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June 6, 2013
MIAMI, FLORIDA: Game One
THE MODERATOR: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our pre‑Finals press conference with Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. We'll start with an opening statement from the Commissioner and have your questions.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Thanks for coming. It's great to be here. I would say this is probably the most anticipated Finals in who knows, 30 years. We've had a great run‑up to it. I was just looking at some numbers, the seventh game on TNT was the highest‑rated game in the history of our relationship. And that's almost three decades with the Turner Organization. So it tells you something about the interest in this game.
And that interest is going to be expressed tonight by fans in probably 215 countries enjoying the game in 46 or 7 different languages. And they should, because we've got two teams who are no strangers to The Finals. We've got two teams that have more than one championship ring. We've got a group of players who are going to be in the Hall of Fame. And we expect to have a heck of a series, probably the best that I could possibly expect for my last Finals.
We've had a great year. I think the NBA is literally at the top of its game. And it has no place to go but up, rather than no place to go but down. It's going straight up. Globally, digitally, television, and we're excited about the upcoming season when we'll play games in eight international cities. And we're trying to finalize arrangements for a couple of regular‑season games in international markets, and everything is really, really very good.
As we're here planning for The Finals, we're working on the draft, the Las Vegas Summer League, and the international games as well. So it's a busy, busy all around. And that's it. It's all good. And we're happy to answer any questions.
Q. Commissioner, good evening.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Good evening.
Q. I know you have several more months on the job. As you go through the last Finals or the last anything, are you stopping to savor these moments a little bit more? And what are some of the ways in which you're doing that as you go through all this for the final time?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. Gregg Popovich has managed his team in such a way it is now positioned with a chance to win a fifth title in 14 years. As a coach who has had great success for 16 years, he obviously felt the need back on November 29th to rest four players when the Spurs played here in Miami. Yes, it was a TNT game, but his greater goal seemed to be long term, to win a title. Do you regret penalizing the Spurs so severely for taking an action that now appears to be strategically sound?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Are you reading? (Laughter).
Q. I was.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: The simple answer is no. Next question.
I have to add something. Pop is a great coach, a Hall of Famer, and a visionary. 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. And that's the dilemma recognizing that there are games to be played within games.
And of course I would never, never tell a coach that he shouldn't rest a player that needs rest. We understand that completely. And that's not what we did.
Q. David, considering how prevalent it's been through these playoffs, how do you feel about the current usage of the replay rule? And what concerns or thoughts do you have about it going forward?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
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.
Because I think as David said, we want to get it right. But that's the biggest issue now and that's the delay in the action.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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 ‑‑
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: Except the official.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: ‑‑ 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.
Q. David you've always looked out for the product on the floor making it look good, whether it's hand‑checking or isolation, making a good product out there. But things now you seem to want to clean up, flopping doesn't seem to be going away. The issue of resting players, doesn't seem like there's an answer to it right now. Are you discouraged?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: No. There's nothing new in the world. We learned that in a historical context in what's going on around us, floods of a biblical nature and the like as we sit here awaiting the tornado.
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 andmaybe 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.
Q. With regard to flopping, David, I know that was a big cause of yours. When you see some of the very prominent plays in the Conference Finals, did it tell you that maybe the policy wasn't enough? I know this is year one.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. Having seen it in action now for one year plus playoffs, do you feel that you have enough data, the League has enough data to go the next step for next year?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. Adam, you've had a front row seat on David's job for a number of years. I was wondering which of the duties that will become yours will you miss David in most? What are the things you wish you could hand off to him.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You're allowed to say "not at all."
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: These press conferences. I have a birds' eye view of how he handles it. I will miss having David here to answer the tough questions.
I think certainly on the disciplinary side I'm glad I have never had to sit in that seat. I've weighed in over the years. I think that puts anyone. CEO, Commissioner, in a difficult position when it's our friends, colleagues, bosses, owners. But I think it has to be done. And I think David has demonstrated that swift justice, while not always perfect, is the right and best way to operate a sports league.
