Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan targets lasting legacy from NBA Abu Dhabi Games

Hawks take on Milwaukee Bucks in two pre-season games at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island

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Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan is determined that the upcoming NBA Abu Dhabi Games will leave a lasting legacy for the sport in the UAE.

The Hawks face 2021 champions Milwaukee Bucks in two pre-season games on October 6 and 8 at the Etihad Arena as top-level NBA action arrives in the UAE for the first time.

And McMillan, whose team were beaten 4-1 by Miami Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference play-offs last season, is fully aware of the importance and potential of the two matches on Yas Island.

“These are two exciting young teams and we want to expose our game as a celebration of the NBA’s first game ever in Abu Dhabi,” McMillan said after his team’s final workout on Wednesday.

“We will play hard, work on our game and see where we are and try to improve.

“The players are well aware how important these games are, not only as pre-season games but to the community here and promoting the NBA to be a global brand. We know the importance of how we play these two games.

“We want to create an impact in Abu Dhabi and the region. We are just honoured NBA selected us along with the Bucks to be a part of exposing our game to this community and the country. I expect both the teams to come over and play hard and play well.”

The Bucks, meanwhile, were unable to repeat their historic success of 2021 when they captured their first NBA championship in 50 years after beating Phoenix Suns 4-2.

Despite losing the first two of the best-of-seven series, the Bucks fought back to win only their second title, the other victory coming in 1971.

But any hopes of a repeat success last season were ended in the Eastern Conference semi-finals when they were beaten 4-3 by the Boston Celtics – who would go on to lose to Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Burj Khalifa lights up ahead of The NBA Games 2022

Burj Khalifa lights up ahead of The NBA Games 2022

After 10 days in training camp, McMillan admitted his players were looking forward to getting on to the court and into a competitive game.

“The Bucks are a very good team,” he added. “They played a game already. They will come here and work on their game. We will be able to test ourselves and work on our game.

“It’s an opportunity we are looking forward to. We will play hard. We’ll take from that game and learn from that game. The plan is to correct the mistakes of last season.”

The Bucks, meanwhile, are heading into the new season as slight favourites to win their third championship, according to's annual survey of all 30 of the league's general managers.

Milwaukee received 43 per cent of the vote, defending champions Golden State 25 per cent, with 21 per cent going for LA Clippers and 11 per cent for the Celtics.

The Bucks are clear favourites to win the Eastern Conference ahead of defending champions Celtics, the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer believes his team will benefit from their time in the UAE going into the new season. “If you just do camps in your market you are just doing normal things, going home at the end of the day, whereas here we’re doing meals together, different trips etc. It’s just all that time together,” he said.

And as for what the fans in Abu Dhabi can expect over the two matches? “We are really excited, we feel this is a very special sport, something that is incredibly exciting with amazing players doing amazing things,” he added.

“As coaches I’m not sure how much we will be smiling during the games but hopefully we can turn round and see the fans smiling and enjoying it and appreciating what these athletes can do."

Updated: October 05, 2022, 3:39 PM