Losing sucks. I think anyone who reads this can agree with that simple statement.
The Atlanta Hawks lost a heartbreaker to the defending champion Toronto Raptors, 119-116 at State Farm Arena Saturday night. With a record of 4-12, the Hawks find themselves in the dungeon of the Eastern Conference, tied for last place with the lowly New York Knicks.
While the Raptors clawed their way back to send the sellout State Farm Arena crowd home unhappy, a quiet, shy hero is beginning to emerge. De’Andre Hunter finished with 26 points and was instrumental in the late fourth quarter run that nearly sent the game to overtime. The experience of playing in front of a sold out State Farm Arena was an enjoyable one.
“I hit a couple of shots and it got really loud in there,” Hunter said. “I know our record isn’t that great, but having [the fans] come out here and support us is big. I think we are definitely going to turn it around this season.”
Vince Carter said it best, “De’Andre Hunter is playing out of his mind right now … he needs to be praised.”
The rookie’s form over the past couple of weeks is promising. Hunter has scored 10 or more points in eight straight games, including the monster double-double (27 points and 11 rebounds) he recorded in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
For the rookie, the transition from the college level has been one of ups and downs. At times, he has looked like a Rookie of the Year candidate and at others, almost invisible on the court. Through it all, though, Hunter will be able to work with Carter, one of the game’s true greats. And Carter has enjoyed what he has seen so far.
“First and foremost, he wants to learn,” Carter said, when asked about what Hunter is like off the court. “When you go up to him and you talk about learning the game, he’s listening. And that is all I care about. I enjoy helping guys who want to learn.”
Carter, of course, began his storied NBA career with the Toronto Raptors back in 1998. Over the years, he has seen a lot. In Atlanta, he has taken up a new role. While he may no longer be the high-flying superstar he once was, his input to the younger guys as a veteran is priceless.
“It is our job as veterans to constantly stay in their ear and support,” Carter said. “That is just what we do and we will continue to do so.”
For Hunter, it is not necessarily about the final stat line. Overall, he has enjoyed the new chapter in his life and is hungry for more. He is, however, making sure to keep the right mindset in order.
“[I’m] not going to get too high on the good games and when I play bad, I am not going to sulk and think I am never going to play well again,” Hunter said. “There’s a lot of games in the NBA and you just got to keep playing.”
The Hawks can take a page out of the Raptors’ history books. Patience is a virtue. Look at what the defending champions had out on the court Saturday: an undersized, yet free-scoring point guard in Fred VanVleet and a forward in Pascal Siakam who just a few years ago spent a lot of his time in what is now known as the G League. Remind you of a certain duo the Hawks currently boast on the floor?
If Hunter can continue to grow on the court and develop this mouth-watering duo with Trae Young, the future may be very bright in Atlanta.