HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Despite one unofficial diagnosis after another about the fragile state of on-court affairs in the NBA, Commissioner David Stern didn’t waste any time Wednesday night at Philips Arena issuing a bill of health of his own, going so far as to mention one TNT analyst in particular by his first name in his retort.
“How do we measure how we’re doing? Well, there are two forms of measurement, one is what our fans think and the other one is what Charles [Barkley] thinks,” Stern said, smiling the entire time. “What our fans think is our ratings are at record highs over last year and they were at records last year, our attendance is the same as last year, which was a great year, and our consumer products and sales are up. Those are the three metrics that we usually use because we are watched in every single way.”
With a rash of injuries to players around the league and suggestions from Barkley and plenty of others that the overall play in the league has been sloppy, at best, with the abbreviated training camp and compressed season being pointed to as a significant part of the problem.
Stern offered another perspective on those theories that lockout has had a detrimental effect on the game action this season.
“There has been a lot commentary about the compressed season and I’ve seen it expressed in many different ways,” Stern said. “We’re putting 80 percent of the games into 75 percent of the season … I saw someplace today that said we made a mistake rushing in to play at Christmas and the only thing I’ll say about that is that we sat down with the players and together we said, ‘if we make a deal tonight we can play by Christmas and get 80 percent of the season and not to mention 80 percent of the gates and 80 percent of the salaries, and things like that.’ And I dare say that that was a good carrot for us, indeed a magnet, to stay there until 3 or 4 in the morning and say, ‘okay, if we get a deal done tonight we can get off to a good start,’ which we did. Christmas Day was great and we are having a good season.”
Stern said that there would need to be more analysis done in a “look-back study” to gauge how teams are handling the compressed schedule and the distribution of minutes, based on how many players they have on their rosters and other factors.
In the meantime, he’ll rely on the reactions of the fans.
“The fans are saying good things about us,” said Stern, who was in Houston earlier in the day to announce the host city of the 2013 All-Star Game. “And despite what Charles says, he remains my favorite commentator, I think that our fans have a higher view of our product than he does.”
With All-Star Weekend on the horizon and Barkley and TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal set to serve as general managers for the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, Stern is looking forward to a little role reversal. With its new format, Barkley and O’Neal will choose sides for a game where the rookies and sophomores are mixed instead of opposing one another.
“I think it’s going to work, especially when you’ve got Shaq and Charles,” Stern said. “I can’t wait to critique Charles. Oh boy, I am on this, all over it, okay. I think that Shaq is going to be a better coach than Charles. And he was a better rebounder than Charles. I’ll even go to the question that he’s a better commentator than Charles … [but] that’s for after All-Star [Weekend].”