HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s been a while since we’ve heard from NBA Commissioner David Stern in this space. He was such a huge presence ’round these parts during the lockout that we felt it necessary to give him a little break in the aftermath of the deal getting done and the season starting.
They talked Dwight Howard, a little lockout recap, quality of play around the league right now, Stern’s future and the difference between a “big market” and “small market” team, and more.
A sampling of the good stuff …
OS: What do you think the effect would be on the Magic franchise if Dwight leaves?
Stern: We’ve had players depart franchises from time immemorial. I remember there was this other large person, now a television commentator, that once left. And I think that I saw Orlando blossom and thrive and build a new arena. So I think this is not a life-threatening event when players move. It depends upon who replaces them and how the community rallies around them.
OS: Some people would counter — perhaps even some from within the franchise — that it took the franchise a decade to recover and that even then it took the luck of a pingpong ball and some smart drafting to select Dwight.
Stern: Smart drafting is a wonderful thing. A smart free-agent signing is a wonderful thing. Smart trades are a wonderful thing, and that’s a function of management. And when you have a 30-team league, you’ll have to see how that works out. Everyone wrote off poor little old Memphis because Pau Gasol left, and the best they could talk about was the 48th pick in the draft that turned out to be this guy Marc Gasol, who is now a maximum-contract center. It depends. These things have a life of their own that have to be analyzed. Implicit in your question, I guess, is that we should tell players that whoever drafts them that’s where they must play for their entire professional career. Is that your view?
On the lockout:
OS: When you look back at the CBA negotiations, do you see anything that could have been done differently that would have expedited the process?
Stern: No. I don’t.
OS: From the owners’ perspective, do you believe this will be a 10-year agreement or a 6-year agreement?
Stern: It’s hard not to confuse my expectation with my hope. My hope is it’s a 10-year agreement. I think that the owners, from their side, the only issue that the owners will have is whether it does enough for the business. But I think it does. And I think that it levels the playing field and will continue to level it and it aligns paying with performance in a very positive way. So I think the owners will not opt out of it after six years.
And finally, Stern on his future:
OS: You started your tenure as the NBA commissioner in 1984 and you turn 70 later this year. How much longer do you want to remain commissioner?
Stern: A little bit.
OS: Are you referring to one year? Five years? Ten years?
Stern: I think it’s fair to say that I won’t be commissioner when the owners have the opportunity to decide whether they are going to opt out of the agreement. The owners and the players are going to make that decision without me.
OS: Six years from now? Right?
Stern: Right. That’s all that I’ve said so far publicly, and that’s how I’m going to leave it. But stay tuned.
OS: Two years? Three years? Four?
Stern: I think we’ve got some work to do to get this thing back up-and-running post-lockout on a global and a digital basis. . . . You know, I love my job. And I think it’s as much fun now as it’s ever been. Really. But I think there will come a point when it’s time to say “enough is enough” and let other people do their job and do this job. That time is approaching. It’s not speeding, but it’s approaching.