This afternoon, events at Staples Center kicked off with a press conference by Commissioner David Stern. The Commish rarely speaks without at least a few interesting things to say, and intrigue is higher than normal right now because of the lockout that no one wants but everyone seems to expect. Given the tenuous labor landscape, every utterance that Stern makes in the foreseeable future will be pored over and parsed like a new Bin Laden tape.
The first 10 minutes were given over to Stern's prepared remarks, which were basically a "state of the league" speech. "The game is in great shape" was his lead. He then walked through some ways in which the NBA is more popular than ever before segueing into what everyone in the room wanted to talk about: the labor negotiations. The owners and players' union have made proposals to each other, each side has rejected the other's proposal, and further meetings have been scheduled. Not much new, really, but after the jump I've summarized his follow-up comments about this and a few other topics raised by the press corps.
On Negotiations With the Players' Union: There's no disagreement about what the numbers are. There is, however, disagreement about whether certain items - interest, depreciation and the like - should be included in calculations of basketball-related income (which is the base number used to calculate how much is paid out in player salaries). On this and the other issues separating the owners and players, the gap is "huge." If there is a lockout, Stern will work without salary.
On an NFL-Style "Franchise Player" Tag: It's not something that's been put on the table, but Stern wouldn't be surprised if it "becomes an item of discussion."
On Increased Revenue Sharing: This was something Larry Coon raised, citing the Lakers' lucrative new deal with Time Warner Cable. Stern stated a couple times that there will be more robust revenue sharing in the future, but he detached that issue from what's going on with the players' association. The fundamental problem, he believes, is that aggregate losses league-wide are too high, which is something you can't solve with revenue sharing. "If there are losses... you can't revenue share your way to profit as a league."
On Contraction: Although it's "not currently on the table," it's something the owners will continue to discuss internally.
On Franchise Relocation: Stern is confident about the Hornets' future in New Orleans. He acknowledged that the Sacramento Kings have had negotiations about possibly relocating to Anaheim. Imagine that, folks: three teams in Southern California. No word on whether he can send the Clippers to Sacramento in return.
On the Magenta Carpet: Stern hasn't been invited to walk it.
On Tim Donaghy: Yep, him again. Henry Abbott posed a question about this. I'll reprint it and Stern's response in full because they've kind of amusing.
Abbott: I don't know if you've seen this new book about the Donaghy scandal, but having read it myself, three of the four conspirators have said something on the record to somebody, and they are unanimous - the fourth, by the way, is Donaghy himself - and they are unanimous that he was really good at winning bets on games he officiated, really bad at winning bets on any other games, and he was gambling on games since 2003 until he left the league and the report that he looked at 16 games. How confident can we be that there are not fixed games in the NBA?
Stern: I have not read the new book or seen it, although I'm happy with each All-Star Weekend or Finals to present an opportunity for a convicted felon to issue yet another tome on his misdeeds. So we'll see if there's anything new suggested. Mr. [Lawrence] Pedowitz will be asked to continue to review it as we have with each one that has been published, because we want to make sure that we get to the bottom of it all. But right now, I don't have any more information other than I know you always confirm your sources, so I commend you to confirmed the convicted felon's sources.
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