In some ways, the Donald Sterling controversy seemed to be a distant distraction to the playoff game at the United Center. But both head coaches in this series have a strong connection to Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau worked for Rivers in Boston from 2008-10, winning a championship in '08, while Washington's Randy Wittman started alongside Rivers in the Atlanta Hawks' backcourt from 1983-88. Rivers is a Chicago-area native, from West suburban Maywood.
"I'm just glad Doc's there running the organization," Thibodeau said before Tuesday's game. "I think they did the right thing. Obviously, there's no place for that type of behavior in our league."
Wittman said he has been in touch with Rivers this week, since Sterling's controversial racial comments became public.
"I'm trying to be there for him," Wittman said. "If there's one coach that can probably handle that as well as anybody, its Doc. I just wanted to be there to support him and try to help him get his mind back to where it should be and that's playing basketball. Hopefully after today, that can happen.
"I can't imagine dealing with something like that when you're worried about beating a team in the playoffs."
Thibodeau praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for taking swift action against Sterling, who was banned for life and fined $2.5 million.
"It's unfortunate, the whole thing," Thibodeau said. "But it's a strong statement by the league that needed to be made. It's great leadership by Adam.
"It's a great league, and it's great for everybody. I think the way the league responded was the correct way. I think everyone's pleased with what the commissioner did."
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and son Michael released a statement in support of Silver's actions, as did most NBA owners Tuesday.
"We completely support Commissioner Silver's decision today regarding Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and praise him for his prompt investigation and action," the statement read. "The Commissioner was correct to ban Mr. Sterling from all official NBA business, to levy the stiffest allowable fine, and we will support his recommendation to press for Mr. Sterling to relinquish his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers franchise. We believe Commissioner Silver's decision reflects the best interests of the NBA and public civility.
"The league's decision underscores the severity and reprehensible nature of the comments attributed to Donald Sterling. These comments in no way reflect the attitude, values, and culture of the Bulls and White Sox organizations. This behavior cannot be tolerated in any form. Discrimination and prejudice of any kind have no place in sports or in our society."
Bulls legend Michael Jordan released a brief statement via the Charlotte Bobcats.
"I applaud NBA Commissioner Adam Silver's swift and decisive response today," Jordan said. "He sent a powerful message that there can be zero tolerance for racism and hatred in the NBA. I'm confident that the league, our players and our fans will move on from this stronger and more unified."