The Atlanta Hawks’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2020-21 season was one of the most inspiring stories of that NBA campaign.
However, it’s possible that the success the Hawks experienced resulted in some inflated egos. According to David Aldridge of The Athletic, some people in the organization were “quite concerned” with how the team’s young players reacted to its playoff run.
“Less than two weeks into the season, Hawks people were quite concerned about the vibe their young players were giving off — that they felt they’d arrived after making the Eastern Conference finals last season,” Aldridge wrote. “Again, it starts with [Trae] Young, who said the regular season was ‘a lot more boring’ than the playoffs. Maybe so. But elite teams use the regular season to create and fine-tune the habits that make them successful in the postseason.”
Last year, Atlanta finished the regular season with a 41-31 record, which was good for the No. 5 seed in the East. It defeated the New York Knicks handily in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. Then in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it upset the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers to earn a conference finals berth, where it faced the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Hawks gave the eventual champions a good fight before bowing out in six games.
Young shone in his first-ever playoffs. He averaged 28.8 points and 9.5 assists per game in 16 contests.
Coming into the 2021-22 season, there were high expectations for the Hawks. Unfortunately, the team failed to live up to them. It stumbled into the No. 9 seed by the end of the regular season, which gave it a spot in the play-in tournament.
Atlanta won against the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers to nab the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It then faced the Miami Heat. Miami proved to be too tough of a matchup, as the Heat beat the Hawks in five games.
The Heat made life miserable for Young, who averaged just 15.4 points per game on 31.9 percent shooting from the field during the series.
The Hawks have a busy offseason ahead. They’ll look to improve their roster in hopes of making another playoff run next season.