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Nate McMillan’s history with building relationships with his players is poor. It adds context to Trae Young’s insubordination.
On its face, Trae Young skipping a game without the explicit approval of Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan is a really bad look for Young, but a deeper examination reveals context around McMillan’s history as a coach and his previous inability to build relationships with his players might better explain the behavior.
What we know so far is that McMillan and Young got into a disagreement over treatment and shootaround, which Shams Charania wrote about in detail here (subscription required). Young decided to skip out on the Hawks game on Friday. McMillan essentially told Young to expect to come off the bench or don’t show up to the arena.
Young called the bluff and didn’t show.
Growing tension in Hawks organization between players and coach
Charania reports there has been growing tension between Young and McMillan. Were there no other information to work with here, one might side with McMillan, a veteran coach and NBA player, instead of Young, a young star with leadership abilities that have not been definitively proven.
But McMillan had similar issues when coaching the Indiana Pacers. Players had a hard time buying into the way he did things around the time of the NBA’s bubble season, according to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Perhaps McMillan’s tactics as a coach are still somewhat dated, and maybe Young could be a bit more humble for the greater good of the team.
Whatever the case, Atlanta needs to figure it out. Their 13-10 record is good for fourth in the Eastern Conference, but rifts like this can cause massive drifts.