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June 12, 2012
OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA: Game One
DAVID STERN:Â Thank you, and thank you, everyone, for being here.Â It's been a great year for us, as I've said before.Â It was better than we expected, and indeed it was better than we could have hoped for.Â Our fans have expressed their admiration for this game in record numbers this year, and we think that's what it's all about, the game.
The teams in the Playoffs played their hearts out, and our fans at every level got a great, great show.Â Congratulations to the players and the teams and the owners and the cities who are here.Â It's a fascinating match‑up to watch the Heat.Â They have, according to them, some unfinished business.Â It was interesting as a fan to watch that team being constructed, the big three and those around it, and it's very interesting to see the Thunder and the way they've been constructed.Â And it's also interesting to see the way the state of Oklahoma has taken to these Oklahoma City Thunder.Â It's very rewarding that the NBA could play a part in really the growth and literally the excitement that this city that has suffered so much is seeing and having.
So we're going to have a great Finals; I know it.Â We're going to be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Q.Â Do you think perhaps this, in light of the way the new collective bargaining agreement is going to play out, the way teams are going to be formed, is this perhaps an old‑school way with Miami spending money for big‑name free agents versus the future of the NBA which is the Sam Presti, San Antonio, kind of draft, build a team from a ground up?
DAVID STERN:Â Actually I don't think so because I think it can be done either way, because in the future there will be teams that will be below the cap and seek to improve themselves by dropping below.Â The key feature for us, and I'll let Adam add to it, but the key feature for me is the leveling of the playing field, because you have to get under the cap.Â So even if you're a big team, what they call a big market, I don't think that is going to be relevant anymore.
Think hard cap.Â It's everyone's the same.Â Ours isn't quite as hard as we could have liked, but it's still going to be an important component, and so teams will be very harshly judged on their drafts and on their use of cap money that they have available for the signing of free agents.
ADAM SILVER:Â I'll just add to what David said, which is in the case of the Miami Heat and also with Oklahoma City, they were not built by going over the cap.Â In fact, in order for Miami to attract those free agents, specifically LeBron and Chris, they had to get under the cap to do that.
And now under this new system, and it's accentuated from the old system, they face difficult decisions on keeping their teams together, and that was the way the system was designed.Â Of course if we would have gotten a hard cap, they would have had no choice, and now they're going to have to balance going over the cap, potentially being a taxpayer, against the team they're able to field on the court.Â And that's how the system is supposed to work.
Q.Â You spoke about Oklahoma earlier.Â Can you speak about it personally?Â You're the one who stood beside the city during the Hornets relocation and also during the relocation from Seattle.
DAVID STERN:Â Well, I guess I would say I think of it fondly.Â The first time I met Mayor Mick and he said he wanted a team, I said, you really ought to pursue another league, impressed as I was by the various plans that have been adopted, it seemed as though they were building canals, rivers, Bricktowns, you name it, this place was building it.Â But then when Hurricane Katrina struck, and I spoke to George Shinn, I said there's a place I think you ought to talk to.Â And he said, okay, where is that.Â And I showed him on a map.Â And he did, and Mayor Mick and Clay Bennett and the business community and everyone sort of stepped up and recognized that they were going to be, in effect, taking care of a borrowed team with a tragedy of its own that it was dealing with.
And the NBA, all of our owners, our fans even, were so warmed by that, that that enhanced greatly the opportunity for Oklahoma City to have a team.
I said it was a failure of ours that we were not able to persuade Seattle that there should be a new building, and we didn't like the fact that the team moved.Â We approved it, but that was what happened, and Oklahoma City has not disappointed the NBA, the people of Oklahoma, or all of our owners and fans around the world.
Q.Â David, you have referred to the block charge plays, and flops in particular, as attempts maybe to fool the referees.Â What would you like to see happen?Â Is it something that the competition committee would look at?Â Would you expect some different way to legislate that?
DAVID STERN:Â I think it's something‑‑ I know it is something that the competition committee will look at because it's meeting on the 18th, and I've seen the agenda.Â So it will be looking at an array of things.Â It will be looking at ways of adding additional replay.Â Flopping almost doesn't do it justice.Â Trickery.Â Deceit.Â Designed to cause the game to be decided other than on its merits.Â We'll be looking at that.Â We'll be looking at a number of things that make it easier for us to say to our fans what we all know to be true:Â our referees want to get everything right.
Instant replay and elimination of tricks that are designed either to fool the ref, or if you don't fool the ref, to make the fans think that the refs made a bad call by not calling it, that shouldn't have a place in our game.
Q.Â With Miami having the glitz and glitter and Oklahoma City being located in a Midwestern Bible belt area, is this a dream match‑up for the league and TV ratings?
