When the playoffs began, the Hawks were an afterthought, a slight favorite to even get out of the first round.
As the NBA Finals near, they exit having left quite an impression — not only on this postseason, but for the future.
Led by breakout star Trae Young, they came within two wins of the finals, emerging as a future power in the Eastern Conference. After the 118-107 Game 6 loss to the Bucks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Young made sure the Hawks’ fans knew that much.
“We’ll be back,” he told them as he walked off the court.
Young struggled in the game, scoring just 14 points on 4-for-17 shooting after missing the previous two games with a bone bruise and sprained right ankle.
“I feel like we’ll be back, and I meant it with my whole heart,” Young told reporters over Zoom.
Young opened plenty of eyes during the playoffs, averaging 28.8 points, 9.5 assists and 1.3 steals in 16 games. He overwhelmed the Knicks in the first round and led the Hawks to an upset of the 76ers in the second round. Despite falling, there are high expectations moving forward for the young Hawks, who have built a strong nucleus around Young, one that includes recent first-round picks Kevin Huerter, John Collins, Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter.
“The message [to the team] was no regrets,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We don’t want no regrets after this game tonight, and we leave everything we have out on the floor. That’s what I saw from Trae. The fact that he hasn’t done anything on the floor since the injury, this was the first time that he has done anything live on the floor, so he was gassed.
“That was the message. No regrets at the end of this game. Empty your tank. I thought this group, they did.”