This could get a lot uglier before it gets better. It could also blow over as a one-off situation that we only know about because, in this day and age, nothing can be kept under wraps for too long it seems. At any rate, there appear to be cracks in the foundation for the Atlanta Hawks, specifically between head coach Nate McMillan and star point guard Trae Young.
Young missed the Hawks’ 117-109 victory over the Denver Nuggets that saw teammate Dejounte Murray fill his interview with messages of solidarity.
Perhaps he was talking to Young.
“Hawks’ Trae Young and coach Nate McMillan had an exchange at Friday’s shootaround,” tweeted Shams Charania of The Athletic, “that led to Young choosing not to attend the team’s home win over Denver.”
Trae Young skipped Atlanta Hawks’ win over DEN after disagreement with Nate McMillan
Charania’s story (subscription required) details an injured Young getting treatment on his shoulder ahead of shootaround on Friday. Young was listed as questionable for the game with the injury that he apparently suffered sometime during or after the 125-108 win over the Orlando Magic that saw him go for 30 points and 14 assists.
According to Charania’s report, McMillan wanted Young to participate in shootaround but the player preferred to focus on rehabbing his injury leaving a decision on his availability until just before the game.
That is when McMillan delivered an ultimatum to his mercurial point guard: Either come off the bench or don’t show up to the arena.
Young chose the latter option.
McMillan called the situation a “miscommunication” and said Young, who practiced in full on Sunday, would play on Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. And, if this was where the story ended, it would be easier to sweep under the rug as a one-off. But Charania goes on to detail a locker room – and organization – perhaps reaching a pivotal crossroads.
Charania says the Hawks have held multiple team meetings to quell some of their issues despite the 13-10 start and sitting in fourth in the Eastern Conference.
The most damning part of Charania’s report, however, is that there are concerns within the Hawks over Young’s style of leadership. This comes on the heels of a report from Morten Jensen on “The NBA Podcast” in which he spoke of Young’s reputation around the NBA.
It is not good.
“I’ve spoken to a few people around the league,” said Jensen, “and the sense that I’m getting – or what I’m also being told outright – is that nobody likes him. Like, even external players outside of the Hawks are not interested in playing with him. There is basically this sense that Trae is what you call a ‘selfish unselfish’ passer.”
As Charania notes, it was a rift with Young that sped up Lloyd Pierce’s exit two years ago leading to McMillan’s installation as head coach after leading the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals.
There were reports from The Athletic after last season’s playoff loss to the Miami Heat that some in the organization felt McMillan was no match for a tactician like Erik Spoelstra.
What happens next is critical to the health of the organization.
There have been no reports that McMillan is on the hot seat to this point. But the concerns are piling up for both he and Young despite some fairly impressive performances from the Hawks this season.