Nate McMillan’s tenure with the Hawks is downright Thibs-ian

Nate McMillan

Nate McMillan
Photograph: Getty Photographs

The Hawks are fortunate the Knicks are so disappointing or Stephen A. Smith would be melting down about them as an alternative. The staff that ended the Ben Simmons period in Philly, banished Julius Randle to a spot from which he has but to return, and competed with eventual NBA championship Milwaukee within the Japanese Convention Finals is 2 video games beneath .500 and about as uninspiring as their file.

You could possibly chalk up this season to an excessive amount of hype too quickly — a typical story for a younger staff coming off their first dabble of playoff success. Trae Younger called the regular season “boring” in November, and that’s precisely the type of mindset that’ll land you within the 9 spot with a bit of over a month left till the non-boring portion of the schedule begins.

It’s in the end on the gamers to remain centered and motivated, however it’s additionally the teaching employees’s accountability to assist them do this. Identical to it was coach Nate McMillan’s accountability to point out Younger what’s and what isn’t an empty stat final season, he wanted — and has thus far failed — to maintain his staff engaged and bettering.

Nearly as good as McMillan is at unlocking a staff’s half-court offense, his unwillingness to deviate from his micro-management, slow-it-down-so-we-can-run-a-set type has been his downfall previously, and it’ll most likely be what will get him fired in Atlanta, too. The perfect staff he’s ever coached talent-wise was most likely the late aughts Path Blazers who had Brandon Roy, Lamarcus Aldridge, and a pre-injury riddled Greg Oden. They gained 54 video games regardless of being final in tempo of play. He’s led groups to a 50-plus win season three completely different occasions. Calling him a foul coach is objectively not true.

He deserves to be in that Tom Thibodeau and Larry Brown class of head coaches who’re nice for inexperienced groups as a result of they carry construction and self-discipline. Nonetheless, that rigidity and obsession with doing issues “my means” ultimately grates on gamers (and entrance workplaces), and so they predictably, nearly comically lose their locker room (adopted by their job).

The Hawks went 27-11 within the 38 video games McMillan coached when he took over throughout the center of final season. Sixty video games into the 2021-22 marketing campaign, he has solely 29 wins. The roster is gifted, deep, and explosive, and he’s teaching it like a father afraid to let their little one go as they attempt to trip a motorcycle with out coaching wheels for the primary time. The Hawks are 18th in tempo of play (per, which is a travesty contemplating they’ve the instruments to be devastating in an uptempo sport, and are second to final in quick break factors per sport (via, which is a basketball rights violation.

Maybe Younger is disinterested as a result of his coach retains yelling at him to “sluggish it down and run one thing” as quickly as he will get the wind blowing by way of his bizarre, wispy hair. (On prime of the fully silly “Ice Trae” moniker he retains pushing — shuttering throughout All-Star Recreation intros compelled me to involuntarily roll my eyes — his PR staff wants to wash up that lollipop hairdo.)

Truthfully, this isn’t a lot about Younger, who’s having a profession season in factors per sport (27.8) and is within the neighborhood (46-38-90) of the 50-40-90 membership, it’s about the remainder of the staff. John Collins, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Clint Capella, and Lou Williams are all averaging much less factors per sport than a season in the past, according to Some are marginal like Huerter’s 11.8 ppg dipping to 11.6, and a few are regarding like Bogdanovic’s 16.4 to 13.6 drop and Capella’s 15.5 to 10.7 free fall.

They traded away Cam Reddish as a result of their rotation was so crowded, and also you’re left questioning if it was much less a few crowded rotation and extra a few helicopter-parent strategy that’s good at first and overbearing at worst. You may play sensible half-court basketball AND rise up and down the ground to make the most of your youth, capturing, and athleticism. There doesn’t need to be eight seconds left on a shot clock for an try and be thought of a “good shot.”

Sooner or later, McMillan has to belief within the classes he instilled in his gamers and allow them to play at a extra wideopen and breakneck tempo. Belief is why good coaches don’t really feel the necessity to name a timeout late in video games to attract one thing up, relatively placing the ball within the arms of their greatest participant and permitting them to make the most of a mismatch or run a play that hasn’t been rigorously thought by way of over a industrial break. (The inverse of McMillan is Mike D’Antoni, who trusts his gamers to a fault. We’re on the lookout for a wholesome center floor, individuals.)

I haven’t watched sufficient Atlanta video games to know if McMillan nonetheless calls flow-disrupting timeouts as a result of he thinks he is aware of greatest, however I’ve adopted sufficient McMillan groups to know that he at all times thinks he is aware of greatest. That’s precisely what this staff, who didn’t know shit about successful, wanted a season in the past.

The Hawks now know what success seems like. But they’re nonetheless finding out the ABC’s of basketball when they need to be onto English Lit. The professor must replace his lesson plan or hand off his class to a instructor able to constructing upon the tutelage they’ve already acquired.

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