Lloyd Pierce and Trae Young are joined at the hip for eternity. Okay, that may come across as a bit much, but they’ve arrived simultaneously to jumpstart a new era in Hotlanta that requires plenty of patience from its fans. Pierce was hired in May, Young was drafted in June and Dennis Schroder was shipped off in July. The keys are now in Pierce’s hands with a copy made for Young as well.
Pierce’s player development expertise comes with high praise from some of the best talent around the league. Steph Curry, whose game began to blossom during Pierce’s warrior tenure in 2010, stated the Hawks made a “great hire”. The 42 year old confirmed his passion in pre-draft workouts when he opted to guard Young 94 feet throughout the session. Every step Young took Pierce was there to push and guide. That is in all likelihood when the bond started between the two and what solidified the Hawks trading international sensation Luka Doncic for Young. Critics scorned and ridiculed for taking the chance — but Atlanta went with what felt right.
The conundrum now for Pierce in his first year is balancing the duties expected of a head coach by doing what’s right for the team and for Young. The two will not always coincide when you factor in the emotional aspect. The origins of their relationship are unique and specific, which shapes a special type of connection.
There is so much importance placed on young centerpiece point guards and head coaches, when building something healthy, sustainable and attractable to free agents. The Lakers, Mavericks and Kings know all about it as they groom the next generation of floor generals.
Point guards are needy and Atlanta should expect no different from their cornerstone. There will be times the two see eye to eye on but the rest of the team does not — and vice versa. We can assume the offense will at the very least supplement his strengths given his skillset and stature. Catering is part of the job, but more importantly, so is teaching. Teaching sees no stars, just players to build and that’s what Pierce has in his favor. Young’s thirst to accept those teachings, and we expect him to, will create a contagious environment that leads to success.
Steve Nash will always appreciate Mike D’Antoni, Tony Parker with Gregg Popovich, Chris Paul with Byron Scott, Allen Iverson with Larry Brown — the list goes on and on. Young and Pierce have just begun writing their story and now its as vital as ever to establish an understanding of boundaries.
So much is depended on trust. When it’s not present, the dynamics of the team become distorted. Being this early in Young’s career, Pierce may tread lightly with plenty of ups and downs expected along the way, or he may opt to heighten the scrutiny in hopes of setting the tone knowing the rest of the 14 men are constantly peeping and noting any differences in treatment. For a young team like Atlanta that’s an easy way to lose respect with your players and front office — stifling the rebuild.
It will be very interesting watching how the two grow throughout the season. Pierce has the assistant coaching background, but he’s no longer apart of a supporting cast — this is his show and Young is his choice of the leading role.
This is where Jeremy Lin’s presence comes in handy in a big way. First, which is the most obvious, the veteran experience for a 19-year-old to extract knowledge from. Secondly, his productivity can counter both the struggles and pressure Young will endure on and off the court. When you are placed alongside more consistent production, you have no one else to look at but yourself. The only option is to tighten up.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Lin played some of his best basketball the last two years since Linsanity. He’s 29 and motivated after sustaining a ruptured patella tendon of the right knee last season. Lin’s in Atlanta to revitalize himself in a contract year — not to strictly mentor. Exactly what Young needs — competition not coddling.
If Pierce manages the two right he can develop Young by creating a standard for his point guards to strive towards — rather than bending and taking shape completely to the capabilities of a 19 year old rookie. This standard will go a long way in the future of whats to be expected and earned.
Atlanta has longed to be an attraction for big names, but has yet to grasp it. Young and Pierce have an opportunity to erase that narrative if they’re honest, accountable and inviting.