ATLANTA — As the Atlanta Hawks prepare to face the Golden State Warriors for the second, and final this season, time tonight, comes the debut highly-anticipated matchup of Stephen Curry and Trae Young.
Curry was out with a groin injury during last month’s meeting in Oakland. As Young began to hit the national scene a few years ago as a top high school prospect with his online highlights of knocking down deep threes, as well as showcasing his flashy ball handling and passing skills went viral, the two have constantly been compared.
“I’m really just looking forward to going up against another good point guard,” Young said after the Hawks’ practice on Sunday, “have fun, and try to go out to get a win tomorrow.”
Young has personally deflected the Curry comparisons in the past, and said that his game was probably most influenced by his favorite player Steve Nash growing up.
“Anytime that I need him, anytime that I need to ask him a question, I can,” Young said of his relationship with Nash now. “It’s always good to be able to talk to him whenever I can. [He taught me that being a point guard] was the toughest position. On the court, and off the court. It’s something that you have to really focus on.”
Nash is currently in his fourth season as a Player Development Consultant for Curry and the Warriors. Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce, who shared the same backcourt with Nash at Santa Clara from 1994-1996, said that he can’t fairly compare the rookie and Hall of Famer yet, however.
“By the time I got [to Santa Clara] as a freshman, he was entering his junior season,” Pierce said. “I saw a growth in Nash from junior year to senior year that was amazing, and it was simple. He went to play for Team Canada, he comes back, and no longer is he a college player, he’s a guy that’s played with men. You just felt it. He was always crafty, but now he’s crafty and he’s grabbing your arm, and he’s going by you.”
Pierce began to imitate the moves at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex that Nash made on him in practice as he continued to describe Nash’s senior year transformation.
“This is ‘95-96. At that time, people weren’t doing that,” he said. “I didn’t play against guys in high school that were grabbing your arm, and holding you off defensively, making you defenseless as a defensive player. I saw his growth then, and that was just from junior to senior year. So, senior year to two-time MVP, you can only imagine what I’ve seen.”
Pierce then took a step back taking a split second to reflect before continuing.
“So, I can’t compare Trae to that guy,” Pierce said, before letting out a brief chuckle. “Trae is a [college] sophomore right now. What I’m hopeful for, and what I know is that Nash didn’t start as a freshman. On a team that upset Arizona as a 15 seed, I wasn’t on that team, but Santa Clara was a 15 and Arizona was a 2, he didn’t start on that team. That’s the same guy I saw make the huge leap from junior to senior year to two-time MVP. I’m not comparing Trae to that guy because I don’t think Trae’s anywhere near the first time I met Nash because Nash had to go through a lot of stuff.”
“Trae’s just going through stuff,” Pierce continued. “His whole development will go fast because we play so many games. He’s going to go through, experience, grow from and develop quickly, hopefully, he’s just going through stuff right now. It’s hard to look at a guy that’s just starting his growth versus the first time I met Nash, because he was pretty polished already as a 21-year-old guy that’s playing international, high-level competition, and growing. It’s completely different.”
Young currently leads the Hawks and is the third-leading rookie in the league by averaging 15.6 points per game. The 20-year-old also leads the team, and is all NBA rookies, by averaging 7.6 assists per game. Only Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton (12) has more double-doubles than Young’s seven as a rookie this season.