As he does during every NBA All-Star Weekend, David Stern held a press conference at Staples Center this afternoon. I was considering not going, and just checking out the transcript when it was available, but I decided that I needed to see exactly how smug he was as he was answering questions.
In case you weren't aware, David Stern is a super impressive dude. He handles his press conferences with aplomb, and I have to say, the smug-meter was dialed back nicely today. As is often the case in these things, much of his time was spent eloquently saying very little. But there were some interesting tidbits of information nonetheless.
The Commissioner opened with a prepared statement. He said that "The game is in great shape; it's never been better" - a sentiment that wasn't exactly in keeping with his later comments concerning what he described as ongoing financial losses for the league.
As you might expect, the bulk of the questions focused on the negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the teams and the NBA Player's Association. The Commissioner at one point characterized the gap between the two sides as "huge", but also expressed encouragement that both sides have now indicated that they are "willing to talk about everything."
When asked about the Lakers' massive new TV contract and it's implications for revenue sharing in the league, Stern stated flat out that "a robust revenue sharing plan... is going to occur at the same time as we make a new CBA." He later stated that there was "broad consensus" about the need for a new revenue sharing scheme, which has to good news to teams in small markets.
Other questions focused on specific ownership situations. Stern said that he is pleased with what's happening in New Orleans in the NBA's direct ownership of the Hornets. He stated that the league was leaving the situation in Sacramento up to "the Maloofs and the people of Sacramento" and that he was not aware of any of the specifics of discussions between the Maloofs and representatives of the Pond in Anaheim. When asked about contraction, he said, somewhat contradictorily, that it was "not on the table" but that "we'll be discussing [it] internally." Hmmm. When asked about the possibility of a team in Kansaas City, he said that there would not be any expansion "for the foreseeable future."
In the end, the assembled media mostly wanted details on the CBA negotiations, and the Commissioner was having none of that. I think the majority of his answers can be summed up best with this quote:
In broad generalities, what we are looking to do is make our league more competitive, and in order to do that, there are certain system changes that cover a lot of different subjects that change the status quo, and we'll have to see how the discussions go on those. I don't propose to list them here and to negotiate here.
Broad generalities indeed.
In the end, let's hope that Commissioner Stern was correct when he said that the league and the NBAPA learned a lot in the lockout in 1998, and that they will do everything necessary to avoid that fate this time around.