NBA fines Hawks owner Gearon Jr., forward Ivan Johnson

The NBA fined Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. and forward Ivan Johnson for their actions during the team’s recent playoff series against the Celtics.

The league fined Gearon $35,000 for public criticism of officials and negative comments about Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. The NBA docked Johnson for making an obscene gesture to Celtics fans as he left the court following the Hawks’ loss Thursday in Boston.

A Hawks spokesman said the team would have no comment on the discipline against Gearon and Johnson. The NBA announced the fines Saturday.

Gearon made his comments Wednesday during a public speech for a local charity at Piedmont Park. The comments originally were reported in a blog post the same day at ajc.com.

“[W]e don’t get any calls, which I know everybody always hears,” Gearon told his audience. “But I’ll give you a stat. Last night, we are playing this old physical team. They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball, old guys foul.

“Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league. We are playing Boston last night, and they had two fouls the whole first half. We had five times that, and we’re athletic.”

Following Boston’s victory in Game 6, Garnett said he was offended and motivated by Gearon’s comments and criticized Gearon for calling him a dirty player.

In May 2010 the league fined Gearon $25,000 for tampering after he told reporters he would give then-free agent LeBron James a maximum contract “in a heartbeat.”

TV cameras captured Johnson flipping a middle finger to a Celtics fan at TD Garden as he left the court following Game 6. A screen capture of the moment was disseminated by blogs and on Twitter.

The Hawks signed Johnson as a rookie free agent before this season. He has a history of anger-management issues that includes a ban from the Korean Basketball League for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Hawks coach Larry Drew sent Johnson home from a trip after he argued with teammates on the bench during a game at Boston on April 11. Johnson and Drew also had a heated argument during Game 1 against the Celtics, but Drew later said he apologized to Johnson for overreacting.

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