Hawks’ Nate McMillan isolating out of caution, will miss game vs. Pacers

Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan watching the game during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan watching the game during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Hawks assistant coach Jamelle McMillan has entered the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, and out of an abundance of caution, coach Nate McMillan decided to isolate until he returns a series of negative COVID-19 tests.

That means assistant coach Chris Jent will serve as head coach for Wednesday’s game in Indianapolis. McMillan returned a negative rapid-response test, but wants to be extra cautious, per Jent. As of now, no players have been affected — the Hawks entered this season fully vaccinated, and the majority of the team has either received a booster or isn’t eligible to receive one yet.

“He called me up and said, ‘Hey, I just don’t feel comfortable and want to make sure everything’s OK, so I’m going to stay away from the game tonight,’” Jent said at the Hawks’ shootaround.

There’s some shifting of responsibility for Jent, briefly taking over as head coach.

“I’m the scout coach. I pay more attention to ATOs (after timeout plays), lineups and matchups, so kind of put that head-coach hat on,” Jent said. “Obviously I’ll speak with (McMillan) before the game tonight and see exactly what he’s thinking as far as that’s concerned, and then move forward.”

Not much has changed for the Hawks, per Kevin Huerter, as the team is already comfortable with Jent. The Hawks have thus far had good fortune regarding COVID-19, but it is a reminder to still exercise some caution, per Huerter.

“Player-wise, we obviously all have to be more careful, but not much has changed,” Huerter said. “We’re obviously all ready for the task at hand. ... Coach Jent, he’s a big voice with or without coach McMillan. He kind of runs our defense, obviously second in line to coach Mac, and everything is kind of the same. Same game plan, same task, same goals, come out here and figure out a way to win.”

Trae Young echoed Huerter’s sentiment that this news doesn’t throw off the Hawks’ routine heading into the game vs. the Pacers.

“It’s been surprising; we didn’t know what to expect this morning or whatever, we just came in like a regular shootaround, and they said that and gave us the news, but it’s still kind of the next-man-up mentality as far as the same way it goes with players, it’s the same way with coaches,” Young said. “So, I think we all got to have that type of mind-set, and I think we do. ... We’re having the same type of scheme.”

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