Q. Until two weeks ago there was a strong possibility that the Indiana Pacers and the Memphis Grizzlies could have been here at these Finals. And I can't help but feel with all my colleagues, listening to what they say, listening to what the networks say about the League, that there's a strong sense that if Roy Hibbert, David West, Paul George, Marc Gasol and Z‑Bo (Randolph) were here, people would have a hard time getting excited. When I say "people," I'm talking about television viewers, I'm talking about the media, I'm talking about even people in the League. Is there something the League needs to do so that when Memphis and Indiana are here, instead of Tim Duncan and LeBron James, that you and Adam can get up there and say, this is the most unbelievable Finals in 30 years?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You have defined the problem your very self.
It's not us. It's our networks, it's the people who attribute views to us that we don't hold. In fact, everything that we have done in terms of collective bargaining is designed to level the playing field and allow teams that are well managed, no matter what their market size, to be in The Finals actually speaks against the conclusion that has been pushed by the media.
We are delighted that teams in the lower half of the league, including Miami, have the opportunity to compete for a championship. And I think here we are this year probably having moved it a little bit further along where the event will define the teams rather than the teams defining the event. This is the NBA Finals.
The best example of that of course is the NFL. You're in the Super Bowl, it doesn't matter who is in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh against New Orleans, et cetera. It's just a fixation that the media around us has, becauseas I see it one more time, well, the people in the league office‑‑ never an attribution. No eyewitness accounts. Then again it's our friends in the media. And very sophisticated media, too, that just keeps saying that.
We love it. We love the fact that we're here with Miami and San Antonio. If it were Memphis and Indiana, and they had fought their way through to be in the championship, that would be great, too. It would be great on a global basis. We have no doubt.
Q. What do the networks need to do so when Memphis and Indiana meet the ratings are just as high as when San Antonio and Miami‑‑
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, they need to do the kind of promotion. They need to get the people that work for them to stop asking questions like that, and really just promote it. We'll promote it. That's what we'll do. And you'll see it. It will take care of itself.
The whole small market thing is‑‑ this is a league that prides itself on Oklahoma City, Memphis, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Indianapolis, on and on and on. Those are the cities that make it in to our league. And if they're good and they've got a young Bill Walton, they'll do all right. That's the way it works.
Q. The All‑Star Game hasn't been here in Miami since 1990. Is there any desire to bring your midseason event back here? And if you are looking for a large venue, with the new Miami Marlins ballpark, which seats 37,000, would make it more appealing.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: We would love to bring the All‑Star Game back to Miami. Eric Woolworth, the president of the Heat, is here. We've had discussions with the Arisons and with Eric about bringing All‑Star Weekend back to Miami. It's a function of hotel availability, convention center arena and other things. If there's an ongoing discussion, we would love to be there.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Is it also Art Basel?
Q. Boat show.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We've been in constant contact with them on that subject.
Q. I take advantage of my turn to have two questions. The first is about why do you say goodbye after 30 years? And what were the strongest points and the things that the NBA has still to improve? And my second question is about Manu Ginobili because he's from my country. I would like to know what does he represent? What does he mean for the league along these 11 seasons?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Did I hear you say why am I saying goodbye?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I see. Well, I'm saying goodbye because I think that one of the best things that an executive can do is provide for a plan of succession. And when I step down on February 1, 2014, Adam Silver will have worked with me in five different capacities for 22 years. I consider that succession plan to be one of the best things that I've done in the job. And that's why.
And I also think that at some time an organization can use an infusion of different ideas. And at the same time, along the 30 years, there are a group of colleagues that now work at the NBA who have been doing it for a while, but they're very, very young at heart and push us and push each other. And I think it's their turn to shine as well a little bit more.
So it's time to step down and step aside. While at the same time being willing to assist in any way I can, particularly internationally. To me that's the sweet spot thatI can ‑‑ where they respect some hair that's white. I'm not saying anything about Adam.
And about Ginobili, he's the representative of a country that has given us great players. It's been on display at the Olympics in the national team. It's been a pleasure to watch him lead the Argentinean team. I haven't learned quite the song and the dance when they win in the Olympics, but it's a pleasure to watch.
