Stern Defends Small-Market Finals, Zings ‘Resting’ In Last State-Of-NBA Address

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MIAMI – He’s a short-timer now, with less than eight months remaining in what will be a 30-year run as NBA commissioner, but David Stern came on like anything but a lame duck Thursday night before Game 1 of the 2013 Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena.

In his last official Finals state-of-the-league address (part of an ongoing series of “lasts” that began Feb. 1, one year out from Stern’s official retirement date), the league’s chief executive was vibrant, engaged, enthused even. This wasn’t the man who came out of the rancorous lockout in 2011-12 tired and cranky. It wasn’t Stern unplugged, either, though more and more of his duties are shifting to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, his heir apparent.

This was Stern tackling topics big and small, ranging from anti-flopping rules to nuances of the current collective-bargaining agreement in both its financial and competitive impact. This was Stern looking and sounding as if he could re-up for another term but who, most likely, is into his finishing kick because he can see the end line now.

Stern’s opening comments were brief and not unlike the business-is-good things he has said now, twice annually (All-Star Game and Finals) across three decades. Questions followed, many focusing on issues in play in this championship series, such as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich‘s decision back in November to sit out star players on his team’s visit to Miami. And a suggestion that the Heat’s SuperFriends approach might be good for the league overall, despite the CBA’s new provisions to block such star-hogging roster maneuvers in the future.

Asked if San Antonio’s presence in The Finals vindicates Popovich’s decision a month into the season to “rest” Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as a way of staying fresh for the long NBA season and postseason — which earned a $250,000 fine from the league — Stern said: “He wasn’t resting Danny Green. It was a game that was being played. I know it, you know it and he knows it.

“I would never, never tell a coach that he shouldn’t rest a player that needs rest. We understand that completely. And that’s not what he did.”

As for the luxury-tax penalties in the CBA that will make teams loath to carry three stars earning $20 million or more annually — as Miami’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh soon will — Stern said, no, the Heat’s success and popularity doesn’t justify the tilt that has on other teams’ ability to compete, given the shortage of game-changing stars.

“Yeah, as a promoter, absolutely,” Stern said. “But there are 29 other bosses I have that think [the new CBA discouraging that] is a great system. … We have owners who want very much to compete. And they want to be able to tell their fans they can compete.”

While this Finals pits teams sporting multiple stars, future Hall of Famers and a combined six championships since 1999, it features two markets that aren’t exactly New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. And it came very close to being a showdown between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Indiana Pacers.

That sort of small-market clash in flyover land is presumed to be bad for the league, its television partners and fan interest around the globe. And that thinking frequently leads some extreme critics to veer into conspiracy theories that the NBA, through shady officiating, dictates outcomes according to the league’s commercial interests.

Stern didn’t have to pull out his standard “that would be a felony” rejoinder. But he met head-on the issue that market-size considerations drive what fans see on the floor or even what the suits at Olympic Tower prefer.

“It’s not us. It’s our networks, it’s the people who attribute views to us that we don’t hold,” Stern said. “It’s just a fixation that the media around us has because as I see it one more time, ‘Well, the people in the league office’ — never an attribution. No eyewitness accounts.

“We love the fact that we’re here with Miami and San Antonio. If it were Memphis and Indiana, and they had fought their way through to be in the championship, that would be great, too.”

Among other topics Stern touched on Thursday before Game 1 tipoff:

  • The league’s attempts to reduce or eliminate “flopping” are a work in progress. The fines involved aren’t stiff enough to eradicate it, but the penalties intentionally were kept light. “We could end that immediately if we decided to suspend players, but that might be a little bit draconian at the moment,” Stern said. The competition committee and Board of Governors will consider stricter enforcement.
  • Similarly, the replay rules currently in place will be reviewed themselves and possibly broadened to include “off-site” review, in which the actual game refs aren’t the ones who review plays and affirm or reverse calls.
  • Miami, which has not hosted the All-Star Game since 1990, will be considered as a site for the event in the near future.
  • Stern’s greatest accomplishment, in his view? He wouldn’t go there. “You look at the body of work and you say that he steered the ‘good ship NBA’ in a productive way,” Stern said. “We’ve dealt with the crises to protect the motherlode. We’ve dealt with the opportunity to take this league to a place we not only couldn’t have anticipated, we couldn’t have imagined.”
  • His greatest regret? “No regrets,” the commissioner said, though he mentioned the respect accorded the league’s players. “We have to work hard to make sure they succeed in life, not only when they are players but when they retire,” Stern said. “That requires a much closer collaboration with the union about that and we’re very much into that phase of it now.”

As for the home stretch, Stern said: “It is not in my nature to stop and savor,” he said. “We’ve got too much to do. I will remain committed to the continued success of the NBA. That’s the thing I think about more than think about looking backwards.”

27 Comments

  1. LA Laker Fan says:

    I’m so happy to hear David Steirn is leaving the NBA. He made sure the Lakers couldn’t get Chris Paul to join Kobe and the all the other Lakers but he made sure Lebron and Chris Bosh would be able to join Dwayne Wade with the Heat in the same NBA season before the season begun.
    Also he made sure Kobe only got 1 MVP award for the season and Lebron got 3 which doesn’t deserve them. This commissioner plays favorites.

    They need to hire a new commissioner who is an ex NBA coach like Phil Jackson!

  2. AJC says:

    As much as many dislike David Stern as Commissioner, he did turn a struggling league around when he inherited from alrry O’Brien. From Dr. J, Magic, Isaiah Thomas, Larry Bird, Jordan, Hakeem, he let the stars bring the fans to the game and elevated the NBA to a new level. He may be controversial, but he changed the game forever.

