The Hawks won’t host a preseason game at State Farm Arena this year. So, they tried to give their players and fans a taste of the excitement before the regular season opens next month.

Here are some observations from Wednesday night’s open practice.

Dejounte Murray, several others out from practice

Ahead of Wednesday night’s open practice, the team announced that newly acquired guard Dejounte Murray would not participate. The 26-year old is currently dealing with a non-COVID illness.

Murray was not the only player to sit out Wednesday night’s practice. Bogdan Bogdanovic, AJ Griffin, Trent Forrest and newly acquired guard Vit Krejci sat on the bench as the rest of the team went through drills before a scrimmage.

“Both Murray and Trent, those two guys woke up the last two days and had some flu-like symptoms,” McMillan said. “So, they had to stay away from the team for 24 hours. They came in this morning and went to the doctors to get, you know, checked for COVID testing and all of that was negative. And the doctors just recommended that they be away from the team for 24 hours. I expect to see those guys in practice (Thursday). And they should be able to go on the trip.”

Hawks general manager Landry Fields mentioned on Media Day that Bogdanovic would be brought along slowly. Bogdanovic had knee surgery during the offseason and the team aims to have him ready for the regular season.

Griffin is dealing with a mild ankle sprain and the team held him out from the evening for precautionary reasons. The rookie forward participated in drills during the first practice and McMillan said he hoped Griffin would be able to some live work on Thursday.

Wednesday was Krejci’s first appearance with the team. The 22-year old, acquired in a trade Tuesday, touched down in Atlanta earlier in the day.

Grey vs. Black followed by Red vs. Black

The grey team included Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela De’Andre Hunter, as well as Aaron Holiday, Jarrett Culver and Chris Silva.

The black team included the remainder of the team’s training camp roster. That includes Armoni Brooks, Malik Ellison, Tyson Etienne, Justin Holiday, Jalen Johnson, Frank Kamisnky, Tyrese Martin and Onyeka Okongwu.

Veteran guard Justin Holiday said that Wednesday was a chance for the younger players to see action against more experienced players before the regular season.

“Our unit experienced what it was like to play against people that have played this game before” Holiday said. “So, it kind of shows the difference of having talent and having experience on the NBA floor. So it was dope to be able to do that with them. And it’s gonna be awesome, because now that will that’s like day one of them experiencing it, to be able to see them grow and where they will go from there.”

Following a break, the team changed into different jerseys for the scrimmage. The grey team switched into red Icon edition jerseys, while the black team switched to their black Jordan statement jersey.

Flashes defensive intensity

The Hawks showed more willingness to stick with their one on one matchups throughout the team’s defensive drills. But there were still moments where they allowed the offense to knock a couple of shots down.

The team, especially the younger players fighting for their minutes, had bought into developing a defensive mindset.

Once the scrimmage began, the roles seemed to reverse with Collins picking Jalen Johnson’s pocket before converting on the other end with a two-handed dunk.

The starters ended up scoring 13 points off the 14 turnovers they forced in the scrimmage.

“They went out and tried to execute their plays defensively, some of the assignments that we were trying to give them no schemes, just basically the things that we’ve worked on in our drills,” McMillan said. “And they got a little tired of playing those 12 minute quarters but I thought the effort was there. I’m happy with the way they play it”

McMillan wanted the atmosphere to mimic a game-like atmosphere. It would give them a reminder of what the noise level would be like when fans filled the arena during the regular season and McMilan thought the team took the distractions in stride.

“I thought I guys were locked in,” McMillan said. “It was a good day. It started this morning, where we were able to get in, we’re still running two a day practices. We had a workout this morning. And then this evening was a live play. And I thought was a better game, certainly a better game than it was last year.”

Collins and Young get back into the swing of things

Trae Young and John Collins continued to show that the rumors have not impacted their chemistry. Young lofted up an alley oop after splitting the black team’s defense before Collins finished with a behind the back dunk.

The two connected again with Collins finishing with a baseline dunk off a bounce pass from Young.

Collins ended the scrimmage with 14 points and four steals, while knocking down two of his four shot attempts from 3-point range. Collins’ season ended early after he injured his finger in the Hawks’ matchup against the Pistons in March.

The 25-year old has said that his finger does not look the prettiest but its looks have not hampered its functionality.

Johnson showing confidence

The Hawks dealt Moe Harkless to the Thunder on Tuesday, leaving the door open for Johnson to back up Collins. McMillan, of course, wants Johnson to earn his spot in the rotation. The head coach has challenged the 20-year old to show him take advantage of the ways he can differentiate himself from Collins

Hawks fans also got a sneak peek of the growing confidence of Johnson.

The sophomore forward contested rebounds as well as helped to initiate the black team’s offense. The team wants to see Johnson create opportunities for others and he found Okongwu for a few attempts.