Atlanta Hawks interim coach Nate McMillan is in hot water following his controversial comments about the league and the New York Knicks on his zoom call with reporters on Wednesday.
NBA meted McMillan a $25,000 fine on Thursday in what was termed as “detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 Playoffs.”
This stems from McMillan saying the league wants the Knicks to be in the playoffs. The Hawks interim coach has included this message in his pep talk with his team.
“Absolutely, I’ve talked about that to the team a lot. Basically, I’ve gone as far as saying the league wants this,” McMillan said on Wednesday. “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.”
The Knicks made the playoffs for the first time in eight years, exceeding expectations by taking the fourth seed in the East. The Hawks wound up fifth despite having a similar record after losing the tie-breaker. The Knicks have swept the Hawks this season.
“And [Knicks] is a team that our league, they want to see — there’s a huge fan base — and they want to see New York in the playoffs. So, yes, we have talked about that, about the advantages of this situation and some things that we’re going to have to face, going into [Game 1], with everyone picking New York to win and a lot of folks wanting to see New York in the playoffs,” McMillan said.
But despite McMillan’s comments insinuating they are the underdogs, the oddsmakers couldn’t decide who’s the favorite to win the series. Both the Hawks and Knicks are given -110 odds or an implied 52.4% chance to win the series.
Meanwhile, 15 of 18 ESPN’s NBA writers and analysts have picked the Knicks.
“It’s a battle, it’s a challenge, just playing New York, all that comes with it. They’ve had a really good season, and I think the NBA is excited about having them back in the playoffs,” McMillan said.
The Knicks will host Game 1 and Game 2 of the series on Sunday and Wednesday with an expected 15,000 home crowd, which the team billed as the largest indoor event since the pandemic.
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