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 NBA playoffs, a bitter comedown from their run to the Eastern Conference finals 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.
The Hawks will depart next Friday and spend nine days in the Middle East, where they are scheduled to play a pair of preseason games against the Milwaukee Bucks in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. 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 a 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.