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Stern bids farewell (for now) in last Finals address

MIAMI -- Toward the end of his last NBA Finals media address on Thursday night, David Stern admitted that, yes, he knows where the bodies are buried.

"I have a map," the commissioner said before the Spurs and Heat tipped off Game 1 of the 2013 Finals. "And I'm going to put it in one of the envelopes I give to Adam."

Adam, of course, is deputy commissioner Adam Silver, who will take over for Stern on Feb. 1, 2014, marking the end of Stern's 30-year tenure.

This is not the last we'll see of Stern. He'll address the media following Board of Governor meetings in July and October, as well as prior to the start of the 2013-14 season. But this was the end for Stern on the Finals stage, and he said he's confident that he's "steered the good ship NBA in a productive way."

"We've dealt with crises to protect the mother lode," Stern said. "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."

In a 45-minute news conference, Stern was alternately glib, energetic and reflective as he steered most of the questions about his past as commissioner toward the league's future.

The 70-year-old Stern recycled the old story about how his most gratifying moment as commissioner comes every time he hugs Magic Johnson, whose announcement that he was HIV positive in 1991 shook the sports world.

"It's one of the joys of this job," Stern said.

Stern also offered a spirited defense of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, saying it is on course to allow teams to compete for championships regardless of market size.

"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," Stern said. "And we don't have the hard cap, but we have something that's a very, very close second."

Stern was asked at one point if the luxury-tax system was too punitive because it may force super teams like the Miami Heat to break up, and was asked if the brunt of the new financial landscape still weighs too heavily on small-market teams that have had to part with key players -- such as Oklahoma City with James Harden and Memphis with Rudy Gay.

"Other than the Heat and the South Florida media, our league owners think this is a great idea," Stern said.

Stern acknowledged that the flurry of coaching changes -- with at least 12 teams set to begin next season with a new coach -- was a "natural consequence" of the 2011 CBA.

"Teams ... have a certain group of players that they want to get more out of," Stern said. "... So we think that's very much on the way, and it's very much to be desired."

Stern and Silver revealed that the league is discussing plans to incorporate off-site video replay review to speed up the process. And Stern said he does not regret fining the Spurs $250,000 for sending four starters home prior to a road game in Miami on Nov. 29.

"Pop is a great coach, a Hall of Famer and a visionary," Stern said. "But on this one, he wasn't resting Danny Green. It was a game that was being played; I know it, you know it and he knows it. And maybe the game is successful, but I do think we have some obligation to our fans to come up with some system -- despite the disclaimers of our owners -- that has some kind of guarantee that if you buy a ticket for a particular team, that you might see a representative sample of that team."

On another issue that Stern admitted he's been unsuccessful at solving in his final year of his tenure, Stern acknowledged that the $5,000 fines for flopping were not enough to stop players from embellishing contact to get fouls called.

"The point was to do it gently, look at all the flops -- and there have been plenty -- and penalize the most egregious very gently," Stern said. "We could end that immediately if we decided to suspend players, but that might be a little bit draconian at the moment.

"It isn't enough," Stern said. "You're not going to cause somebody to stop it for $5,000 when the average player's salary is $5.5 million."

Stern also hinted at slightly more severe penalties for floppers, an issue that will be decided by the competition committee and, ultimately, the Board of Governors.

"I think we have the data," Stern said. "I don't know if we have the stomach."

Sounds like a battle that Stern will be leaving to the next commissioner to wage.


Before joining CBSSports.com, Ken Berger covered the NBA for Newsday. The Long Island, N.Y., native has also worked for the Associated Press and can be seen on SportsNet New York. Catch Ken every Saturday, when he hosts Eye on Basketball from 6-8 p.m. ET on cbssportsradio.com
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