NBA: Dominique Wilkins upbeat on new-look Hawks
MANILA, Philippines — Atlanta Hawks legend and team vice president Dominique Wilkins hopes Trae Young and his squad will continue to work on the same page ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season.
The NBA legend, dubbed as the “Human Highlight Film,” lauded Young for embracing the leadership role at age 25 for the youthful Hawks. But as a former Hawks star, he stressed the importance of working together.
“Trae is a young superstar in this league. He is the leader of our team. Again when you have leadership, there will be ups and downs. So everybody gotta buy-in on the same page,” said Wilkins, who is in town for the NBA Cares project.
Wilkins believes the Hawks are already showing great teamwork despite two consecutive first-round exits in the past two NBA seasons, failing to sustain their momentum from their breakthrough Eastern Conference Finals appearance in the 2021 playoffs.
“I think they’ve really come together this year and now we just expand on that,” said Wilkins.
The Hawks traded starting forward John Collins to the Utah Jazz for Rudy Gay and a future second-round pick last July but shipped Gay for Patty Mills. They also signed Wesley Matthews and extended Dejounte Murray’s contract to a four-year $120 million deal.
Wilkins likes the composition of their roster, which includes Bogdan Bogdanovic, Clint Capela, and Saddiq Bey. But he believes that the 21-year-old power forward Jalen Johnson is a player to watch out for.
“We got some new people. We have a lot of young guys who come off the bench. Quite frankly, maybe one of those guys will be a starter this year. I think Jalen Johnson, with us, is gonna be a kid everybody should watch and he’s gonna be a pretty good player,” he said.
Atlanta finished eighth in the East in the regular season with a 41-41 record. The Hawks then, beat eventual finalists Miami Heat in the play-in to secure the seventh seed but lost to the Boston Celtics, 4-2, in the first round.
The Hawks start their preseason campaign on October 11 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The 2023-24 season of Atlanta begins on October 26 against the Charlotte Hornets on the road at Spectrum Center.