Trae Young: Hawks Need to Find 'Motivation' to Play Like It's the Playoffs

Erin WalshNovember 5, 2021

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks handles the ball against the Utah Jazz on November 4, 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Atlanta Hawks fell to the Utah Jazz 116-98 on Thursday to drop to 4-5, and superstar guard Trae Young thinks the team needs to start treating every contest like it's a playoff game. 

However, he acknowledged that it's hard to do.

"I think guys are learning that," Young said, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner. "We're no longer the hunters. It's regular season. I'm not going to lie, it's a lot more boring than the playoffs. You got to find that motivation to play like the playoffs."

Young also said, per Kirschner: "We have to figure out who's going to sacrifice for this team to win. It's all about winning at the end of the day. If you win, everyone eats."

The Hawks began the season 3-1 but have lost four of their last five games to some of the best teams in the NBA, including the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers. 

Young did much of the heavy-lifting Thursday, putting up 21 points, four rebounds and seven assists. He leads the team with 22.4 points per game through nine contests, but the remainder of the roster hasn't lived up to expectations. 

John Collins is averaging just 14.9 points per game, and De'Andre Hunter, Clint Capela, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter are underperforming. 

Hawks head coach Nate McMillan expressed frustration with Thursday's loss, telling reporters that players have to earn minutes:

Sarah K. Spencer @sarah_k_spence

Nate McMillan: "I can’t give minutes, you have to earn them. That’s what I’ll start to do more of, if you’re not giving it to this team on both ends of the floor, then we’ll rotate some guys in."

McMillan noted that he will evaluate the team's last two games and might make changes to the lineup, adding someone who will provide a "spark" and play solid defense.

Sarah K. Spencer @sarah_k_spence

Nate McMillan said he has to evaluate the last two nights, at all positions: <br><br>"We need a spark. We need some energy to lift us, and we need some guys that'll go out there and defend... We need two-way players, and not all of your energy focused on one end of the floor."

The Hawks entered the 2021-22 season with high expectations after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Collins even said before the season began that he believed the team was a "real contender." 

"Our goal is to get to the Finals," he said. "Losing is always a failure in our minds. If it's not a championship, it won't be good enough."

Young also told Kirschner in an interview last month that he isn't content with how last season ended. 

The Hawks will have a chance to get rid of some of that discontent and take Young's words to heart Saturday in Phoenix.