Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young pushes back against troubling narrative

Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Hawks. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports /

For roughly 48 hours, the screws have been put to the character of Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young.

“I got a call, I actually saw it from [ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski]” Young said of how he learned of his former head coach Nate McMillan’s firing in a video posted to Twitter by Kevin Chouinard of “I was waking up from a nap and heard about it. It was surprising to me, the timing and stuff right now. But obviously, I know what this league is and Nate knows. We’ve talked since then and had conversations and stuff like that. I got nothing but love and respect for Nate – the type of person he is and things like that. It’s not the last time me and him are going to talk. I mean, I talk to all my coaches that I’ve played for. So that’s what I was expressing to him.”

Young was not among the handful of Hawks players and personnel who spoke in the immediate aftermath of McMillan’s dismissal. He was also scratched from his media availability the following day, though it was almost immediately revealed his absence was excused.

That did not stop the placement of blame for McMillan’s firing at Young’s feet.

“I got nothing but love for [McMillan],” Young said.

It’s an understandable angle. McMillan and Young had a disagreement reach the public and their explanations seemed to be in direct conflict with each other. Still, it is quite a leap to go from that to assuming Young forced a move that ownership has been said to have been eyeing for some time while there were also reports McMillan had contemplated stepping down.

Young said he and McMillan had a “really good” relationship and pointed to his tendency to play such matters close to the vest for the misconception.

He said McMillan should get “nothing but love” in large part for leading them to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021 and said he did not necessarily understand the point of talks about McMillan’s message falling on deaf ears considering it a normal part of the NBA.

“I’m focused on winning championships,” he said prior to that answer.

In his press conference to explain why he decided to make the move at this critical juncture of the season, general manager Landry Fields owned the decision.

“This was my decision,” Fields said via the atlhawksfans YouTube channel. “I would not ever go to players for something like this. This was solely my decision at the end of the day. As far as a new candidate, to me, our objectives and our values are clear. And players fall in line with those as well. So, don’t necessarily need their feedback on who that would be.”

It did seem as though Young could possibly be dropping a hint about who he would prefer.

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“I don’t care, I don’t have any input,” he clarified to Alison Mastrangelo of WSB-TV. “I don’t care to give any input. I trust those guys up top, since I’ve been here I’ve always said that.”

Quin Snyder Has Become Atlanta Hawks’ primary focus

It’s a good thing that Young seems open-minded to whomever the front office brings in – he affirmed his faith in the newly-empowered group again on Friday – because they have already zeroed in on McMillan’s replacement, according to Wojnarowski.

“The Atlanta Hawks and Quin Snyder are progressing in talks on a deal to make him the franchise’s next coach and a resolution could be reached within days, sources told ESPN on Friday.

“Since firing coach Nate McMillan on Tuesday, the Hawks have made Snyder the full focus of the coaching search, sources said. Snyder has been engaged with general manager Landry Fields, assistant GM Kyle Korver and owner Tony Ressler on a wide range of philosophical and team-building items in recent days and those conversations are expected to continue through the start of the weekend, sources said.”

Wojnarowski adds the Hawks are set to make a “significant contractual agreement” with the 56-year-old former Utah Jazz coach who is out of the country as discussions have begun.

The hope is a swift hire of Quin will stabilize the Hawks for the stretch amid a slew of changes.

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It would also give Snyder some time in the regular season and postseason (or at least Play-In Tournament) to sort through a roster that is sure to see even more changes this coming offseason.