Trae Young had hoped the Atlanta Hawks would be included in the restart of the NBA season. Instead, 22 teams were invited to resume playing at a bubble site in Orlando — and the Hawks were not one of them.
“I was mad,” Young said on a video call Wednesday afternoon. “I was frustrated. Obviously I wanted to play. I understand what the NBA did and respect their decision. But I am kind of upset because I want to play.”
Since games were paused, Young has spent the majority of his time in Norman, Oklahoma, where he grew up. Last week, Young played in a game organized by Oklahoma City’s Skinz League — an organized basketball competition that attracts professional and college players in Oklahoma.
“I was just itching to play,” Young said. “I have been wanting to play. That was actually one of the first times I touched a ball in a long time. I wanted to make sure it was safe for me to even go and play. It has been a long time for me — like, I don’t know when the last time I’ve spent three months without playing a game.”
On Tuesday, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said that he was one of the people who had spoken to the league office about organizing some form of offseason competition for the eight teams not included in the resumption of the 2019-20 season.
Young said he has been in contact with some of his teammates like Cam Reddish, Clint Capela, Kevin Huerter and John Collins about meeting up to work out in Atlanta or Las Vegas when the team’s coronavirus safety protocol permits it.
“We can’t go five, six months without seeing each other,” Young said. “We are trying to take this to new heights next year.”
Next season, the Hawks’ young core will be without veteran Vince Carter, who is retiring now that the Hawks season is over.
“I have learned a lot from Vince,” Young said. “I am happy that he was able to achieve 22 years in the NBA, which has never been done, and I don’t know if that will ever be broken.”
Young has also been one of several NBA players to participate in peaceful protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd, who was black, was killed by a white police officer on May 25. On June 1, Young invited his social media followers to join him for a march at a local park.
“I thought it was important for me to go out and show my face,” Young said. “I think there was a responsibility for me to speak up, especially through a time like this. And, for me personally, I know I am not just a basketball player. I am bigger than just what I do — play basketball — so, I know when it’s a time like this, I need to speak up and speak up for what’s right.”