DAVID STERN:Â You know, you're talking to a commissioner.Â Everything is a dream match‑up.Â But this is really an interesting match‑up for us because these are‑‑ we've got Kevin and LeBron with terrific supporting casts and the different ways referenced earlier about the way the teams were built, and both of those teams being supported‑‑ I can always tell whether it's white and blue or just white, where the home game is.Â It's really very exciting, and it's going to be, we think, a great match‑up, and America is very interested in getting to it.
Q.Â Can you talk about the impact that Clay Bennett has had on this league as an NBA owner, because he's not one who's very public, he's not in your face, he's not bombastic, he hasn't been forced by you to make any contributions to the Starbucks Coffee Fund through being fined, but he's very low profile, and very few people have really heard of him.
DAVID STERN:Â Well, I guess I would say that we first‑‑ I first met Clay when he was representing a limited partner with the San Antonio Spurs, so he has a good deal of NBA experience.Â He was the person who led the business community in hosting the Hornets when they came here.
You know, he ultimately made the decision, to our delight, that he would be the CEO of the team, because he wanted to make sure that every sponsor was well treated, every seat was well filled, and he's been a terrific owner.Â And all I can say is that he's now a member of the advisory finance committee, and he's the chair of the relocation committee, so you can tell the respect that we have for him and the other owners have for him at the league level.Â So it's been terrific all around.
Q.Â Adam, I wanted to follow up on something you talked about at the draft lottery, going to 23 under for the Olympics.Â I wasn't clear, will that rule also be in effect at the World Cup or will the World Cup we open to all ages?
ADAM SILVER:Â The notion would be that it was following the global soccer model.Â For the Olympics only, it would be 23 and under, and then for the World Cup of basketball just like with the World Cup of soccer/football, that competition would be eligible to anyone.
Q.Â And David, there was a screening last night of the 20‑year anniversary of the Dream Team, and there was old footage of you, and there was a great quote, and it said if you're going to ban the best American basketball players, we might as well ban the Kenyans from the 10,000 meter because they're winning it all the time.
DAVID STERN:Â I said that?
Q.Â You said it and everybody is going to watch it on that show because it's a pretty good program.Â I know there's a lot of pressure from the owners to keep some of their franchise players from some of the competition and the Olympics, Mark Cuban has been very vocal about it.Â I want to know how do you feel about that rule limiting the Olympics to 23 and under?
DAVID STERN:Â On a personal basis, I think we got a lot out of the Olympics.Â We helped grow our coverage of our game.Â We helped grow the game.Â The result has been extraordinary.Â We are in 215 countries, whereas we were probably in 80 in 1992, countries and territories.Â We have 80 international players, and back then we had a handful.Â And the growth of the game and the appreciation for it has been so great.
But I think it's appropriate to step back and take stock of where we're going.Â And I do have some great deal of sympathy for those teams whose players grow up in a way that says, I will play under any circumstance for my country, regardless of the injury to me and the threat to my career.Â And I understand that.Â And maybe those players are put under enormous pressure to play for their homeland, and perhaps an age limitation would remove some of the pressure from them, while nevertheless giving them an opportunity when they're young to play for their country in the Olympics, to allow them to play for their country in the World Cup like they do in the World Cup of soccer.
And so I think there might be a better balance than we currently have.Â All we knew was the model that we knew, and that's what we've done, but I think it's appropriate to take a look at it and see what the right way is.Â And maybe we'll do nothing, but I think it's something that the owner dialogue‑‑ this is not just a response to Mark Cuban.Â In fact, usually when Mark says something, I try to go the other way (smiling), but actually when he is right about something, he may actually be right, and here I think he actually has a point.Â I really do.
Q.Â Have you had any talks recently with the union regarding the B list issues?Â If so, has there been any resolution, and if not, when do you anticipate resolution?
ADAM SILVER:Â Yeah, in fact, I spoke to Billy Hunter about the B list issue about a week or so ago, and we agreed once the season was over, we would reconvene and continue discussing those issues.
Q.Â Any timetable on finishing them before the start of next season?
ADAM SILVER:Â You know, it depends on the issue.Â For example, age is on that issue, we know we're not going to impact age for next year.Â Some of the other so‑called quality of life issues for the players are things that could be implemented immediately once we begin discussing them.Â So we had an open dialogue about the way we were going to approach it.Â I think there's practical issues, as well.
Of course Derek is still president of the union, he's still actively engaged in the season, that's part of the hold‑up, as well, but we hope to turn to something once the season ends.
Q.Â Question about two franchises.Â One is can you comment on the status of the Grizzlies sale, and also, has anything changed in Seattle since they lost their team to make it more likely they'd get another one?
DAVID STERN:Â Well, the Grizzlies sale, we received the contract last night.Â That's currently being analyzed, and we are going to start both having the lawyers analyze it and go through the standard and somewhat boring process of getting all the facts we need to know for approval by the board of governors.Â So that's where we are with the Grizzlies.