I think he just has a way of making big shots in big games whenever you think the games have been lost by San Antonio. He has a way to step up and do it. He's been a delight to be with, but I think his representation of Argentina and the kind of game that gets played and the way those Argentinean players have played together for so many years, I think he has helped introduce us to the beauty of the national team. And in some ways has inspired what has happened with our national team, which wasn't the place where players were necessarily thinking about going to, but now youngsters want to play for the17‑and‑over, 19, 23 and ultimately for the U.S. national team in the Olympics.
So we owe a debt of gratitude to Manu and many other great Argentinean players.
Q. Since this is technically your last state of the league address‑‑
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Not just technical.
Q. Commissioner during The Finals. You joined the league as an outside counsel in '66. You seen the league go from 10 to 30 teams. You oversaw drug testing, lockouts, the rise of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird. If you had to put in a nutshell what your greatest accomplishments and your greatest regrets, what would you say?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I wouldn't list anything. I would just say that you look at the body of work and you say that he steered the good ship NBA in a productive way. We have had a lot that we've had to deal with in terms of crisis on the one hand and opportunity on the other. And we've dealt with the crises to protect the motherlode. 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 1978 when I joined the League's office as general counsel, it's a completely different animal.
You know, no regrets. I think that we on the plus side our players are getting the respect that they deserve. And we have to work hard to make sure that they succeed in life, not only when they are players, but when they retire. And that requires a much closer collaboration with the union about that, and we're very much into that phase of it now.
But like in some ways it's probably like flopping, and I forget what else I was asked about, we'll always be improving it. There's so much to improve. But I get a huge kick out of the full basketball cycle. The D League, the WNBA, a lottery, the draft, the Las Vegas Summer League, The Finals. Everything that just envelops us and the world. And that just, I think, makes me feel very good about our current state of the league.
But particularly our players. And every time we can't nurture players, whether it's for one reason or another, to play at their best and be the best they can be, that to me is a failure. If they don't succeed in life after basketball, it's on us a bit, too.
Q. The last CBA basically takes a team like the Heat, if they want to stay together, pay an exorbitant luxury tax, probably put it in a revenue‑losing situation. My question is, with everything the Heat delivers to this league this year, the 27‑game winning streak which added additional broadcasts for Turner and for ESPN, is it necessarily a bad thing to have teams like this as opposed to wind up in a situation like Oklahoma City where they sell off a player like James Harden, and can't be a super team? And maybe is the luxury tax too punitive considering what you have in place now with Miami and the ratings they've helped deliver?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Ira, are you listening?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. To follow it up, with what the Heat delivered this year, you said ratings were terrific for the Eastern Conference Finals, is there any part of you as a promoter and marketer that would prefer to have this Heat team stay intact for all it delivered this year and the past two?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. When you have James Harden and Oklahoma City, the team making a decision to trade him, in part a financial decision. Memphis with Rudy Gay, in part with a financial situation. Indiana may have a financial decision to make with Danny Granger. At what point do you think you will know that the combination of luxury tax and revenue sharing will, in fact, make it so that as you said, the goal was regardless of market size, you can compete and make it to the NBA Finals?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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.
Q. You sort of answered the question I was going to ask with George Karl getting fired today. I believe it's 13 teams that are going to have new coaches by the start of next season. Do you think that that pressure or that belief that everybody has a chance is contributing to that? And is that a good thing?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: 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 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.
One more question. If there is one.
Q. You should do a lightning round.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: All right. Lightning round.
Q. How did you feel the day Magic actually announced that he had the HIV virus?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I thought he was going to die. I was thunderstruck with sadness and fear for him.
The happiest day was when I got to give him a big hug at the Orlando All‑Star Game, and when he hit that three and was the MVP of the game. Now when I give him a hug and I get my arms around him, because he put on a few pounds‑‑ do you hear that, Magic? But now he lost it all, so he looks great and he's as healthy as a horse. And it's one of the joys of this job to see that.
Q. Did you say the bodies were buried and you buried them yourself?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Something like that.
Q. Where are they?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I have them. I have a map. I have a map. And I'm going to put it in one of the envelopes I'm leaving for Adam. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: On behalf of the whole room, thank you.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Thank you.
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