Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan said comments that led to a $25,000 fine by the NBA were “taken out of context.”
McMillan addressed the fine Friday with a statement. He did not indicate who took the comments out of context. He also declined to answer questions about the fine.
“We are excited about playoff basketball,” McMillan said during an availability ahead of a playoff series against the Knicks, which begins Sunday. “It’s an exciting time for the NBA. But unfortunately, my comments were taken out of context. My intentions were never to suggest any type of bias as it relates to the league and our upcoming playoff series. This type of narrative does not in any way represent me and what I stand for as coach of the Atlanta Hawks. I stand by my position in respecting the Knicks as an organization and applaud the work they have done this season. My team understands the challenge ahead and we most certainly look forward to the tough competition. That was my intention when I had the conversation a few days ago. So, we’re going to put this behind us.”
The fine was announced Thursday for what the league called “detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 playoffs.”
The previous day, McMillan was asked about if he thought his players were aware that a lot of national media members were picking the Knicks to win the series (a panel of 16 experts at ESPN recently made predictions, and only two picked the Hawks to win). McMillan said he had discussed that with the team, and added that the Knicks are a franchise the league wants to see in the playoffs, which he was using as a motivating factor for the team.
Here were his original comments:
“I’ve gone as far as saying the league wants this, they need this. ... New York, you know, this is a big market. It’s a big market for the league, and New York has been out of the playoffs for a number of years. And this is a team that our league, they want to see. There’s a huge fan base. They want to see New York in the playoffs. They want to see the Lakers in the playoffs. Teams like that, the Boston Celtics, they want to see these teams in the playoffs, and I put New York in that category, that the league wants to see it, everybody wants to see this.
“Even to the fact that, our game was moved to Sunday. They want to see this. So yes, we have talked about that. We have talked about the advantages of this situation and some things that 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.
“So it’s a battle, it’s a challenge, that just being New York, all of that comes with playing in New York. And they’ve had a really good season. So I think the NBA is excited about them being back in the playoffs.”
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