With Seattle, I had a visit from the mayor, Mayor McGinn‑‑ was it yesterday?Â It was yesterday.Â Seems a long time ago.Â Yesterday he was in, and he explained to us they have a place that is zoned for an arena, that the land has been purchased by the party who wants to both put an arena there and buy a team, and he's securing the support of the Seattle City Council and the King County Council, and it is their hope that if there is a building going up and there is a team available that they would float bonds to support the team, the bonds would be repaid by the additional revenue that would be generated by the arena that would be built otherwise with private funds.
Q.Â David, you mentioned all the ways the season was successful, especially considering where you came from back in the summer and fall.Â Was it also successful from a financial standpoint?Â First, what are the final numbers on profit/loss for this year?Â And can you tell us by starting on Christmas roughly what percentage of the national broadcast revenue the league received?
DAVID STERN:Â Well, I can tell you that we actually, by starting on Christmas and based upon other negotiations, we were able to secure the entirety of the league broadcast revenues for this year.Â But we nevertheless lost 20 percent of the season and 20 percent of our games and 20 percent of our local TV revenues and the like.
But I don't know‑‑ I haven't looked at the results of the combined financials, and I don't think that this would be a great year to see how that works because it might even be artificially good or bad, I'm not even sure.Â But I do know that we're moving in the right direction, that‑‑ Adam?
ADAM SILVER:Â As you know, the process is under way right now.Â The union is part of the process in determining BRI, so we don't know yet where we came out for this season.Â We had certain projections.Â While we might have ultimately received all the television money, we lost a lot of sponsorship money, we lost a lot of obviously ticket money because of the reduction in games.
DAVID STERN:Â And international, as well.
ADAM SILVER:Â And international, as well.Â So that process, together with the union, is under way right now.
Q.Â A lot of attention has been drawn to refereeing in the league, between the flopping discussions, the NBA website has opened up a clarification NBA officials site, and as well a former referee is stepping into the broadcasting booth‑‑
DAVID STERN:Â All good.
Q.Â First question, how would you characterize the state of referees, and secondly, are you comfortable with all the attention?
DAVID STERN:Â The state of the referees is spectacular for human beings.Â What's the next question?
Q.Â Are you comfortable with the amount of attention that's being drawn?
DAVID STERN:Â Well, I think that‑‑ I think that there is going to be a lot of attention brought to everything about our game.Â It's just the way we are now.Â With social media, with the commentary that's going around, with 300 million followers and friends and likes and you name it, there's always a reason for a dialogue, usually occasioned by somebody in this room, because otherwise you can't tweet and say I've got nothing to tweet about.
So at least for a weekend you can tweet about the calls and the fight in Las Vegas or the NHL's boarding penalty, but here we go, we're back, and we'll be front and center, and that's our lot, and that's good, because you're here, you're talking about us, you're writing about us.
And the sure‑fire things that will get you are flopping, tanking, conspiracy, you know, and there's probably another three or four you can add to the short list.Â It's always good for a tweet or two.
I would like to add a couple of things.Â I don't know how close we are to the end.Â I did want to say, I saw Big Bob here, and I'm reminded that Big Bob is the NBA Cares global ambassador, and we're going to be doing a learning and playing center at the City Rescue Mission tomorrow that we do everyplace where we go, but that's important to us.Â And the Thunder will be there in full regalia, as well.
When we finish this Finals, we've got a really busy summer.Â We've got the‑‑ in addition to the WNBA, which is in full swing, and whose women are going for their fifth gold medal in a row‑‑ write that down, Abbott, wise guy, anti‑feminist, who was occasioned by a laugh when I mentioned the Wwhose players have delivered ‑ do you want to shift the blame‑ going for their fifth gold medal in a row.Â It may even make it on to some portal at ESPN, a side pocket of some kind (smiling), because us guys don't want to give us too much coverage.Â And oh, yes, the men's team will be going for another gold medal, as well.
We're doing Basketball without Borders, we did one in Tokyo, we're going to do one in Moscow and Johannesburg.
And talking about the state of officials, which I think is great, the state of one official is not so good, and that's Greg Willard, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and Greg, if you're watching tonight, the reason the refs are wearing No.57 is the collective hopes and prayers of an entire staff is hoping for a recovery for you.Â So think about that.
Q.Â Given that the Sacramento arena situation seems to have fallen apart yet again, do you see any resolution to that where that team winds up staying there?Â And secondly, if there was a vote now amongst the owners, do you detect that there's any‑‑ would there be a lot of support for a move to the Anaheim area?
DAVID STERN:Â If there was a vote, there would be no support for a move, but I‑‑ and I believe the ownership says they are planning to stay there.Â And on other situations I might hazard a guess for a prognostication.Â On this one, I'm out of the business for now.
