After having arguably the best offseason in the NBA, the Atlanta Hawks lived up to the preseason hype in their first five games, going 4-1 including a thumping of the Brooklyn Nets. However, since then, Atlanta has strung together three consecutive losses, all to teams considered to be inferior to them, and it has reportedly caused some uncomfortable conversations in the locker room.
During a film session, forward John Collins shared his thoughts on the way franchise centerpiece Trae Young has been running the offense, and it wasn't to compliment him, per The Athletic's Chris Kirschner and Sam Amick.
"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.
Collins talked about the need to get into offensive sets more quickly and to limit all those early shot-clock attempts that leave his teammates on the outside looking in. He shared his desire to be more involved and expressed a desire for more ball involvement and flow on offense.
There was no back-and-forth between the two, but the pointed criticism caught the attention of the room. And Young, sources say, made it clear to others later that he strongly disagreed with Collins' assessment."
While there was no back-and-forth between the two players, the effects of that situation were certainly felt in the Hawks' next game, as Young finished with just seven points on only nine shot attempts in the loss to the Hornets, his lowest scoring total since a nine-point performance in a loss to the Pistons in November 2019. The All-Star guard was viewed as disengaged from the offense during the game against Charlotte, oftentimes giving up the ball to other teammates to make plays and standing in one spot while he didn't have the ball in his hands.
Meanwhile, Collins recorded his third double-double of the season that night, finishing with 23 points and 11 boards. At one point, when the Hawks were down by 20 points and called a timeout, Collins put his arm around Young to try and encourage him, but the third-year guard seemed disinterested in Collins' gesture, per Kirschner and Amick.
With a team like the Hawks that is trying to live up to the preseason pressure of becoming a playoff team after making flashy transactions in the offseason, there are bound to be some growing pains. What's important is for the disagreement between Young and Collins to not escalate. When Collins was asked to elaborate on the situation between him and Young, he said "Trae is my brother regardless," signaling that perhaps this isn't something that will cause a major rift on the team, at least from Collins' perspective.
Young has been known to air his frustration in the past and after two seasons of constant losing that's understandable. But it's important that he doesn't let that frustration affect the rest of the team and result in a performance like the one against the Hornets where he had as many turnovers as points (7).
What Collins needs to realize, though, is that the Hawks are a superior team when Young has the ball in his hands. However, Young shouldn't be pounding the rock for 15 seconds only to then just jack up a 3-pointer without running any offense. There's a middle ground that can be reached by both players if they're willing to work on it.