Tag:David Stern
Posted on: February 14, 2009 10:06 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

PHOENIX – David Stern was a barrel of laughs Saturday night at his annual All-Star news conference, and I know why.

Gallows humor.

Yes, Stern has much to be proud of (not the lame H-O-R-S-E competition, mind you). The talent level and interest being generated by his league are such that he should be beaming. Recent rules changes have spread the floor, made the game more perimeter-oriented, increased scoring, and freed the best athletes in all the major American pro sports to showcase their talents.

The Lakers-Celtics rivalry is in full froth. The greatest player in the game, Kobe Bryant, has a legitimate challenger, LeBron James, in a way that Michael Jordan never did at this point in his career. We are still only a few days removed from a stellar week of basketball at Madison Square Garden, which is something no one has been able to say since the Clinton administration.

But trouble is on the horizon. Don’t believe the rosy picture that was painted Saturday by Stern and his negotiating partner, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter. Players, agents, owners, and fans need to be prepared for the worst. That is why Stern, deputy commissioner Adam Silver, and president of league and basketball operations Joel Litvin did not mince words in speaking to the league’s general managers Friday during the rules and competition committee meeting.

One person who was present, who requested anonymity, said Stern warned the GMs that while revenue was holding steady for 2008-09, the projections for 2009-10 could be scary. The typical season-ticket renewal rate of 85 percent won’t be close to that, nor will sponsorship renewals. Those decisions for this season were made before the economic tsunami hit.

“Be careful,” is the way the person present at the meeting described Stern’s overall message.

Stern said Saturday night he did not give teams any advice or instructions on how to run their businesses. Silver and Litvin both said “warning” was too strong a word to describe Stern’s address to the GMs, and insisted that no concrete revenue projections were conveyed.

“They know exactly what’s happening,” Stern said. “They know what their finances are. They know what the issues are. We also know that the cap is going to start ... the cap is coming down.”

It was the first time Stern had publicly acknowledged that the salary cap – which is set yearly based on the previous season’s revenue – could be reduced. The red-flag year is 2010-11, which will be based on revenue from 2009-10. That means player salaries will come down, which one team executive said would not necessarily be a bad thing for the sport.

“It’s some much-needed belt-tightening that should’ve happened years ago,” the executive said. “But times were good, everybody was making money, so nobody cared.”

It just so happens that 2011 is when the collective bargaining agreement expires. So it was refreshing to hear Stern and Hunter announce that they’ve already begun hammering out the framework for an extension. It won’t be easy work.

“We just thought it was apropos that we sit down and begin to look at the situation,” Hunter said. “Particularly in view of the current economic climate, in hopes of getting another deal in place without some kind of work stoppage, lockout, etc. ... I will do everything within my power – everything within reason – to get an agreement. At the same time, I’m going to be an aggressive negotiator for my players.”

Stern, entering his second quarter-century as commissioner, doesn’t need anyone to negotiate for him. Near the end of his news conference, he was asked for his thoughts on a recent report that Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig draws an $18 million salary.

“What’s the question?” Stern asked.

“What do you think the going rate for a commissioner should be?” the reporter asked. “I would do the MasterCard ad if they asked me,” Stern said. “Priceless.”

“Are you having a better year than Bud?” the reporter asked, a reference to Babe Ruth’s famous explanation for why he made more money than the president.

“I think it is safe to say that Bud is the leader of us all,” Stern said, “and deserving of everything that he makes.”

Whatever it is, Stern will earn it over the next 18 months.


Category: NBA
Posted on: February 14, 2009 9:16 pm

Ultimate honor for the ultimate winner

PHOENIX – The ultimate winner strode to the dais, beaming with pride. Bill Russell, winner of 11 NBA championships, called this “one of my proudest moments in basketball.”

From this day forward, the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award will be named for Bill Russell.

Who else?

“I accept this for my team,” Russell said, his voice cracking with emotion. “And my team included our coach, Red Auerbach, and all my teammates over the years.”

It was a bittersweet moment, said Russell, who last month lost his beloved wife, Marylin, after a long bout with cancer. Commissioner David Stern had a chance to tell Marylin about the honor her husband would be receiving, and she carried the secret with her – perhaps only telling Auerbach up in heaven.

Incredibly, Russell never actually won a Finals MVP trophy. They didn’t start handing them out until 1969, when Russell’s Celtics beat the Lakers but Jerry West got the award – the only one given to a player on the losing team. So now you understand why, upon receiving the trophy from Stern Saturday night, William Felton Russell held it as tenderly as a newborn.

“I learned very early in my career,” Russell said, “that the only important statistic in basketball is the final score. I dedicated my career in basketball to making sure we were on the positive end.”