Q.Â Kind of back to the block charge, is it your idea to try to find a way for the officials to warn calls, be it replays or whatever, or would you like to see the number of those instances drop, much like the rip play that is still there butit's not there as much?
DAVID STERN:Â You know, we don't like to get into a situation where we tell the officials, this is the rule but don't call so many.Â You won't find us doing that much.Â If there's a rule to be changed, then we'll look at it, and I think there will be a robust discussion about an interpretation or an emphasis about how that should or shouldn't be called.Â There have been suggestions that the circle should be possibly moved, questions about what it means to get in front of the man and be at sort of rest, and I think that's the whole point of having a small group which is similar in size to what the NFL and the NHL do, get together for the purpose of saying, how can we make the game better, let's not be bound by the past.Â And I feel that what I have to contribute there is I am the past.Â So if I can be open to changing it the way I was in 2002, when we made a huge series of changes, huge, that changed the nature of our game, it's time for another look because this great game of ours deserves that look.
Q.Â What is your response to several knuckleheads who have claimed that the draft was rigged?
DAVID STERN:Â But not you?
Q.Â I was not in‑‑
DAVID STERN:Â You're not one of those knuckleheads, okay.Â It's sort of like, okay, be my guest.Â We expect that, as I described before.Â You have to have something to write about.Â Despite that, we have done everything we can.Â We even have invited members of the media in to watch it.Â Imagine that.Â We have representatives, we invite representatives of every team.Â We have the process certified by Ernst& Young.Â But there will always be writing.
I'm less offended by it than I used to be.Â It makes for interesting copy.Â I love the one person who I don't want to give a plug to because of the inanity of his outlook and remarks, but he said, I have absolutely no proof for what I'm going to say, but I think it was fixed.Â I think that sort of sums up that part of the school.
But they're following our lottery, they're going to be following our draft, and I hope at bottom most of them love the game as much as I do.
Q.Â Tomorrow is the hearing for Jeremy Lin and some of the other guys.Â I'm wondering what you anticipate and how quickly you anticipate a decision.
DAVID STERN:Â Well, I'm guessing there has to be a decision before the period of free agency.Â I'm only guessing now.Â You know how those lawyers can be.Â But I think it's going to be relatively fast, and we're anticipating that the ruling is in favor of the view espoused not just by the league but by the clear language of the agreement.
Q.Â The Thunder have a very young corps and the people have said let's see what happens in a couple years, they have to make decisions on a couple of their players who will be free agents.Â When this started, Adam, you kind of made it sound like you didn't get everything you wanted.Â And David, you almost used the words hard cap before.Â Do you think you created something that's almost too tough for teams?
DAVID STERN:Â How can that be?Â If it were a hard cap, then it would be the same as, let's say, the NFL or hockey, and that would be even tougher for teams.Â So I'm really‑‑ I don't mean to sort of push aside the question.Â I want you to sort of give it a little more nuance or definition.Â The reality is that teams, all teams‑‑ we used to talk about it in collective bargaining are going to be faced with player sharing as well as revenue sharing because when your roster gets to a point you're going to have to have too much salary to maintain that roster because of the tax, there are going to be decisions that have to get made, and then other teams will have the ability to share just as they're sharing in revenue, they're ultimately going to share in players.
And that's what a hard cap does, and we strove to get as hard a cap as possible, and the union strove to get something that was not as hard as it might otherwise have been, and we sound of wound up in the middle, although I think it will have ramifications, and we hope it acts as much like a hard cap as possible although probably not completely.
ADAM SILVER:Â I'll just add, I think the ultimate test of this collective bargaining agreement is not how hard so‑called it is for teams or how difficult the decisions are, but will there be a level playing field among teams or will it be, as under the old system, that either owners who are deep pocketed or have significantly more revenue because their markets are larger have a competitive advantage over other teams, and so we'll see.
You know, it's far from a perfect agreement, and it's difficult to predict owner behavior in every league, and I think we won't know until we see the tax provision‑‑ until the tax provision becomes fully implemented and we see how, in fact, teams respond to the new provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.
DAVID STERN:Â But we think we're well on the way to a place where this year is not going to be an anomaly, where you're going to see teams like an Indiana or a Memphis or a Utah together with Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and that small‑market team, Miami, which I think is in the second half.Â But as soon as they acquire a couple of players and the sun shines, everyone says it's a big‑market team.Â It's not.Â It's a mid‑market team, and we like to see that.Â We like to see a number of teams.
Q.Â Are you satisfied the WNBA cap is good?
DAVID STERN:Â Yes, thank you for asking.Â Fifth gold medal in a row they're going for.Â You should come to a game (smiling), and you should bring Abbott with you.Â He might learn something.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports