OKLAHOMA CITY – If you’ve been as bothered by the rash of serial split-second loiterers through this NBA postseason – that is, alleged defenders whose sole purpose is to do nothing more than stand in front of and collide with an opponent who actually is trying to play basketball – you’re in good company.
NBA commissioner David Stern feels your irritation.
“‘Flopping’ almost doesn’t do it justice,” Stern said in a news conference about an hour before Game 1 of The Finals Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “Trickery. Deceit. Designed to cause the game to be decided other than on its merits. We’ll be looking at that.”
There is hope. The league’s competition committee will be meeting on June 18, Stern has seen the agenda and flopping – the interpretation of the charge/block call is probably a less biased way to describe it – is among the topics. So is the extension of instant replay to more areas of, and during greater portions of, each game.
Said Stern: “Instant replay and elimination of tricks that are designed either to fool the ref or, if you don’t fool the ref, to make the fans think that the refs made a bad call by not calling it. That shouldn’t have a place in our game.”
The quicker and easier answer might seem to be, send a memo to all the officials suggesting a cease-and-desist on rewarding the floppers. But that’s a tilting of the board, in Stern’s view.
“We don’t like to get into a situation where we tell the officials, ‘This is the rule but don’t call so many,’ ” he said. “If there’s a rule to be changed, then we’ll look at it, and I think there will be a robust discussion about an interpretation or an emphasis about how that should or shouldn’t be called.”
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver covered a wide range of topics, but without the uncertainty and expected rancor of a looming lockout that marked their annual presser a year ago. In fact, the five-month lockout and how the NBA came out of it in salvaging the 2011-12 season dominated the question-and-answer session.
For example, it was common knowledge that one of the owners’ goals during the labor talks was that the new collective bargaining agreement would make it tougher for a team to follow the Miami Heat model with a spending spree on superstars. A more severe luxury tax system presumably will discourage such largesse by the time the whole system is phased in over two years.
But even the Oklahoma City model – drafting shrewdly, then keeping your core together – might be unsustainable when it’s time for the key members of a deep team such as the Thunder to get contract extensions. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, for example, already have agreed to long-term deals to stay in Oklahoma City but there is concern that James Harden and Serge Ibaka, among others, might go elsewhere if the Thunder’s budget can’t handle the tax liability that might kick in beyond the salary cap.
So does that penalize the smart, diligent teams? Or does it replenish the system with talent, rather than let it pile up only in a few markets?
“The reality is that teams … are going to be faced with player-sharing as well as revenue-sharing,” Stern said, “because when your roster gets to a point [of having] too much salary to maintain that roster because of the tax, there are going to be decisions that have to get made. Then other teams will have the ability to share just as they’re sharing in revenue – they’re ultimately going to share in players.”
Another alternative would be for the players on an especially deep team to sign for less money than the market would bear as a way of keeping the group together. Good luck with that one.
Among other topics:
- Stern, a proponent of having NBA players play in the Olympics and international competition, said he is open to a rule that might limit that participation to those 23 and under. Several NBA owners have complained about their franchise stars risking injuries and delaying offseason surgery to compete, then missing NBA games while getting paid on guaranteed contracts. “I think it’s appropriate to look at it and see what the right way is,” Stern said.
- Uh oh: That might put Stern on the same side of an issue as Dallas owner — and Olympics critic — Mark Cuban. This is not just a response to [Cuban],” the commish said, smiling. “In fact, usually when Mark says something, I try to go the other way. Here I think he actually has a point.”
- A number of lesser-issues – the so-called “B list” – still aren’t complete in the CBA. Silver said that union and league reps would meet after The Finals to address whatever remains, such as the draft’s age rule and other “quality of life” concerns of players. Also, Derek Fisher, the NBPA president, is still occupied as a member of the Thunder.
- Oklahoma City only has the Thunder because that team, formerly known as the Sonics, moved from Seattle in 2008. Stern said he met with that city’s major, Mike McGinn, Monday and learned about the latest land and arena plans, along with a party who wants to purchase an NBA team. “It is their hope that if there is a building going up and there is a team available, that they would float bonds to support the team,” Stern said. “The bonds would be repaid by the additional revenue that would be generated by the arena.”
- Stern declined to predict an outcome in the unsettled situation of the Sacramento Kings. Responding to a hypothetical, though, he said that if there was a vote now on the matter, “there would be no support for a move.”
- A full accounting of the NBA’s financial picture is underway, but Stern cautioned that the results could be “artificially good or bad” due to one-time effects of the lockout. For instance, by starting the season on Christmas, the league was able to secure all of its national broadcast revenue for 2011-12. But 20 percent of game revenues and local broadcast revenues were lost with the reduced schedule, while players gave up 20 percent of their salaries.
- An arbitration hearing involving New York’s Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak, among other players, is set for Wednesday inManhattan. The union is arguing that such players’ “Bird” free agent rights should go with them even if they are waived and picked up elsewhere. The CBA specifies that only traded players retain those rights. Stern believes the league’s view will be upheld.
- Referees during The Finals are wearing a No. 57 patch on their shirts in tribute to colleague Greg Willard, who recently was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.