Hawks coach fined for saying NBA ‘wants’ Knicks in playoffs
NEW YORK – The NBA fined Atlanta Hawks coach Nate McMillan $25,000 on Thursday for “detrimental public comments asserting bias” after he suggested the NBA “wanted” the New York Knicks in the playoffs.
The Hawks are due to open a first-round series against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
McMillan told reporters in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday he had impressed upon his players that many were delighted to see the Knicks, long a marquee franchise in the league, back in the post-season for the first time since 2013.
“I’ve talked about that to the team a lot,” McMillan said. “I’ve gone as far as saying, the league wants this. They need this. New York is a big market.
“It’s a big market for the league. New York has been out of the playoffs for a number of years. This is a team that our league, they want to see. It’s a huge fan base. They want to see New York in the playoffs. They want to see the Lakers in the playoffs. Boston Celtics, they want to see these teams in the playoffs.
“We have talked about the advantages of this situation and some things we’re going to have to face going into the game with kind of everyone picking New York to win and a lot of folks wanting to see New York in the playoffs,” McMillan said.
“It’s a battle. It’s a challenge. All of that comes with playing in New York.”
McMillan was named interim coach of the Hawks on March 1, taking over from Lloyd Pierce and piloting the team to a 27-11 record since then.
They claimed the fifth seed in the East with the same 41-31 record as the fourth-seeded Knicks, who beat Atlanta in all three of their regular-season clashes.
Two of those victories were close, including an overtime Knicks win in which Hawks star Trae Young exited in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The Knicks have won eight of their last 10 games against the Hawks and are 8-1 against them all-time in the playoffs.