NBA Rumor: Atlanta Hawks Turmoil?

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Trae Young was not involved in the Hawks end of Game 5 huddle

Despite all of Young’s struggles, the Hawks still had a chance to send this game to overtime. With 5.2 seconds left on the clock and their season on the line, the Hawks needed a 3 to tie. McMillan said Young, who finished the game 0-of-5 from 3, was the first option on the play he drew up. What makes that interesting is that, while McMillan drew on his dry-erase board, Young wasn’t involved in the huddle. He sat on the bench and stared directly ahead, away from McMillan, as John Collins and Danilo Gallinari blocked his view of the huddle. When they broke as a team, Young was already walking toward the court.

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Nate McMillan job security not in question

Lloyd Pierce was fired last season because he lost the locker room, and mainly Young. One source was asked after Tuesday’s Game 5 loss if McMillan had support in the locker room this season and if he felt like the players believed in their coach; he just laughed. As of a few days ago, McMillan’s job security was not in question. The manner in which the Hawks lost could change opinions, but that remains unclear right now. This series was another reminder, though, of McMillan’s lack of playoff success. In his 18 seasons, he’s only advanced out of the first round twice: last season and in 2005 with the Seattle SuperSonics.

All of the analytics pointed to Reddish’s play actively hurting the Hawks, but he remained in the rotation. There was no mandate from the front office to play Reddish to increase his trade value. McMillan continued playing him, sources say, because he felt like if he didn’t, the team’s chemistry would’ve been negatively impacted. It was a bad read from McMillan. The Hawks were 15-19 when Reddish played this season and 28-20 without him.

That was just one of several mistakes McMillan made this season after taking over for the Hawks midway through last season. McMillan’s declaration in mid-March that Delon Wright was out of the rotation surprised sources. They pointed to how the Hawks were in need of better perimeter defenders and Wright was one of the few who were capable of consistently staying in front of guys, but McMillan instead opted for Williams, who wasn’t the spark plug he was last season. Because of injuries to Williams and Collins shortly after saying Wright was out of the rotation, he was once again back in the lineup. But it was another decision that caught many by surprise. Wright ended up being one of the best Hawks in the Miami series.

McMillan’s end-of-game coaching was another sore spot inside the organization. Several sources said there was an over-reliance on Young running the offense himself in late-game situations instead of McMillan drawing up plays. McMillan does have a tendency to let his players figure it out on the court — whether that’s with not calling timeouts to stop runs or with the Hawks playing through the flow of the offense and what he sometimes calls “random play.” The Hawks finished the regular season with a minus-8.8 net rating in clutch time, what the NBA considers games within five points and under five minutes.

When speaking about potential playoff matchups for the Hawks a few weeks ago, one source inside the organization mentioned how the Heat were a bad matchup for Atlanta. When asked why, he said he thought the gap between Erik Spoelstra and McMillan was too wide. Spoelstra is known as one of the best in-game tacticians in the NBA, and that showed itself with how the Heat neutralized Young and how the Hawks couldn’t figure anything out to get him going.

So, obviously, Shams reported there’s growing frustration from you, and he linked you to possibly being included in a deal for Ben Simmons. What would you like to say about the report and your frustration? John Collins: When you read the article and go back and look at it — sometimes, the headline of the article is a lot more intriguing than what’s actually written — what I didn’t like is he took a quote from my postgame press conference and sort of created a dialogue from it talking about my usage is down. In terms of voicing it and saying something, of course, I am frustrated. We’re not doing well. You could say he’s right, but I haven’t outwardly spoken to anyone or voiced my frustration directly to my teammates. That, I feel like, gets lost a bit in the dialogue but, of course, I’m as frustrated as anyone is on this team as we’re losing and not doing as well as we should.

John Collins: I don’t love that. I understand my value and my role to the team. I feel like I’ve embraced it and not complained. I’ve trudged on and done what I feel like is needed to be a professional on this team, but, again, it’s the coach’s decision and the organization’s decision. I don’t love it, but I’m trying to do my best to try to play through it. I just want to be utilized to the best of my ability to maximize production. I understand that we have a lot of guys on this team who can score. I understand that there has to be some sacrifice for us to reach our goals. I’m trying to be the best pro I can.

John Collins: My usage is lower than my rookie year. (Note: There was a time during the season when this was accurate; however, it’s the second lowest of his career.) There are things that I can’t control and I’m not trying to say anything about. I’m not complaining about this, but there are small things that are different now for myself. I’m just trying to figure out how to make my point and my emphasis felt on the court. I just don’t like to be out there running around sometimes. Sometimes, you just want to understand where you can make an impact instead of having to create it for myself. I feel like that’s where I’m at a lot of times. I’m just having to create out of nothing, and it’s hard as hell. That’s where it comes from. It’s wanting to have a safety blanket to throw over my back when I might be in trouble sometimes.

