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Young, Collins emerging as strong base for Hawks’ future

February 28, 2019
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Atlanta Hawks forward Vince Carter (15) and guard Trae Young celebrate after the Hawks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 131-123 in overtime in an NBA basketball Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ATLANTA (AP) — Looking across the Atlanta Hawks’ locker room, DeAndre Bembry nodded as he glanced at Trae Young and John Collins.

“You can obviously tell that’s the future,” said Bembry, a third-year forward.

That future seemed clear to all on Wednesday night. Young and Collins became the NBA’s first teammates 21 or younger in almost a decade to score at least 30 points each in the same game.

The Hawks’ 131-123 overtime win over Minnesota was a showcase for the team’s first picks in the last two drafts. Atlanta plays the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.

Young, a rookie point guard, scored 36 points, matching his career high set earlier in the week, with 10 assists against Minnesota. Collins, a second-year forward, had 34 points, one shy of his career high.

“We’ve been doing it all year, but I feel like this is a nice example of what we can do together,” Collins said.

Young and Collins are the foundation for the Hawks’ rebuilding effort, and they seem to be gaining momentum together. The Hawks (21-41) are still far from their goal of being a playoff contender. They need more draft success this year.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to build and get better with these guys,” Young said.

The last teammates 21 or younger to score 30 points in a game were Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in 2010.

Young finds himself attached to other big names:

— He is the first rookie to have 30 points and 10 assists in at least three games since LeBron James in 2003-04.

— He is only the third rookie with consecutive games of at least 35 points and five assists, joining Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson.

— His fifth 30-point game matched Dominique Wilkins for the most by a Hawks rookie.

Ultimately, Young most often will find his name linked to Luka Doncic, who remains the favorite for NBA rookie of the year. The Hawks initially drafted Doncic No. 3 overall before trading the rights to Doncic to Dallas for the rights to Young, the No. 5 overall pick, and a 2019 protected first-round pick.

Young averaged 23.3 points and 9.3 assists in February, making him perhaps the biggest challenge to Doncic as the league’s top rookie.

“I’m not worried about that,” Young said. “Everything is going to fall into place. Of course I want to win it but right now I’m focused on getting wins.”

Young and Collins played in the Rising Stars game at the NBA’s All-Star weekend. Young had 25 points and 10 assists and since the break has played as if he was emboldened by the experience.

Young has averaged 31.3 points and nine assists in four games since the break, including 36 points in a loss at Houston on Monday night.

Young said he is playing more under control.

“I think me just slowing down, taking my time on things, focusing more on the detail, I think,” he said. “Just getting back to normal.”

Rockets point guard Chris Paul was amazed that coach Mike D’Antoni and others were caught off-guard by Young’s high-scoring game.

“It’s funny because coach and everybody was like, ‘Man he can play.’ I was like, ‘Yeah we knew that,’” Paul said.

Young has no fear of launching extra-long 3-point attempts, earning comparisons with Golden State’s Stephen Curry. Lately, Young’s accuracy on those long-range shots has improved. He has made 17 of 34 3s since the break.

“Some guys it takes a while for them to get their regular-season legs and conditioning,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “Trae’s shooting, it requires that. You have to be in shape, especially the type of shots he shoots.”

Overall, Young is averaging 17.8 points and 7.7 assists. Veteran Vince Carter, whose locker is strategically placed beside Young’s, says the assists are the key for Young and the Hawks.

While Young and Collins draw more attention from defenses, they’re providing scoring opportunities for teammates.

“That’s how teams win, by sharing the ball,” Carter said. “When they’re drawing all that attention they are making the right plays for everyone else.”

That’s the plan for the future.

“I feel like we’re all learning, we’re all getting a better feel for each other,” Young said. “It’s a process. It’s going to all be here soon.”

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