Nate McMillan: Knicks Comments That Led to $25k Fine Were Taken Out of Context

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 21, 2021

Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan in action during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Thursday, May 6, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan told reporters Friday that his recent comments about the New York Knicks, which led to the NBA fining him $25,000, were taken out of context:

"We are excited about playoff basketball. 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. We're going to put this behind us."

McMillan said in a Zoom call with reporters Wednesday that "there's going to be a lot of calls that probably won't go our way" in the first round. He added the NBA "wants" and needs the Knicks in the playoffs because they play in a big market and alluded to how they hadn't been in the postseason for each of the previous seven seasons: 

"I've gone as far as saying the league wants this. They need this, New York, this is 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 fanbase—and they want to see New York in the playoffs."

Marc Berman of the New York Post brought up McMillan's take to Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, who said this in response:

Marc Berman @NYPost_Berman

I asked Tom Thibodeau if he agrees with Nate McMillan NBA prefers the Knicks in the playoffs and Jeff Van Gundy's former assistant said he didn't get that impression when league suspended six Knicks in the Miami series for taking a step off bench in 1997.

The Hawks and Knicks will be squaring off in the first round of the playoffs beginning Sunday at 7 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden. It will undoubtedly be a raucous environment, as New York will be opening its arena to 15,000 fans per night.

The Knicks are in a market with over 19 million people, so the NBA would likely enjoy higher ratings if the team that has called Manhattan home since 1946 fares well. 

McMillan will be looking to guide the Hawks to their first playoff series win since 2016. The coach took over for Lloyd Piece when the team was 14-20, and the Hawks finished 27-11 under his tutelage.

Atlanta is facing another hot team in the Knicks, however, as New York went 16-4 to close the regular season.