Blog Entry

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

Posted on: February 14, 2009 10:06 pm

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

Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 11:13 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

selig and stern should both goooooooo, b fired watever, these guys are past their prime, take a note from the NFL.

Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: February 16, 2009 6:02 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

dude, the NBA is nowhere near big time in Philly...the Seventy-Shitters dont come close to selling out unless thy're in the Finals or a big-name player/team comes to town...high school b-ball and the Big 5 generally get more attention than them, and they're way behind the Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies in terms of popularity...they're almost more in line with the Phantoms (Flyers' AHL affiliate), or the Wings (indoor lacrosse)...some of their giveaways to get people to go to their games are ridiculous (like $10 tix for the game on the night of the Phillies' victory parade--i forget exactly what the promo was), and they still can't get anywhere close to a sellout...harold katz really turned people off this team, and while it got a little better when Pat Croce was running them, it's collapsed since he left...

Since: Oct 25, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 3:42 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

NBA matters big time in Detroit, Philly, DC, Denver, Portland, Indianapolis, Chicago and Orlando among others. Might not be the biggest draw in those towns but there are more than enough fans in those places to support a team through think and thin. NHL might have more parity but it has far fewer overall fans. I was in a packed bar in DC Friday night and every one was ooohing and awwwhing about the dunk contest, that would not happen with NHL skills comp, that is for sure.

Since: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2009 1:26 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

So Mr. Stern, I assume that if your job is so-called "price-less" will be willing to take a pay cut like fellow commish roger? Back your words up with action...if you see players taking less salaries in the future, how about you lead by example sir!

Since: Jul 2, 2008
Posted on: February 15, 2009 9:27 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

he is saying that bud selig makes the mos money per year out of all of the commisioners in all of the sports!  18 million per year!

Since: Jul 2, 2008
Posted on: February 15, 2009 9:22 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

That would be 2 hall of famers in the off season, Pierce was already there!

Since: Nov 12, 2008
Posted on: February 15, 2009 6:30 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

Well put Ignateous.  Outside of the few good NBA teams, the rest are the Washington Generals just out there to get beaten.  Last year a sub-500 team made the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.  If the season ended today, the same thing would happen.  And as you pointed out in another post, if (when?) LeBron leaves Cleveland, the Cavaliers head back into obscurity.  The NBA doesn't want parity.  They want the same teams in the finals yearly.


Since: Apr 26, 2007
Posted on: February 15, 2009 5:10 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

What's lacking in the NBA is MANAGEMENT talent, not player talent.

Most of the teams' ownership falls into one (or both) categories: Incompetent or Greedy.

No better example than the Knicks, where Dolan is both incompetent AND greedy.

How does the NFL achieve near-parity with both a salary cap and a draft structure (like the NBA) when they need to field 53 competent-to-superior players as opposed to an NBA team that only needs a rotation of 9-10 players and 2 seldom-used "specialists" and has, as other posters have pointed out, only 6 decent teams?

With the bad economy, the greedy won't spend on their rosters or their arenas and they will not be getting any help from cities anxious to retain their franchises - their leverage is gone.

And the incompetent will just sink lower and lower as their fan base dissipates and their sponsors flee. Nothing like sitting in Portland with 6,000 attendees and listening to the sounds of the game echoing off the walls

Look for contraction if the economy continues to tank for more than a couple of years. And that might not be such a bad thing. It might keep "Stay In School Stern" from drafting eighth-graders.

Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: February 15, 2009 4:51 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

Unless you have an all time great on your team, you have no chance.yah, but i think that's also due to the nature of basketball in that more than any of the 4 major sports, one player can carry a team...yes, a dominating hockey player can make a difference, but you're looking at someone who is only getting between 20 and 25 minutes of ice time per game, and you still need to fill 3 other lines...a SP can dominate a game, but they only go every 5th day...and a QB can lead a high scoring offense, but if the defense can't stop anyone, it wont matter (see Broncos, Denver, 2008)...but in all levels of basketball, a dominant player can carry his team night in and night out...

Since: Jun 25, 2007
Posted on: February 15, 2009 3:55 pm

Stern warns teams of trying times ahead

The NBA sucks.  Fold the league.  Anyone that wastes time watching it or paying money to attend a game needs to have their head examined.  Unless you have an all time great on your team, you have no chance.  There are about 28 teams out there playing that have absolutely no chance.  Fold the league.

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