Pro basketball

'Silver' lining on dark day in the NBA

2014-04-29T18:15:00Z 2014-04-30T20:58:07Z 'Silver' lining on dark day in the NBAAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
April 29, 2014 6:15 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling has been tossed out on his ear for racist comments he made last weekend about his black players and fans, and the entire NBA couldn't be happier.

That includes coaches Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls and Washington's Randy Wittman, whose Wizards held a 3-1 series advantage entering Tuesday's playoff game at the United Center.

Earlier in the day, both watched new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, on the job barely three months, level a lifetime ban against the 80-year-old Sterling, plus a league-max $2.5 million fine.

"The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful," Silver said. "That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage."

And then Silver delivered the knockout punch.

"Accordingly, effective immediately, I am banning Mr. Sterling for life from any association with the Clippers' organization or the NBA," he said. "Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practices. He may not be present at any Clippers' facility. And he may not participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team.

"He will also be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors' meetings or participating in any other league activity."

If three-fourths of the 29 remaining NBA owners vote their approval, Sterling will be forced to sell the franchise he purchased in 1981-82 and is now valued at a reported $575 million.

Late in Silver's news conference, dozens of tweets and texts by players and league owners were scrolled across the bottom of ESPN's telecast, all praising Silver for acting quickly.

Thibodeau and Wittman were quite impressed.

"I thought he handled it great. I thought the owners, the players' association, (Clippers coach) Doc Rivers and (guard) Chris Paul all did a great job," Thibodeau said.

"They did the right thing. Obviously, there's no place for that type of (racist) behavior in our league and Adam was very strong. I was very pleased with that."

Thibodeau said he had not yet spoken to his players, some of whom have experienced racism first hand.

"It's a strong statement by the league and it needed to be made," he said. "It showed great leadership by Adam."

Wittman echoed a similar sentiment.

"There's no place for that type of behavior in this league, in society, today. The commissioner took the stance that he was sending a message; one that should've been sent," Wittman said.

"Now is the time to let things happen through due process. It's time to heal a little bit and that's been taken care of."

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