At first glance, the Atlanta Hawks look like a team just trying to get their house in order. The firing of head coach Nate McMillan and the turnover in the front office have signaled as much. However, the more things change for the franchise, the more they revert to crumbling around Trae Young.
For the sake of context, Hawks general manager Landry Fields is said to be searching for a coach who can, among other things, hold his players accountable. Though, from an outsider’s vantage point former coaches Lloyd Pierce and McMillan were both let go for trying to instill the same characteristic into Atlanta’s gameplay.
That is not an attempt to paint a picture that either exited with clean relationships because it is well documented that their old-school disciplinarian ways rubbed some wrong. Yet, things seemed to really spiral for the former coaches once bonds began to sour with their star point guard.
Pierce openly criticized parts of his game, while a disagreement between McMillan and Young led to the 24-year-old being sent home for a day. Issues such as these were not foreign to Young or the locker room. His own power forward, John Collins, was even rumored to have questioned the way he ran the offense.
Fired, dismissed, and name-dropped nonstop on the trading block became the outcomes. With the common denominator for each being Young. But what can a franchise do when the detriment has a squeaky-clean public image and career averages of 25.5 points per game and 9.3 assists? They cater to him, and the accountability falls elsewhere.
What does Nate McMillan’s firing say about Trae Young and the culture of the Atlanta Hawks?
The onus always turns to the roster having to improve or the coach’s need to do better. Insert another ball-dominant guard in Dejounte Murray, and the duo of him and Young often leave Collins as a bystander in the offense. It is on the coach to make the necessary adjustments to highlight the crew. But if said coach cannot put his foot down without the backing of the front office, how can he combat a litany of sketchy plays?
By simply viewing the statistics, certain negative intricacies can be missed in Young’s game. The numbers will show the positive points and assists and even the 4.1 career turnover rate. Watching the game will show the horrible shot selection that kills flow, the terrible decisions like pulling up one-on-five with no one in rebounding position, and topping it all off with constant whining. all of which go beyond the poor defense.
Still, these things are tolerated because of a deep three and the occasional flashy pass that is fun for a fan’s eye to catch.
At some point the Hawks are going to have to have an honest talk about more than Young’s style of play and allow a coach to ruffle his feathers without fear of being put on ice. If not, they can prepare for more years of disappointment, regardless of who is calling the shots.