David Stern on the Post-Lockout NBA Playoffs: “The Players That Stayed in Better Shape Did Better”

NBA commissioner David Stern made the media rounds Wednesday morning, one day after the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Miami Heat in a highly watched Game 1 of the NBA Finals. And despite all the good news, he seemed to get himself in a bit of trouble, especially thanks to a controversial answer to a question about the draft lottery being fixed. In this interview, Stern discusses how the NBA season went so well despite the fact that it began with a lockout. And he goes on to say that the players that kept themselves in shape during the lockout are the ones still standing, while the rest that trained less hard are home for the offseason. David Stern joined WFAN in New York with Mike Francesa to discuss the ratings of Game 1 of the Finals, the success story that is Oklahoma City, flopping in the NBA, mixing technology and officiating, why things have gone so well despite the lockout, if he thinks about shortening the season, and the possibility of a team going back to Seattle.

You have to be thrilled with the ratings. The first game of the NBA Finals drew big numbers:

“The only reason I came on was I wanted to talk to you about some of our past. … The last game on ESPN did a 9 rating. That was the Conference Finals. So the difference between cable and network is really indistinguishable to our fans.”

How about Oklahoma City. Fans not too long ago would have thought it impossible to have this caliber team and this kind of a scene:

“I think that one of the things we’ve said it’s always been our goal to emulate the NFL — where the event defines the teams rather than the teams defining the event. So if you’re in Green Bay or New Orleans or Pittsburgh or Indiana, no one says, ‘Oh my, the Super Bowl is in a small city or has a small-city team.’ It doesn’t. It has a Super Bowl-potential champion. Here we’ve got these two great teams. And, actually, when you look at Miami, it’s only a middle-of-the-pack city and Oklahoma City is a small city. But the new technology is everybody is following these teams.”

How concerned are you with flopping?:

“It’s on the agenda for the competition committee meeting for June 18. I’ve looked back a little bit. I have a tape of Red Auerbach back in the 70s complaining. … It’s kind of fun and good stuff. And actually it’s available on YouTube. … And we have to change it. It’s bad for two different reasons. Number one, what it really does is tell our fans and youngsters is the way you get a call or score a point is by tricking and deceiving the official. … And number two, if the official, and most of the time the officials get it right and don’t give them the call, then the home team thinks that the official missed something, because why would their player have been so violently knocked down?”

What is the right mix for technology and officiating?:

“I think we have an obligation to keep pushing it until we say it’s intruding. As far as I’m concerned, right now we probably have a dozen places where we use technology for video replay to make sure we get it right. My view of this is that because our fans and everybody else sees the replays 100 times in slow motion, we have to make sure that they’re comfortable, subject only to the limitation of humans making the calls, that we’ve done everything we can do to give the game a true call.”

What are the lasting effects at this point of the lockout?:

“I am so surprised and pleasantly surprised that our fans have been expressing their admiration for the game by these record numbers, by the good attendance, and by the efforts that our players are putting out. … They’re liking it a lot and our sponsors are absolutely delighted. And I think the combination of the December start, Christmas Day, and the quality of play has just been terrific.”

Does it make you think of shortening the season, maybe not in number of games, but packing them tighter?:

“I tell you, it’s interesting. Maybe we ought to look at it. At least it would give the media something to complain more about. … The players who are here, there were different training regimens during the offseason for different players, and I think the players that stayed in better shape did better. … That said, it’s an interesting question. I haven’t really thought about it that much.”

On Seattle wanting to get an NBA team back in the city:

“I had a very good meeting with the mayor of Seattle on Monday in my office. They have a plan to build the building that wasn’t available for an NBA team when the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City. There’s a private enterprise, a gentleman, who’s willing to both fund a great deal of the building, who’s bought the land and who intends to look to see whether there’s a team to move to Seattle. It’s a lot of moving parts, no guarantees.”

Ben Howland, UCLA Land Top High School Product in Shabazz Muhammad

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