NBA commissioner Adam Silver took his first major action Tuesday afternoon, handing out a lifetime NBA ban to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks he made on a recording that went public. Sterling was also fined $2.5 million by Silver, who recommended that Sterling sell the franchise.
That action spurred praise from Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, who said Silver's words were a "statement by the league."
"I thought he handled it great. I thought the owners did a great job, players association, of course Doc Rivers along with Chris Paul. Just glad Doc’s there running that organization," Thibodeau added. "I think they did the right thing and obviously there’s no place for that type of behavior in our league, and Adam was very strong."
Wizards coach Randy Wittman also applauded Silver's actions, saying the commissioner's words were a message that needed to be sent.
"I think it’s great. I think Adam did great. There’s no place for that -- forget about just the NBA, there’s no place for that in society," he said. "I think the commissioner took a stance that he was sending a message, one that should have been sent. And I think now’s a time to let things happen in due process and now’s a time to heal a little bit. That’s been taken care of and hopefully we don’t have to deal with something like this ever again."
Wittman, who played with Rivers in Atlanta in the 80s, said he's spoken with his former teammate in recent days to offer support. The Clippers and Warriors are tied 2-2 heading into Game 5, which will be played tonight in Los Angeles.
"I’m just trying to be there for him, obviously. I think he’s handled it as well as he could handle it, and that doesn’t surprise me. If there’s coach that can handle that as well as anybody, it’s Doc," Wittman said. "And I just wanted to be there to support him and try to help him get his mind back to what it should be, and that’s playing basketball. Hopefully after today that can happen. I can’t imagine having to deal with something like that when you’re worried about leading your team in the playoffs."
FIRST QUARTER PROVING CRUCIAL FOR BOTH TEAMS
The Wizards have outscored the Bulls in all four games, and unsurprisingly they hold a 3-1 advantage in this best-of-seven series.
For Wittman, it's been the defense -- the Bulls are averaging just 22 points in the first quarter -- that has helped spur those quick starts because it allows the Wizards to get out on the break.
"We’ve come out and established ourselves, first and foremost, from a defensive standpoint which has been important for us," he said. "When we do it enables us to get out in transition and allows us to play at a quicker pace. So when you’re taking the ball out of bounds you’re not able to do that. So coming out it’s always important for us to get established from a defensive standpoint right away, and I think that feeds in to what we’re able to do from a pace standpoint."
The Bulls, on the other hand, are looking to change things up by being ready for that quick attack from the Wizards.
"The readiness for the start of the game. The speed and intensity to start," said Thibodeau when asked about how they have to begin games. "We have to make sure we have the proper floor balance. They’ve got to feel us, we’ve got to be up into them. We’ve got to attack on both ends."