Atlanta Hawks star point guard Trae Young tried to hit Portland Trail Blazers wing Trevor Ariza with a nutmeg dribble during Atlanta's 129-117 home win Saturday, and Ariza took offense to the attempt, throwing his shoulder and forearm into him hard enough to earn a flagrant foul.
Ariza also said he spoke to Young about the nutmeg attempt after the game, relaying the message, "Don't do that s--t again; not to me, at least," per Jason Quick of The Athletic.
But on Monday, Young told reporters he was going to continue to attempt to dribble the ball through his opponent's legs:
Chris Kirschner @ChrisKirschner
Trae said he thinks Ariza was frustrated on the play before. "If you watch the play before, I got a floater. He said something coming down the floor, got mad, and that was part of my excitement. When I came back down, I knew what I was about to do. I threw it between his legs." https://t.co/gWbp2TXW83
One way to interpret Ariza's response to Young is to see it as the old school clashing with the new school.
"I mean, I've never made an All-Defensive team or none of that s--t, and he's an All-Star, so he can be creative by ways to get around me," Ariza said after Saturday's game, per Quick. "But all the, like, funnies? I'm not with the funnies. I don't like the funnies."
"He was trying to embarrass him," Blazers assistant coach Jannero Pargo added.
But Young has contended that it's all in good fun, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
"I use it to create space, I use it for my advantage. (Ariza) can call it what (he wants)... it's not to showboat, it's flair and excitement. It's basketball and entertainment... Ain't gotta be serious 24/7. You can smile, you can have fun, you can engage with the crowd, you can flex, you can do whatever you want. Have fun with it."
Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce understands both sides of the conversation:
"He's a 6-foot point guard, 6-foot-1 point guard, very crafty and creative. He's got to find unique ways to go by guys ... Sometimes it's quickness, sometimes it's nutmeg. People weren't complaining about Shaquille O'Neal dunking on them every single game. You've got to figure out how to stop it. But in the same regard, Trevor's a vet. Trevor's got pride. He did what he had to do."
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
I don’t have a problem with Trae nutmegging dudes, but I also don’t really have a problem with Ariza hip-checking him to stop it. You try to embarrass people like Trae seems to delight in (which is part of what makes him fun), you gotta deal with guys getting pissed about it, too https://t.co/TbJX2OaggX
Young has had plenty of success getting by people this season. The 21-year-old is averaging 29.8 points and 9.4 assists per game, shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from three. That hasn't led to many wins. The young Hawks are just 19-43 and in 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
But it's clear that Atlanta has found a franchise cornerstone—and one who will keep putting the ball between defenders' legs if they aren't paying attention.