ATLANTA — The Hawks are heading into training camp looking for a bit of a reboot.
First up: improving the communication between coach Nate McMillan and star guard Trae Young.
McMillan already got the ball rolling after the Hawks were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, a bitter comedown from their run to the Eastern Conference final in 2021.
In June, the coach hopped on a flight to visit Young at his Oklahoma City home, wanting to make sure everyone was on the same page when camp began Saturday.
« One of the big areas that I feel we need to improve on is the connection between the two of us, » McMillan said. « I think we need to be better at communicating with each other and what we want to do and how we want to go about doing it. »
The coach also wants Young, who turned 24 less than a week ago, to claim more of a leadership role, both on the court and in the locker room.
« He’s the face of the franchise and it’s something that he has just inherited, » McMillan said. « He will have to work at it and become better. »
Young brushed off any attempt to suggest a rift between the coach and his biggest star.
« I think you’re trying to reach for something that isn’t there. The relationship isn’t rocky, » Young said. « We can all be better in areas. We’re all trying to get better. We’re not trying to stay the same »
While there was plenty of speculation that the Hawks were headed for a major overhaul after their playoff flop, they decided to keep much of the roster intact.
The big move was a trade that landed All-Star guard Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs for three first-round draft picks.
Atlanta will depart next Friday and spend nine days in Middle East, where they are scheduled to play a pair of preseason games against the Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi. The Hawks will return to the States for their final two preseason contests.
« It’s a great opportunity for our guys to bond. We are looking at trying to put them in position for that to happen, » McMillan said « We want our guys to spend that time together. »
It should also give Young a chance to begin flexing his leadership qualities.
« I’ve always been a leader by example, » he said. « I’m still learning how to be a leader vocally. It’s not that I don’t do it; it’s just how can I be better at it. I think that’s what Nate is talking about. »
« Our relationship is great,’ Young added. « My teammates love me, I love my teammates. Now we’re going to try to win this championship. »
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.