Trae Young said the Hawks series against the Bucks was disappointing because he was constantly recovering from injuries. (0:59).
ATLANTA -- After the Atlanta Hawks' Eastern Conference finals loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Trae Young walked away from the court and shouted one message at the crowd gathered around Atlanta's State Farm Arena's bench.
"We'll be there again."
Young was one of the most prominent stars of these playoffs. He finished with 14 points after shooting 4-for-17 in 40 minutes on Saturday night. This was his return to action after missing Games 4 and 5.
Young stated, "I feel like they'll be back. And I meant it with all my heart."
Young, who had not done any on-court work except to test his foot before each of his three previous games, looked tired and didn't seem to have the usual energy. With Atlanta facing elimination, Young did his best to prolong his team's season.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan stated that the message to the team was "no regrets". "We don’t want to have any regrets tonight and we will leave everything on the floor.
"That's exactly what Trae said to me. He was gassed because he hadn't been on the floor since the injury.
That was the message. There were no regrets at the conclusion of this game. Your tank should be empty. This group did it, I thought."
Young, who inadvertently stepped onto referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3, suffered injuries and said that the bone bruise was on his heel. He also stated that it affected him when he tried pushing on it to shoot a floating shot or attack the rim.
Young was able to feel confident enough to give it another shot after he had tested his foot before Game 6.
Young was still a nonfactor during the first half. With 4:56 left in the first quarter, he made his first bucket with a floater. After being hit with a technical midway through second quarter for saying too many things, Eric Lewis, a veteran official, gave him a strong pass through the defense to the basket for an easy layup.
In the first half, he was just 2-for-8 for five points. He also had two assists and three turnovers. This trend continued into the second half.
Young stated that "for me, not being out there for the team for two games and then tonight just wanting a battle and to try to fight through it all and try to be there for my teammates, it's definitely frustrating and not being in my best health,"
Young's teammates weren't much help either. Atlanta's team shot only 41.3% from the line. The Hawks shot 6-for-7 from 3-point range on Cam Reddish's second year, scoring 21 points.
The Hawks were particularly hit hard by a cold stretch in the third quarter. To make matters worse, the Bucks launched a 13-2 run to open the second half with a 15 point lead.
Atlanta spent the remainder of the game trying and reducing that lead. With 3:41 left, the Hawks were within six on a Clint Capela dunk. Milwaukee responded with a Jrue holiday layup, a defensive stop, and a loose ball foul on the Hawks. This resulted in two Khris Midton free throws, ending any chance that Atlanta could keep its season alive.
The Hawks had a magical postseason run, defeating two higher-seeded teams -- the fourth-seeded New York Knicks in 5 games and the top-seeded Philadelphia76ers in 7 -- before finally falling to Milwaukee in 6 games.
John Collins, forward for Hawks, said that it was a new feeling. "Obviously, feeling like we had an opportunity to win the Larry O'Brien Trophy and coming up short. Understanding all the positive things that we've done to get us to this point and all the things I didn't do, or felt like I could be more focused or hard-cored on, is flooding my mind.
"It's just a rush. I don't know how to process it yet. But I can tell that I'm proud to be part of this group and the way that we've competed and fought to get to this point."
Only four months ago, Atlanta fired coach Lloyd Pierce. The team was in 11th in the East with a record of 14-20. McMillan's leadership was immediately a success. The Hawks finished the regular season at 27-11. They then swept through the playoffs, reaching the conference finals only the second time in 50.
Young transformed from a player who was unsure about his ability to improve his game in the playoffs as well as how he would handle being targeted on offense and defense to one who has survived and thrived in the NBA playoffs.
McMillan stated, "I believe he's constructed for this season." McMillan said, "You need a player who can not only create the basket but also create opportunities for his teammates. He has that confidence on the court." He is fearless. He is not afraid of any challenge or person. He has been challenged by bigger and more physical players. He has been double-teamed by teams. They have knocked him down. They have done many things that are only possible for good players.
"This kid continues taking that attitude and finding ways to be productive. He has the potential to be a great player and a lot more. He has the potential. When he's on the court, he gives his all. He is determined to win. He is committed to the team. He is a natural talent.
McMillan is expected to be granted a long-term extension, and the interim tag will be removed from McMillan's title. The Hawks enter the offseason, however, with many questions.
Young smiled and said, "I don’t see interim on his Label here soon," echoing comments made by every player who spoke after the game. "In my mind I don't believe that will be the case that much longer."
Atlanta must also figure out Collins' long-term fate. Collins will be a restricted agent this summer. Young and Kevin Huerter, who both impressed in these playoffs, are open to contract extensions.
The Hawks are confident in Atlanta's future, despite this incredible playoff run.
Young stated that winning in the playoffs was "very difficult." It's not easy. It's all about learning from the experience. It is necessary to experience it -- you must really go through this. The West has Chris Paul, who in 16 years of his life has never made it to the Finals.
This is difficult. It is not easy. It's not easy. His experience and his actions were very beneficial to the Suns team. The same goes for the Bucks team. They've come this far before. They didn't want the chance to go home again, and I can relate to that feeling. We feel the same way now, I believe.