Teammate Dejounte Murray made sure to make that clear to the Hawks’ franchise cornerstone and has embraced a role of trying to help Young maximize that position.
“I told Trae…continue to learn who your teammates are, trust your guys,” Murray told ESPN reporter Ros Gold-Onwude on July 12. “We’re here for him. Trae built what he built in Atlanta. He earned what he earned, he earned the right to be the head of the snake, and I let him know that. I think that’s important.”
Murray’s words hit like a ton of bricks to those who have speculated that his arrival could spell the end of Young’s tenure in Atlanta despite the latter being signed to a five-year, $215 million contract.
Young has led the NBA in total assists for two years running and led in total points in 2021-22.
The Hawks added Murray last offseason to help alleviate some of the burden on Young to create offense and, while it helped, it did not lift them as they’d hoped.
Murray and Young put up historic numbers together and, when they were both healthy, led the Hawks to a 35-32 record. Atlanta posted a plus-1.6 net rating when the duo shared the floor which ranked in the 62nd percentile, per Cleaning The Glass (subscription required), and Murray knows it’s up to him and Young to improve upon that.
“It starts with me and him,” Murray said. “And it starts [with] chemistry, off the floor, making sure we’re available, making sure our teammates see who we are. The work ethic, the work we’re putting in, and just wanting one another to keep getting better but also lead by example.”
Murray also said he and head coach Quin Snyder exchange texts daily about life and sport.
Murray signed a four-year, $120 million contract extension but his mindset remains on how he can make a positive impact on others.
“What means the most to me is giving family, friends, the youth hope,” Murray continued. “And paving the way, showing them anything is possible with hard work, dedication, staying focused, [and] being a great person.”
Tyrese Martin owed Atlanta Hawks’ win to Dejounte Murray
Murray’s leadership and connection with his teammates have been noted by his former San Antonio Spurs teammates and manifests in many ways. He was the first player to reach out to the Hawks’ rookies after they were drafted and has been visibly present supporting them during Summer League play.
The Hawks have gone 2-1 during Summer League but second-year wing Tyrese Martin did not feel he had done enough. He respond with 25 points in their win over the Denver Nuggets on July 25 and scored 14 of his points in the fourth quarter.
He dedicated the performance to Murray.
“It’s good to have DJ come out,” Martin said after the game. “He came out the first game and I ain’t really do too much. So I told him I owed him one, and I seen him out there today so I made sure at least we were getting the win. But I made sure I showed out a little bit for my guy, DJ, for sure.”
Martin played sparingly as a rookie but has shown an ability to function off the ball and get his own shot and has good size.
If he is able to crack Atlanta’s rotation remains to be seen.
But Martin’s comments also illustrate just the kind of impact practicing the kind of leadership that Murray does can have, especially on the younger players that Murray notes often have no clue of just how challenging life in the NBA can be.