A rude fan, television camera and brief lapse in judgment proved costly for Bulls center Joakim Noah.
Noah spoke to the league office Monday morning and got the news he expected a few hours later: a $50,000 fine. He was not suspended, however, and will play in Game 4 on Tuesady at Miami.
In the first half of Sunday's Game 3 loss at Miami, television cameras were on Noah as he returned to the Bulls' bench and appeared to use a derogatory term when speaking to fan.
"Spoke to them (NBA officials) earlier this morning," Noah said at the team hotel. "Like I said before, very disappointing. I got caught up. After picking up a second foul yesterday, I was frustrated. A fan said something that was disrespectful toward me and I went back at him. They got it on camera."
Lakers star Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for allegedly using the same anti-gay last month in the regular season. Bryant's comment was directed toward a referee.
"I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings," Noah said. "Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not like that. I'm an open-minded guy. I said the wrong thing. I'm going to deal with the consequences like a man. I don't want to be a distraction to my team right now. Just focused on a huge Game 4."
Other Bulls talked about hearing several nasty comments from fans in Miami during Game 3. TNT plans to move its studio crew away from its postgame location outside the arena because of taunts and towels thrown at Charles Barkley, who called the Heat a "whiny bunch."
Taj Gibson described Noah's encounter with the rude fan.
"(The fan) was really loud. He was a big guy, too," Gibson said. "He was intoxicated. When I saw him, I was surprised because he kept going and going. Normally, a fan may say a couple of things and sit down. He kept going at Joakim."
"That fan should have been out of the game. He should have been thrown out way before," Luol Deng said. "He just kept going at him. An emotional game like that, and things not going Jo's way, it's human nature to react."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau was supportive of his fourth-year center.
"I think he knows how to handle that," Thibodeau said of Noah. "He made a mistake. I know the type of guy he is. He's a high character guy. He made a mistake. He'll apologize, learn from it, and hopefully he'll move on."
This was the second odd distraction for the Bulls since arriving in Miami. Before Game 3, Derrick Rose said he didn't remember making a comment about performance-enhancing drugs in the NBA that ran in a recent issue of ESPN Magazine.
According to one reporter, Carlos Boozer got tired of questions about Noah and walked away from an interview Monday.
"The more media you have around, there's more stuff going on," Thibodeau said. "I think the important thing is not to get distracted by it. Lock in on what's important, which is getting ready for the next game."
Also Monday, a human-rights group addressed Noah's comments and his apology.
"We need to get to a point where you don't use an anti-gay slur to respond to events," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "It's just plain unacceptable.
"At a time when the NBA and a growing number of pro-athletes are publicly standing up for equality, it's too bad Mr. Noah worked against their efforts last night. That said, we're pleased he quickly realized the error of his ways and apologized."
Also Monday, the Human Rights Campaign released a video of NBA star Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns publicly supporting marriage equality in New York. NHL forward Sean Avery did the same last week.