Stern Discusses State Of League Before Finals
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Just hours before the start of the 2013 NBA Finals between the Miami HEAT and San Antonio Spurs, NBA Commissioner David Stern held a press conference to cover a variety of topics. Here are the highlights:
Final months in office
“It is not in my nature to stop and savor. My colleagues are all laughing at me in the front row. We’ve got too much to do. I was happy to be able to be at 12 of the arenas of the 16 teams who were in the playoffs. We’re busy. I was really lucky to be at Game 6 and 7 of the Miami Indiana series. And we’re involved in business planning and other things. So I really haven’t been. I’ll savor it when it’s over; I’ll look back on it.
“I do know every day that I have the best job in the world, and I’m looking forward to handing over the gonfalon to Adam who will then have the best job in the world. I’ll explain to him what a gonfalon is. And he will carry it to heights that are going to make me very happy. And I will remain committed to the continued success of the NBA.
“That’s the thing I think about more than I think about looking backwards. I’m actually looking forward to helping the NBA in any way possible as it rises to continued new heights.”
“You know, we want to get it right. And we do have concerns about additional replay, but we’re looking at it. And we’re actually even toying with the notion of whether replay can be done off site review, the way it’s done in the NHL, to relieve the burden on the referees, who are stuck in the middle of intense game time action. Might have some difficulty with the noise communicating to the truck exactly which play they want.
“And whether it’s through off site review or more intense review of a different kind, we’ve got to find a way to make it a little smoother. But we like it a lot, because it is very much evidence of the fact that we care about getting it right.
“And I get some e mails from friends saying, if you ask the fans, they would say it’s not worth the delay. And honestly, I say we have asked the fans, and they say it’s absolutely worth the delay. You have an obligation to get it right to the greatest extent possible. And we’ll be discussing that at the Competition Committee next week in San Antonio.
“It’s a subject of continued discussion in our office, and has been. Because as I said and have been quoted, the idea that everyone with a smart phone can see it, everyone at home can see it, and everyone who is sitting with the scoreboards that are going to be the new toy of our arenas that give a great view. But the poor officials don’t really see it that way. It’s discordant to us. The idea is to have the game decided on its merits.”
Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver: “And just to add, an off site review would potentially speed up the process as well. In addition to the noise and the complication, you have an official trying to talk to a producer in the truck calling for a particular replays. And the sense is similar, as David said, to what the NHL does. If you have a group of officials in a broadcast center somewhere, location could almost be anywhere in this day of age of digital media, there wouldn’t be that delay which officials need to walk over, turn the monitor around, put the headphones on, call for the replays. You could have off site officials looking at multiple monitors at once.”
Issues in the game that need to be cleaned up the most
“But to me there’s always a challenge of getting it right. We knew that flopping was going to be far from perfect. And we gather more attention because we were giving it more attention. But the point was to do it gently, look at all the flops, and there have been plenty, penalize the most egregious very gently. We could end that immediately if we decided to suspend players, but that might be a little bit draconian at the moment. And so it’s going to be up to the Board and the Competition Committee to decide how much they want to do.
“On resting players, I think it’s a really interesting subject that I’ve broached with the owners, and I think we’ll have another conversation on it at our board meeting in July, and possibly again in October. And because it does have a variety of layers to it, and I think it merits discussion.
“But someone is going to come back here in 50 years and maybe I’ll come back in 50 years, and the discussion will be about flopping, officiating, instant replay and (Executive Vice President of Referee Operations) Mike Bantom’s officials.”
Severity of the new flopping penalties
“It isn’t enough. It isn’t enough. You’re not going to cause somebody to stop it for $5,000 when the average player’s salary is 5.5 million. And anyone who thought that was going to happen was allowing hope to prevail over reason. But you take a step and you begin to see it.
“And I think the cause was not so much mine as it was our fans, who would like not to see that policy.”
Data in place to improve flopping issue?