There were jokes and pleasantries, even a thorny bouquet for the writers, with whom the reclusive Russell has long clashed.

“I want to explain something to you,” Russell said. “This is only the second time I’ve been out in public since I got my hearing aids. When I found out I was gonna be around a lot of guys from the media, I put ‘em in a drawer back in the hotel room.”

Laughter filled the room, and Russell said, "My second year in the league, I was the most valuable player of the league by the players' votes. But I was second-team all-league by the writers' vote. That's why I didn't wear them. ... The reason I don’t wear them is not vanity. The reason I don’t wear them is that I like what I don’t hear.”

Russell turned 75 this week, and has emerged from seclusion to become an ambassador for the NBA and mentor to its young players at a time when the league really needs one. I say this not because the league is in bad shape, because it’s not. I say this because it has a tremendous opportunity to truly enter another “golden era of basketball,” as Stern always says.

The kids are gonna be all right, but they need some guidance. They need to remember where they came from, need someone to look up to. Russell can help.

When the laughter died down and the room went quiet, Russell’s famously hoarse voice went soft, the emotion of the moment tightening his throat.

“Very seriously,” Russell said, “what I’m going to do next week is visit my father’s grave. Because he was my hero and I’m going to share this with him.”


Posted on: February 4, 2009 7:42 pm

LeBron: One All-Star is 'smack in the face'

NEW YORK -- An hour before taking the floor where Kobe Bryant scored an arena-record 61 points two nights ago, LeBron James had a lot on his mind. One topic about which he did not mince words: The Cavs getting slighted with only one All-Star in voting by fans and coaches.

"That’s totally disrespectful to give us one All Star," James said in the Madison Square Garden interview room before Cleveland played the Knicks Wednesday night. "... You look at all the teams with some of the best records in this league. You look at the Lakers, they have two All Stars. Orlando, two All Stars. Boston, two All Stars. San Antonio, two All Stars. These are all the good teams in the league that have really good records. And then you look at us -- one All Star. So it’s a total smack in the face."

The Cav who was snubbed, Mo Williams, probably will be selected by commissioner David Stern to replace injured guard Jameer Nelson of Orlando. If Stern wasn't leaning toward selecting Williams over Boston's Ray Allen for Nelson's spot, he probably is now. LeBron knows what newspapers (and websites) the commissioner reads.

Cavs coach Mike Brown said he wouldn't ask his fellow coaches whether they voted for Williams; they wouldn't tell him the truth, anyway.

"Guys are gonna say, 'Yeah, I voted for your guy,' but you really don’t know," Brown said. "I'll never find out. I just know that our team should have been more represented, in my opinion. And that’s not to say this person should have been off and that person should have been off. We should have had at least another guy on that team from the beginning."

Posted on: January 9, 2009 6:06 pm
Edited on: January 9, 2009 8:52 pm

NBA to Blazers: Buzz off (UPDATE)

Neither David Stern nor the NBA office had any public comment Friday about the Portland Trail Blazers' memo to teams warning them they would face litigation if they signed Darius Miles. That doesn't mean the league was silent on the matter, though.

League sources confirmed that the NBA office sent a memo to all 30 teams Friday letting them know that they are permitted to sign Miles to a contract, and that the league office would approve that contract. It was a blow to the Blazers' efforts to prevent teams from signing Miles, whose remaining $18 million spread over this year and next would go back on Portland's books if he plays two more games this season.

It was an unprecedented step and another twist in the Miles saga, which could cripple the Blazers' bid to be a force in free agency over the next two summers. Miles cleared waivers Friday and has the full support of the NBA Players Association, whose executive director, Billy Hunter, said he was "appalled" by Portland's actions.

UPDATE: Blazers president Larry Miller was defiant in a national conference call with reporters Friday night, defending the team's threat of legal action and insisting he'd heard "rumblings" that teams were considerig signing Miles once he cleared waivers specifically to hurt the Blazers. He declined to name the team or teams involved.

"This was our way of responding to that and letting folks know that we weren’t going to take that sitting down," said Miller, noting that the top decision-makers in the organization were involved in the step of warning rival teams with a league-wide memo saying they would be sued if they signed Miles for "malicious reasons." The decision was made by Miller, general manager Kevin Pritchard, business executive Tod Leiweke, and owner Paul Allen.

Miller also revealed that he consulted with the league office before the litigation notice was sent. "I told them this was what we were planning to send out," Miller said. "And they told us if that is what we felt we should do, we should do it."

Miller said he'd received feedback from rival executives about the unusual threat -- some of it positive, some of it negative. "We wouldn't change the way we approached this," he said.

