It took only one playoff game for Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young to cast himself as the villain in Madison Square Garden during Atlanta’s first-round series against the Knicks. And the 22-year-old is fully embracing the role.
“He loves it. There’s no sensitive bone in his body when it comes to that,” Trae Young’s father, Rayford, told The New York Daily News.
After the Hawks’ 107-105 win in Game 1 that included a last-second bucket by Young to win it, the Knicks have had three days to figure out a better way to slow down the All-Star, who had 32 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists on Sunday.
Knicks fans have also been plotting, apparently.
Knicks Fans Unleash the… Birds?
During Game 1 at MSG, Knicks fans showered the Hawks’ brightest star with “f*** Trae Young!” chants, something that rubbed Atlanta coach Nate McMillan the wrong way.
Fans at The Garden tried something a bit more clever for Wednesday’s Game 2.
Shortly after the end of Game 1, Young’s ornithophobia — a fear of birds — became a popular point of discussion on social media. They realized it was no joke.
In a 2017 interview with CBS Sports, Young elaborated on his fear of birds.
“Like, I don’t understand what someone would do if a bird attacked them,” Young told CBS Sports. “I don’t know how a bird would attack a human, just by poking them with their faces? Or their feet on your face? I’m scared. Flapping their wings: what do you do? Do you grab it? … And then the big ones, the roadrunners, they’re deadly to me. Scary. I can’t mess with them. I’ve had nightmares about birds.”
Lo and behold, some Knicks hoped to tap into Young’s fear and showed up to Wednesday’s game with photos of pigeons.
One Knicks fan was hoping to take it a step further, calling on Knicks owner James Dolan to allow birds in the venue for Game 2.
Time will tell if these tactics have any effect. In 2018, Oklahoma State fans tried something similar in a game between OSU and Young’s Oklahoma Sooners when they help up photos of birds. Young went on to score 48 points on 39 shot attempts in that game as the Sooners fell to OSU in overtime 83-81.
Derrick Rose Weighs in on Fans’ Treatment of Young
From the perspective of one Knicks veteran, all of New York’s hostility toward Young is just par for the course
“That’s basketball, man,” Derrick Rose said, per The New York Post. “He came in, we played a great game and the crowd is supposed to do that, his reaction is supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to amp up and bring that atmosphere and that environment to where it is right now. I mean, that’s what I’m used to.
“I’ve been in series where drinks were thrown on my parents and people’s moms and like, you’re on the court and you see your mom getting beer splashed on her. That’s the environment I’m used to. Now it’s a little different. So that’s all part of the game, when you got both sides fighting for something and you’ve been working your butt off all year and not only all year, but in the summertime when nobody’s watching you in the gym, working on your game and you see the results of it, not only in the regular season but in the playoffs.”