Trae Young almost certainly will face more harsh treatment from Madison Square Garden fans Wednesday night when the Atlanta Hawks continue their playoff series against the Knicks, but the star guard’s father says his son “loves” being New York’s latest basketball villain.
In a scene reminiscent of Reggie Miller‘s famous spats with Spike Lee and Knicks fans in the 1990s, Young was serenaded with expletive-laced chants from the Garden crowd throughout Sunday’s series opener. He responded with a 32-point, 10-assist masterpiece, punctuated by his game-winning shot with less than a second remaining that lifted the Hawks to a 107-105 victory.
Young, 22, said after the game that he considered the boos and curses from fans “a compliment,” and his father echoed those sentiments in an interview published Wednesday by the New York Daily News.
“He loves it,” said Rayford Young, who was in attendance Sunday night. “There’s no sensitive bone in his body when it comes to that.”
Rayford told the Daily News that his younger son, Trae’s 11-year-old brother, was seated next to him during the game. Rayford said the chants fired up Trae, and he warned MSG fans that they might have created a long-term enemy.
“When they did it to Reggie Miller, Reggie Miller was in his prime,” Rayford told the paper. “He was 28, 29 years old, near the back end of his career. They’re going to have to see Trae for the next 10 or 15 years.
“He hasn’t hit his grown man weight yet. He hasn’t got his grown man strength yet. This is only the beginning. He should be a senior in college right now.”
Young became the only player in NBA history besides LeBron James to finish with at least 30 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in his postseason debut, according to ESPN Stats & Information data. He also is the first player to have 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game at Madison Square Garden since Michael Jordan in 1989.
His performance garnered rave reviews around the basketball world but also drew the ire of Knicks fans, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who called out Young during a media briefing Tuesday and asked him to “stop hunting for fouls.”
Young did not attempt his first free throw Sunday night until there was 6:43 remaining in the fourth quarter, but he made all nine attempts from the line in the fourth quarter.
“Play the game the right way,” de Blasio, who wore a Knicks cap, said in his advice to Young. “See if you can win. I think the Knicks are going to teach you a lesson.”
Rayford knows that Trae will receive more abuse when the series resumes Wednesday night with Game 2 but says his 6-foot-1 son has overcome adversity since high school.
“Growing up, he’s always been one of the smallest,” Rayford told the Daily News. “He never walked into a gym and people were like, ‘I want to pick that guy.’ So when you grow up always having to prove yourself, once you get to this level it’s just second nature. … I just tell him you don’t have to prove anything to anybody, but he’s not built that way. He was the same way in high school. He’s always breaking barriers himself because he just doesn’t pass the eye test.”