Blog Entry

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

Posted on: June 4, 2009 9:54 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2009 10:11 pm

LOS ANGELES – About an hour before the start of the NBA Finals, the stamp on what he called a "season for the ages," David Stern offered his most dire prediction yet for what the recession will do to the NBA.

"Our revenues will likely be down some percentage, I can say maybe as much as 10 percent [next season]," Stern said in his annual pre-Finals media address. "But that's a small amount in the landscape here."

Stern has been discussing the economy's impact on the NBA business for months, but it was the first time he'd assigned a number to the projected percentage decline in revenue for next season. Perhaps he deliberately chose a high number, because he backtracked in a more intimate session with reporters afterward.

"It's funny, I say 10 percent, but of course I'm going to work as hard as I can to make it not 10 percent," Stern said. "If it's 5 percent or 7 percent or 3 percent, don't hold me to it." Asked how this doomsday estimate might affect collective bargaining negotiations that are scheduled to begin after the Finals, Stern said, "We're going to share numbers and then we'll both make our own judgments about what the impact of that will be. ... That's not, ‘The sky is falling,' because we really do believe that our business is actually quite robust."

Stern already has admitted that the salary cap – which is calculated each year based on the previous season's revenues – is going down slightly in 2009-10 based on this season's revenue. But Stern's worst-case projection of a 10 percent decline next season would cause the 2010-11 cap to be slashed significantly. That just so happens to be the Summer of LeBron, when several of the league's biggest stars will have a chance to become free agents.

So essentially what Stern did Thursday night was throw another variable into what is already a very tough decision for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh: Sign an extension this summer before the cap gets slaughtered, or wait?

Stern wouldn't hazard a guess as to the specific amount the '10-'11 cap would declined based on a 10 percent reduction in revenue next season. Instead, he summoned his resident cap expert, Joel Litvin, the president of league and basketball operations. Litvin considered my question for a few seconds and said, "It would have a significant impact."

"You know the lawyers," said Stern, a lawyer. "They put in some sort of complex formula that's hard for us laymen to understand."

As for how the salary cap falling off a cliff in 2010 would impact LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh when they hit the unrestricted market, Stern said, "I have no idea and it's not a concern to me." That's more of a question for their agents. But the fact that less money will be available in '10, coupled with the fact that a new collective bargaining agreement will take effect in '11-'12, makes the decision of whether to sign an extension this summer even more difficult. Those players now have two moving targets to consider: a declining cap under the current system, and an uncertain cap under a new system they know nothing about yet.

"There's a lot at stake and I'm optimistic," Stern said of the CBA talks that will begin this summer. "We have together developed a system that delivers somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion to our 450 employees. That's a pretty good system. To me, the issue is not so much how much can you reduce it. The issue is how can you continue delivering the bulk of it?"


Since: Aug 31, 2006
Posted on: June 7, 2009 7:35 am

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

This is one of the dumbest comments ever. No superstar is going to get released so he can go to the open market. Most of these guys are going to sign an extension of their current deal for the max this summer to avoid getting involved in potential loss of cash. I see Bosh wating a year and go free, maybe even getting traded this year. Nobody is geting released though---- the teams would be given up a huge bargaining chip. Did you even read the article?

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: June 5, 2009 7:47 pm

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

What you say is sad but true.  I'd take it a step farther than whats been said already and say that the NBA builds around the LA Lakers.  How else can one team represent its conference almost half the time in over 60 years?  I can't imagine rooting for any other Western Conf team.  I used to root for Philly in the Doc days but they've become just another fodder team for the Celts or Lakers to bury.  Seriously, that 30 in 62 years stuff borders on Globetrotters vs. Generals territory.  I'm sure Stern wants those 3 guys to remain on their teams to keep fans for 3 non-Laker/Celtic teams delusionally hopeful (and financially supportive) while the Lakers continue to dominate.  I don't understand why anyone would root for anybody else.  The game itself is great to watch and I would go to any arena to watch the sport (even Pau Gasoless Memphis) but I wouldn't waste my emotions rooting for 28 of the teams.  The Celts would be worth rooting for, if only for their history.  So, yup, I agree with you.  They should build around the Champ Kobe and the Tease Lebron.  It makes for a WWE-like situation.  They just need a Ms. Elizabeth to add spice.  Oh, one other team is worth rooting for if you're also into rooting for the Chicago Cubs - the Knicks.  There you have it.  The big three.  The historical franchise, the dominant one and the never-a-dull-moment loser one.  I wouldn't worry about those players.  It won't matter much in the end where they go.  They'll just swing the "delusionally hopeful" balance to 3 other teams while Miami, Cleveland and Toronto slide back into the abyss.  I guess I'm just way negative, but until I see some balance (and not a short term thing either San Antonio, I'm talking decade long at least), I won't believe the league has a shred of competitive integrity.  I mean, 30 out of 62?  Are you kidding me?  Instead of touting that about one of the teams, the league and the media that covers it should be embarrassed.

Since: Sep 17, 2008
Posted on: June 5, 2009 9:33 am

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

Here's a fact - The popular stars (Kobe Bryant and Lebron James) have the most jersey sales and their teams have the highest viewing crowd. Seats sell out when they come to town, even in OKC and Memphis. They are the biggest "cash crops" of the NBA. It's bad business not to build around them.

Since: Sep 15, 2007
Posted on: June 5, 2009 7:57 am

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

Here is an idea.

Stop building the entire NBA around Kobe and Lebron.

Since: Dec 9, 2008
Posted on: June 5, 2009 12:39 am

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

Ahhh, David Stern, the Obama of the NBA.

Since: Dec 10, 2008
Posted on: June 4, 2009 10:05 pm

Stern pours cold water on 2010 free agents

I bet that they demand to be released early so they can get their hands on the big cash before it runs dry.

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