like a guy who is confident in his skills. People have got to understand (what) it takes to be not only a professional athlete. But the skillset Trae has — the shooting, the dribbling, the tear drops, the floaters, the runners — that’s countless hours in the gym. I respect that because I’ve been there. I know that. There’s a lot of sacrifice that goes into that. I like the ego that he has. It’s something that’s fun to watch.”.
Young and Miller do not have the same game on the court — though they both can shoot 3-pointers — but they share a mentality: embracing the road, jawing with fans and while their performance can be appreciated by fans, they are the villain in opposing arenas.
There’s a swagger that irritates those fans.
“Not everyone is going to be able to wear the white hat and be cheered and adored in foreign buildings,” Miller said on a TNT video conference. “Michael Jordan was adored everywhere he went, not only at home but on the road. He was the best player. I embraced and I loved wearing the black hat. It kind of looks like Trae enjoys being on the road, performing at the highest stakes and quieting crowds.
“I think it’s all a mindset, and I think he’s accepting that he’s not the beloved player. Certainly, at home, he is. But his skill set is so good, and he’s so talented, I think the reason people boo and jeer is they respect his game. I hope he feels that way. He’s only 22 years old. He has a lifetime of a career left. But I hope he understands the reason they’re saying and doing these things is that they really respect his game. I think he’ll appreciate it the older he gets.
“But it’s been a joy to watch. … To see it up close, an unbelievable talent, and it looks like he’s having fun with it.”.
Young is shooting, talking, scoring and strutting through the playoffs in a way that Miller can appreciate because that’s how Miller did it.
Young has not only played six playoff games on the road — including three Game 1s — he has done it in New York, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.
“When I was going on the road in middle school, I always loved playing on the road,” Young said. “I loved playing against the opposing crowd, an opposing team. It feels like you’re really just with your team, and it’s just them in the building. I think that really brings our group together. We’re a close group. When you’re on the road, it really forces you to come closer with your teammates, to really find a way to win.”.
In his playoff debut, Young averages 30.5 points and 10.5 assists and set a playoff record for most points ina conference finals debut. He could also become the first player in NBA history to average at least 30 points and 10 assists on team that advanced past the first round, according to basketball-reference.Com.
Even on bad night from 3-point range, Young had a viral moment when he crossed up Jrue Holiday and had time to shimmy his shoulders before making a 3-pointer.
Miller said, “No he didn’t.”.
Yes, he did.
The kind of bravado makes Milwaukee fans seethe.
“He loves the bright lights,” Hawks forward John Collins said. “I forgot about the shimmy, but that’s just Trae. That’s his swag. If it helps him make the shot, then keep shimmying, my boy.”.
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.