  3. usbuck says:

    It’s too bad that sooooo many people out there that profess to love basketball hate it’s best player. So sad! And Stern is needs to retire. His ego is too large and too fragile.

  4. Kent Millstead says:

    I’d like to see a “no lobbying the officials” rule. Every Heat player whines to the officials everytime a shot is missed. LeBron and Wade lead the league in this.

    • Bird33 says:

      Great comment! I’d support that rule. It is a well known fact that Refs sometimes ask Star players for autographs for family members etc. That would seem to indicate that they can be “star struck” too. I can’t see how that equals to unbiased officiating…especially when you just got an autograph for your kid or nephew???!! Cutting out “lobbying the ref” would be a good step in that direction.

  5. echelon_ghaist says:

    Stern did a marvelous job in the NBA. It was during his time when the NBA flourished into a global game and opened its market to the world. Good job on the flopping rule, its makes the game better. We don’t want it to be like the WWE.

  6. Le2e says:

    Only 2 lock outs in nba history, both under Stern’s reign. He cant leave soon enough.

  7. TV63 says:

    Love him or hate him; he had GUTS to stand up when there was wrongoing and ignore the ESPN elites whining oh so and so shouldn’t be suspended or punished. He didn’t give a dam what they thought and had no problem enforcing consequences on players, coaches ect. The only complaint that never is addressed are the REFS. There isn’t really any consequences for them when they are wrong. At least with baseball; they do are not above getting suspended. This needs to happen in the NBA as well.

  8. Elective Amnesia says:

    On the topic of flopping Mr. James is probably the biggest flopper in the NBA

  9. Elective Amnesia says:

    He has done a ok job. I just hate thinking that no matter what the only thing Stern wants is another dynasty, like the bulls had. He is trying to make the Heat like the Bulls, but will never happen because Lebron isn’t Jordan, I can’t even watch a Heat game because of all the attention on Lebron it’s annoying. Ratings are down so he has to try something and I still believe last years finals was definitely fixed. If he thinks having Lebron win championships or more realistically given championships to save the NBA, he is surely mistaken.

  10. RaptorFan says:

    The flop money is nothing for the stars and high played players. Most of the stars make $5000 for every minute of a basketball game. So when they get fined, they lost a minute of time. Who cares. It should be a percentage of a salary and have a minimum of $5000. So if Lebron James flops its a 50000(0.5% of salary if he is making 10 mill a year) fine and if a no name flops he loses $5000, which is still a ton to a nobody cause hes getting paid minimum amount.

  11. ac says:

    I’ve got great respect for this guy. He loves what he does and has led the league well through many different eras.

    Glad to see him tackling flopping before he leaves office, its somewhat of an epidemic in the league and it needs to stop. These guys don’t respond to fines, Allen Iverson once forgot where he parked his Mercedes so he left it in the parking lot and went out and bought a new one in cash. My point is that these guys make way too much money, the only thing they respond to is suspensions or astronomically high fines. My opinion is I’d go right to suspensions because it sends a clear message, plus when you get suspended you aren’t allowed to get paid for that game anyway. Maybe it’s a bit harsh, but I’m sick of seeing flops at critical times decide the outcome of a game, especially in the postseason.

  12. Ralph says:

    I will be so glad to see this tyrant (Stern) out of there. Maybe the NBA can return to a competitive sport with consistent rulings and officials.

  13. Simba says:

    I have a suggestion for a new penalty for flopping. Due to the money these players make a fine isn’t really saying much so I suggest something that will actually affect them and their team. Keep the fine but also add a technical if the person is charged with flopping. The technical would carry over to the following game so that player would start the game with 1 technical swaying the competitive balance the way they sought to with the flop. The tech would also count towards the season total of 16 that warrants a 1-game suspension. Overall the punishment is less severe than immediate one-game suspension but strict enough to force players to second-guess flopping.

    • dd def says:

      that’s an interesting idea. does the opponent to the team starting with a tech get to start with a free-throw?

  14. Mike says:

    I think David stern has done a great job. The flopping issue will never be totally take care of unless the ref’s are fined as well just because someone flails there arms does not mean they were fouled. Just my thoughts

    • dd def says:

      we need to go back in time and not let Divac play lol. that’ll take care of flopping.

  15. J says:

    the nba is a sport so therefore it is not rigged or officiated wrongly nba is the best sport in the world
    i just love david stern one of the best parts about stern was the way he say’s…
    with the first pick in the 2013 nba draft the cleveland cavaliers select…
    its just awesome!!!

  16. Number 13 says:

    Since the 2002 WCF, it’s been really easy to be apprehensive about the officiating in certain matches.

  17. HoopStep says:

    can you pleas fix the post game confrence video link…..its stuck on loading ……

  18. Brd33 says:

    The Commish was lively, as always. I’ve cursed him many times but I have to admit – he helped save the game (along with Magic and Larry and Michael) and then took it global. As a member of the NBA Fan Forum, I also have to give DS his due – they implemented a number of the items they asked us about in their surveys (flopping rules, video replay, etc). How many fans of other professional sport leagues can say they are asked their views and then actually see those suggestions/feedback acted upon? Not many, I expect.

    Thank you David – you did good.

    A lifelong basketball (and Celtics) fan from Canada

    • jfack says:

      i have had my feelings against him about certain decisions and wondered about conspiricies etc with games, referring etc but when you put it that way he has done a good job and hey it cant be easy to be a commissioner so ill back up your good job comment

  19. Patty says:

    STERN NEEDS TO TELL MAJIC JOHNSON TO STOP BEING SO CRITICAL OF OTHER NBA PLAYERS.