December 4, 2022 | 5:50 pm EST Update
A 13-10 start to the Atlanta Hawks’ season has not come without drama, as league sources say the team is managing simmering issues between its head coach and star player. Those issues culminated in a telltale moment inside the Hawks’ practice facility on Friday. Hawks All-NBA guard Trae Young and coach Nate McMillan had an exchange at Friday’s shootaround that led to Young choosing not to attend the team’s home win over Denver at State Farm Arena, sources with knowledge of the situation tell The Athletic.
While Young was receiving treatment on his right shoulder, sources say McMillan asked him whether he would participate in shootaround, receive treatment during walk-through and play in the game against the Nuggets. But Young made it clear that he wanted to focus solely on his treatment while missing shootaround and deciding later in the day whether he would play.
That approach, however, was not McMillan approved. Since the face of the Hawks’ franchise was deciding not to take part in shootaround, McMillan ultimately presented him with two options for that night’s game, sources said: Play off the bench — or do not show up to the arena. Young responded by saying he would not be playing against the Nuggets, and the team ruled him out while citing right shoulder soreness.
McMillan told reporters on Sunday that Young did not play on Friday night due to a “miscommunication.” Young practiced fully on Sunday and will return on Monday against Oklahoma City. There is no disciplinary action given by the team to Young in the aftermath of the situation, sources said.
For the Hawks, this issue is a microcosm of tension that exists among Young, McMillan and the locker room. The Hawks have held multiple team meetings early this season to resolve various conflicts, sources with knowledge of the situation said.
With the team currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, sources with knowledge of the situation said McMillan’s job is safe. As all involved are well aware, Young and McMillan will need to reinvigorate their relationship moving forward if the Hawks are going to become a true contender again. And key personnel around the team believe that Young simply must find a way to become a more productive and positive face of the franchise.