In the third quarter of Atlanta’s 129-117 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, veteran wing Trevor Ariza did not take kindly to what has become a signature move of Trae Young’s: the nutmeg. For those not familiar, this is when a player bounces the ball in between an opponents’ legs to get past them. We have seen this a handful of times this season, and it just adds to the excitement surrounding the Hawks’ young superstar. In response, the 16-year veteran Ariza ended up shoving Young, receiving a technical foul, and things got chippy between the two sides:
Some view this as disrespect, but from the Hawks’ point of view, they view it as a showcase of skill.
“I use it to create space, I use it to my advantage,” said Young. “It’s not to showboat; it’s flair and excitement, basketball entertainment. It ain’t gotta be serious 24/7; you can smile, you can have fun and engage with the crowd, you can flex, you can do whatever you want and have fun with it.”
“People weren’t complaining about Shaq dunking on them every game, they gotta learn how to stop it,” said Coach Lloyd Pierce.
Trae also feels that it was not just the one play that caused Ariza to burst, but rather a build-up of frustration after he scored on a floater.
“He was frustrated on the play before, that’s what really caused him, in my opinion, to do that when I went in between his legs. Play before I got a floater, and he said something coming back down the floor.”
Coach Lloyd Pierce has let his players know that he wants to play with “swag” and encourages his young group to do what they have to do to play with confidence.
“After I did it, we went to the huddle, and (Pierce) was hitting me on my chest and just told me he loves it,” said Trae. “He loves when [Cam Reddish] gets a dunk and flexes and shows excitement. He loves when [De’Andre Hunter] gets a steal and does the same thing, hits a three and puts three fingers up. He loves it; he wants us to play with that flair and excitement. That’s being young; we have to embrace that.”
I would not expect the Hawks’ head coach to step in anytime soon. Coach Pierce says he views the nutmeg as “crafty.”
“Why would a guy dunk on somebody? To bully,” said Pierce. “Why would a guy talk after he makes a basket? He feels good about himself.”
“Trevor is a vet; he’s got pride; he did what he had to do. We talked about it after the game; it’s all competition. Trevor came up and said something after the game and said something like ‘Coach you gotta talk to your player.’ I said, ‘Hey he made a basketball move, you made a basketball reaction. Play on… what’s the conversation about?’ I respect Trevor, and I respect that he did, but I’m not telling Trae not to nutmeg. That’s his game, he’s done it a million times, it gets our fans going, and he creates off of that. ”
Pierce wants his team to play with the type of swag that they have, and as the team and its young players have improved, we have seen more of that in turn.
“I don’t mind Trae doing his little deal; I want to see [De’Andre Hunter] do something, I like seeing [Cam Reddish] flexing over guys when he gets an and-one. To me, that’s swag, that’s confidence, that’s an attitude we’re trying to develop, trying to create. If we’re going to lead the NBA in scoring, like we have the last ten games, and we can score 122 points per game, we need to play with a little bit of swagger.”
A lot of guys with an old school mindset have taken offense to Trae’s nutmeg attempt the other night, but the simple fact is he always has it in his pocket and uses it when the time is right. For Trae, it has worked, and this move is not going anywhere anytime soon, regardless of what opposing defenders may think.
“I ain’t gotta stop nutmegging. That’s gonna be my game until I’m done.” said the All-Star point guard. “Every time I’ve done a nutmeg this year, I’ve made a play. I got an and-one, hit a jump shot, it’s been helpful.”
Trae went on to joke that the only time he’s missed a shot coming off the nutmeg was in the All-Star Game. I am sure he will get a chance to redeem himself in the coming years.