Confronted with the notion that the players' association could use collusion as one basis on which to challenge the Blazers' threat, Miller said, "Hey, that's their job, and we have no problem with that because we’re not trying to do anything to hurt Darius Miles. This was about other teams trying to hurt us."

The unprecedented step taken by Portland to protect the disabled player exemption on Miles was fueled by financial implications -- about $8 million in luxury-tax money to be paid to all teams under the tax -- plus the desire to maintain cap flexibility for future signings. Miller also mentioned that making the Blazers profitable, which he said they've never been, also was factored in. Attorneys were not consulted before the memo was sent, Miller said.

 "This was a business decision," he said. "We felt maybe this was a way for us to protect our organization."


Posted on: January 9, 2009 5:56 pm

Somebody finally stands up to Barkley

When Charles Barkley admitted losing millions at the blackjack table, the NBA and broadcast partner TNT wanted no part of it publicly. League officials warned Barkley privately about his damaging behavior -- especially in light of the Tim Donaghy scandal -- but no official action was taken by the NBA or TNT against the large and loquacious Hall of Famer-turned-TV personality.

Given the embarrassing nature of Barkley's arrest on suspicion of drunken driving Dec. 31 in Arizona, there was no running from Barkley's latest skirmish with the law. This was the kind of lapse in judgment the NBA can't afford from its most famous airwaves ambassador. So in response to the news that Barkley will take an indefinite leave of absence from his TNT broadcast duties, I say good. It's the right move.

Call it a slap on the wrist if you like, but neither the NBA nor TNT is a court of law. Barkley, 45, had a blood-alcohol content nearly twice the legal limit, according to toxicology tests, and was in too much of a hurry to secure a romantic rendevous to bother stopping at a red light. The legal process will handle that. An intern with TNT or the NBA, for that matter, arrested under similar circumstances no doubt would have become another unemployment statistic by now. That's not the point; I think we can all accept by now that athletes and all types of celebrities are treated differently in the workplace and in society.

The point is that TNT -- presumably with Stern's blessing -- did the right thing. Not only that, they did something no one -- not a single referee, coach, opposing player, or even Stern -- has ever been able to do.

They silenced Charles Barkley. The TNT telecasts will be a lot less entertaining without him. But for the good of everyone involved, it's a silence we should welcome and applaud.




Category: NBA
Posted on: December 16, 2008 1:45 pm
Edited on: December 16, 2008 1:48 pm

David Stern rules the world (of sports business)

Sports Business Journal's annual list of the 50 most influential people in sports is out, and NBA Commissioner David Stern is third -- first among major pro sports commissioners.


Stern received credit for steering the league through the potentially devastating officiating scandal, expanding the league's global footprint, and partnering with the NCAA to clean up youth basketball.

Full disclosure: Sean McManus, the president of CBS Sports and CBS News, is eighth -- up one spot from 2007.

The rest of the NBA-related titans who made the list:

11. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG. Serves on the board of the Los Angeles Lakers, overseeing Philip Anschutz's 30 percent stake in the team and Staples Center.

14. Charlie Denson, president, Nike Brand.

15. Herbert Hainer, chairman and CEO, Adidas.

16. David Levy, president, Turner Sports. The Atlanta-based media company has added control of the NBA's digital media business to its TNT coverage of the league.

23. Jeffrey Kessler, attorney. Outside counsel to both NBA and NFL players.

24. Adam Silver, deputy NBA commissioner. The force behind Stern's global initiative, Silver also spearheaded the recent deal allowing NBA teams to control their local digital rights to stream games live on their Web sites.

27. Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group. Primarily through agents Arn Tellem and Warren LeGarie, WMG represents a cross-section of top players and coaches in the league. You know Wasserman is influential when he's listed ahead of No. 28, Hal Steinbrenner.

34. Kevin Plank, CEO and founder, Under Armour. Long a boutique to Nike's behemoth, Under Armour is making inroads in the basketball apparel market.

35. Mark Cuban, owner, Dallas Mavericks. How Cuban rebounds from insider trading charges will affect his image and influence.

38. Peter Moore, president, EA Sports. NBA Live, enough said.

44. Billy Hunter, executive director, NBA Players Association. Good news: Hunter has gotten his players the highest average salary in major American sports. Bad news: Owners are feeling the pinch, and negotiations on extending the agreement beyond 2011 will be contentious -- so much so that Hunter said recently he's preparing for another lockout.

46. Rick Dudley, president and CEO, Octagon. Agency represents numerous NBA players, including Chris Paul.

48. Michael Levine, co-head, CAA Sports. Stable of agents includes super-agent Leon Rose, who represents LeBron James.







The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com