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Hawks' Nate McMillan fined $25K for saying NBA 'needs' Knicks in playoffs

Hawks' Nate McMillan fined $25K for saying NBA 'needs' Knicks in playoffs
Atlanta Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan, shown Oct. 31, 2018, said earlier this week the NBA "wants" the New York Knicks in the playoffs. The Hawks play the Knicks in the first round. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

May 20 (UPI) -- The NBA fined Atlanta Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan $25,000 on Thursday for saying the league "wants" and "needs" the New York Knicks in the playoffs.

The league said in a statement that McMillan was fined for "detrimental public comments asserting bias by the NBA relating to the 2020-21 playoffs."

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McMillan, whose Hawks play the Knicks in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, made the comments during a Zoom call with the media Wednesday. The coach also said on the call that that's the message he delivered to his team ahead of the best-of-seven series.

"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. "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.

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"And this 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."

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The 56-year-old McMillan added: "The league wants to see it, everybody wants to see this. Even to the fact that our [opening] game was moved to Sunday, they want to see this.

"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. ... They've had a really good season, and I think the NBA is excited about having them back in the playoffs."

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McMillan also noted that "there's going to be a lot of calls that probably won't go our way."

The Knicks (41-31) made the postseason for the first time since the 2012-13 season. New York is set to host Game 1 against the Hawks (41-31) on Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. Atlanta is in the playoffs for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

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