Atlanta Hawks and former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan earned a $25,000 fine this afternoon for comments suggesting that the NBA “wanted” and “needed” the New York Knicks in the Playoffs ahead of this weekend’s Hawks-Knicks series. As reported by The Athletic’s staff, the league deemed it as “detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 Playoffs.” McMillan’s full quote went as follows:
Asked Wednesday about national media picking the New York Knicks to beat the Hawks in their first-round series, McMillan replied, “I’ve talked about that to the team a lot. I’ve gone as far as saying, the league wants this. They need this.”
“It’s a big market for the league,” he continued. “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 fanbase. They want to see New York in the playoffs. ... I think the NBA is excited about them being back in the playoffs.”
League experts are suggesting that it could be an act of gamesmanship on McMillan’s part. The message could be that the margin for error slims and the need for more intensity heightens if he truly believes that, as The Athletic’s Joe Vardon notes.
This season, McMillan stepped in as an interim head coach and helped guide the Hawks to a 27-11 record. Prior to, he was known for head coaching stints with the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trail Blazers, and Indiana Pacers. McMillan-coached teams have bowed out in the first round in nine of his 10 appearances, and are viewed as slight underdogs in this series.
The rest of the article gets into insiders’ thoughts on McMillan’s comments. The link can be found here (subscription required).