“Yes, I think we do. I think we have the data. I don’t know if we have the stomach. And we’ll have to see what happens with the Competition Committee and the Board.”
The more punitive luxury tax penalties forthcoming
“For somebody who is a student of the game and the way leagues are, our first request was a hard cap. If we had gotten it the way the NFL did and the NHL did, end of story. No luxury tax, no nothing. You just get rid of the players. Right? That’s what the NHL did the last time. They reconfigured teams. So we, trying to deal with the entire situation, said let’s do it slowly, so we’ll build up to it, so that the luxury tax doesn’t click into the highest level until the third year to allow teams to do what they’re going to do. And let’s allow an amnesty for one player who is then on the roster. And let’s have a stretch, so if you cut a player you can do that. You can stretch it out twice the length of the contract plus one.
“I think we were more than compassionate, and some of the teams signed players knowing that we might actually go the NHL route, and do what they did the last deal and just have everyone get down to it.
“So I don’t think that’s wrong at all. Remember, we’re trying to make the league more competitive, and so we have revenue sharing and we ultimately have players sharing beyond a certain amount, whatever the size the market happens to be.”
Prefer for HEAT to stay intact?
“Yeah, as a promoter, absolutely. But there are 29 other bosses I have that think it’s a great system. And other than the Heat and South Florida media, our league owners think this is a great idea. Because we have owners who want very much to compete. And they want to be able to tell their fans they can compete.
“So despite the fact as a promoter, I know the Heat have done a great job. They’ve put together a great roster. They put together perhaps a team for the ages. It has consequences that they are now dealing with, and actually they’re much less harsh than the consequences that would have followed had we gotten what we really wanted in the collective bargaining.”
When will you know if goal for widespread competitiveness is met?
“I think we feel pretty confident that we’re very much on track for that, and that you’ll see even more of situations where New York doesn’t match a Jeremy Lin. Chicago doesn’t match Asik. And the others instances that you mentioned, we see teams making their plans right now. If you go into not just the war rooms but the inner sanctum beyond, in the cellar below the war rooms, our teams are making very long term decisions based upon the luxury tax and how they draft in accordance with that. And that’s all about management.
“So all of a sudden you’ve got teams who think they can compete if they do a good job. And in fact, although you didn’t ask, I think that’s a little bit behind the sort of the coaching changes that are on going as well. Teams think they’re aggregating something that they have a certain group of players that they want to get more out of, and they think they’re not getting out of it.
“So what you do is you think about changing the coaches or you think about reconfiguring the roster, or you think about having another general manager. The thing you’re unlikely to reconfigure is ownership. I’ve learned a lot in my 30 years. That’s one that doesn’t get reconfigured.
“So I think it’s really here and it’s upon us, and that is managing to the cap, the way they do it now in the NFL and the way it’s done in the NHL. And we don’t have the hard cap, but we have something that’s a very, very close second.”
The mass coaching changes across the league
“I tell you, I think it’s a natural consequence of a team putting together a roster, putting pressure on the general manager to configure that roster, thinking that they have a chance to compete. They may be wrong, but that’s what happens. And then looking in other directions if, in fact, it doesn’t work. And in some ways it has to do with chemistry or perceived chemistry.
“So Larry Drew is out in Atlanta and Larry Drew is in Milwaukee with different players, different hopes, different place on the scale, et cetera. And I think you’re going to see a fair amount of that as teams feel pressure. Because they’re feeling the pressure of a system that allows them to draft players, sign free agents, get revenue sharing, and they better look at themselves in the mirror if they can’t compete and be competitive, at the gate as well. So we think that’s very much on the way, and it’s very much to be desired.
“And always compare everything to the hard cap. If you have a hard cap, end of discussion. Get rid of everything above a certain amount. We worked very hard, both to phase in the luxury tax, the amnesty, phase in the waiver procedure so that our teams could see it coming, could adjust to it, and there you are. “