If I’m understanding correctly, you’re wanting a more-defined offensive role for yourself? John Collins: Yes, exactly. I’m not sitting here complaining and saying I need more touches of the ball, or I need to score more points or need more shots. I’ve never complained about that. All I’ve said, specifically, if there’s a way that I feel like is beneficial for everybody — and not just myself — is for us to be used in the correct way. That’s the angle I’m taking. If I’m saying it, it’s for us. I just want to be put in the best position to succeed, and that’s it. I feel like I’ve sacrificed and have continued to sacrifice as much as I can for the team. I just want to make sure that’s clear.

Trae Young on Hawks’ defense: ‘It’s frustrating. It’s not fun’

“It’s frustrating. It’s not fun,” Young said of the Hawks’ defense. “Being one of the best offensive teams in the league is a really good thing, but when you’re letting teams score as much as you, it’s not good for your team. We got to figure it out. We have time to figure it out. We have to do it. We have to keep the offense the way it’s been going. We have to get more stops.” Kevin Huerter, who made his return after sitting the past six games while in health and safety protocols, echoed Young’s comments. “It’s just one of those things that we talk about where we know how capable and how good we can be,” Huerter said.

There have been too many instances this season where the starters come back into games having to play catch-up, and the Hawks have to sometimes force the issue in spots when they shouldn’t have to, but as Prunty said, he’s not going to play Young 24 minutes in the second half. He’s got to sit at some point, especially in a regular-season game in early January. If it were up to Young though, he would be out there the entire game. “S—, I was trying to be out there for my team,” Young said of watching the fourth-quarter lead disappear. “I obviously want to play all 48 minutes. I don’t know if my body would let me do that. I just want to be out there as much as I can. I know it’s a long season. This isn’t an individual sport. We all have to find a way to give a little bit more and pull out games in the end. We have to find a way for all of us, top to bottom, to give a little more.”

Travis Schlenk: A lot of our guys haven't performed as well as we wanted to

Dunn, Bogdanovic, Rondo and Gallinari are collectively owed roughly $50 million this year, but the Hawks aren’t getting enough consistent production from them on the court yet. “I think it’s safe to say a lot of our guys, whether free agents or not, haven’t performed as well as they wanted to,” Schlenk said. “We’re not really in the situation that we wanted to be in, but it’s not a dire situation either. We can still accomplish all our goals we set out to start the season which was to have a winning season, so I don’t think anybody’s really satisfied with where we are as a team or how they’ve performed individually, if you went through the whole team.”

In the second half, we’ll find out if the Hawks truly have playoff potential. “We don’t dislike where we are,” Travis Schlenk said. “I wouldn’t say we’re happy with the way the first half went out, but all things considered, we’re still in a good spot. I don’t know what the standings are right now, but we’re a few games out right in the mix. It’s been a difficult year for all teams, not just us — whether they’ve been hit by COVID or injuries. The pace of games — I think we have a game every other day.”

Trae Young: No beef with John Collins

On a young team, those sort of gripes are routine across the league. But Young insists the episode was overblown. “Of course if there’s anything out there publicly, I always go directly to [that person],” Young relayed to Yahoo Sports. “As for the John [Collins] incident, me and him talked about it as soon as it got out the next day and we were both confused. It just got out and it was over a regular film session. So there’s no beef or anything in there to begin with. There hasn’t been any locker room issues on my side. Anything that people were saying about locker room issues, there hasn’t been one. It’s all about our team and how we’ve been trying to get better in film sessions.”

John Collins, the fourth-year big man who just weeks before bet on himself in a big way during his failed extension talks with the Hawks, shared his unfiltered and unhappy views about the way franchise centerpiece Trae Young was running the offense. According to three sources who were either in the session or had knowledge of what was said, Collins raised several issues about the way these Hawks were functioning with Young at the helm.

Even after the film session came to an end, the dialogue about how these Hawks should operate continued. Only this time, it was Hawks big man Clint Capela who decided to weigh in during a private discussion with Young. Capela, the 26-year-old who was acquired from Houston at last season’s trade deadline, had seen a similar act unfold before during the Dwight Howard-James Harden era with the Houston Rockets. Sources say Capela’s message focused on that cautionary tale, how Howard’s demands for the ball along with Harden’s reluctance to give it up more freely widened the divide between them and led to collective failure.

Lloyd Pierce still not on hot seat

After suffering an embarrassing 23-point loss to the lowly New York Knicks on Tuesday night and falling to dead last in the conference standings, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce is not on the hot seat, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The young Hawks gave up 143 points to a Knicks team with the worst shooting percentage in the league at 37.7, and Atlanta is now 6-22. Star point guard Trae Young called it the lowest point of the season.
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