The villain is back.
Trae Young, the greatest Knicks foil since Reggie Miller, is set to return to the vitriol at MSG on Wednesday. The Hawks point guard buried the Knicks in consecutive seasons, including his Broadway Bow during the 2021 playoffs.
His presence triggers Knicks fans into a tizzy, with ‘F—k Trae Young’ certain to serve as the game’s soundtrack.
Still, at least one Knicks player would prefer if that energy was redirected.
“To be honest, it’s almost like a distraction. It could be,” Evan Fournier said. “For me personally, I’d rather have the fans go crazy and push us rather than go after another player. Because actually, I would enjoy it. If I’m Trae Young and I see the whole arena going after me, I enjoy it.
“It means I’m good. It means I’m freaking good. Have the whole arena want to see me struggle, like then I know I own them. So there are different perspectives, but that’s my take.”
Lines were crossed when a Knicks fan spat on Young during the 2021 playoffs, but otherwise the heat is fully embraced. Young even made a guest appearance at an MSG wrestling show last year, not long after his 36-point performance eliminated the Knicks in Game 5 of the first round.
Then Young dropped 45 points in his only game at MSG of last season, as the Hawks effectively ended the Knicks’ playoff hopes by sending them to 12 games under .500 in late March.
“There’s certain guys you shouldn’t talk to and just leave alone,” Young said after that game. “I feel like I’m one of those guys in that category.”
The Knicks (3-3) have dropped two straight on a reality-check road trip to Milwaukee and Cleveland. They were pummeled in both cities by superstars – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Donovan Mitchell, respectively – as Tom Thibodeau’s squad was overmatched defensively.
They get another opportunity at a star Wednesday against the Hawks, who were 4-2 heading into their Monday match up in Toronto.
Young, who was averaging 31.5 points before Monday, will be the focal point of the fans.
“Yup. Hawks vs. Knicks,” Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson said with a smile. “Very excited.”