David Stern Talks All Things NBA, Including Addressing Team Owners About Too Much Player Resting

This is David Stern’s final postseason as NBA commissioner, but he’s not necessarily viewing it as his last postseason ever. He knows it won’t be that way, and says he’ll still be involved in keeping the league great. To that tone, in this interview he discusses the biggest topics in the league as the NBA Playoffs are under way and some of the big-ticket items to come in the offseason. David Stern joined ESPN New York with Ryan Ruocco and Stephen A. Smith to discuss what his final postseason as commissioner will be like, all the storylines the Lakers have brought us, the resurgence of the Knicks, Michael Jordan’s struggles in Charlotte, the Kings’ potential move, the buzz in New York City surrounding the NBA right now, if he’d like to see Phil Jackson back in the NBA and teams resting star players.

Has it hit you that this is your last postseason as commissioner?:

“It doesn’t, because I don’t consider, like, if I go to a playoff game next year, that’ll be my next postseason. I just won’t be commissioner, that’s all. I’m still going to be a fan and I’m still going to be deeply committed to the growth and success of the NBA. … It’s going to be a whole new opportunity for me to experience the game in a different way.”

What did you think about Kobe Bryant live-tweeting the Lakers’ first playoff game?:

“I’ll bet you, I’m guessing, that maybe his teammates didn’t appreciate it. But I don’t know. It’s just a guess. … Go ahead and tweet. That’s what it’s for. We’re one big community. I think it’s great.”

What are your feelings on all the storylines that have come from the L.A. Lakers this year?:

“I’m sort of half-fan, and I’m rooting for Nash to get better. I’m astounded by World Peace’s quick recovery. I’m hoping that Dwight Howard finds happiness and Pau feels respected, and most of all, I’m marveling at Kobe’s abilities, at the age of 34, to seemingly improve his game. … And when you mix them all together, my goodness gracious, you’ve got some mix. Throw in a couple of coaching changes, and you’ve really got something that’s occupying the attention of all L.A. sports fans.”

What has the resurgence of the Knicks meant for the NBA?:

“I have a real attitude on that one. What it’s done is, because all towns are small, what it’s done is the very small town of New York City, people think that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world because the Knicks are winning, and therefore the NBA must really be so thankful. Obviously we think it’s great when any team rewards its fans with wins … but the reality is that when you’re at the sort of media capital of the world, where so many people get their impression about the NBA, it makes us a little bit easier for us. But we’ve been having a great run … and the Knicks haven’t been so much a part of that for the last couple years.”

On Michael Jordan and the struggles in Charlotte:

“I have no doubt that Michael, who is a smart businessman and good manager and, I think, a good judge of talent, he’ll do fine. It’s just not as easy as people think it is to get going in this league if you inherit a bad situation.”
What’s the latest with the Kings and whether they’ll remain in Sacramento?:
“I think we’ll likely have a meeting of the relocation committee later this week, which will then issue a report early next week. And then seven days after that report is issued, there’ll be a board of governors meeting to vote on it. I don’t want to project anything because it’s for the owners and the committees to make the announcement.”

On Brooklyn having so much success early on after the move:

“It’s a hoot to have the Knicks and the Nets. I’m sure that there are people in L.A. who think it’s a hoot to have the Clippers and the Lakers. But I’m a New York City person, and it’s sort of like on the tip of everyone’s tongue as you walk around the city. … Obviously Nets fans have had a long and rough haul, along with Knick fans to some degree … but you can see people sort of dancing around a bit. And what the Nets have done for Brooklyn is very exciting. Around that area, where yellow cabs used to never be seen, where businesses used to be boarded up, it’s suddenly vibrant.”

Would you like to see Phil Jackson back in the game?:

“Oh, I would. I think it’s great. I love the variety that our sport has. Sometimes Phil has a way of saying things that are directed to zing the league office, but that’s fine. We’re sort of one big family, and I think that somebody who has as many rings as Phil does, who brings so much sort of interesting thought to our game, would be a great addition, or re-addition, to our sport.”

What’s your reaction to teams resting star players during the season and down the stretch when fans are paying to see games?:

“I must say that I raised that issue with the owners at the board of governors this past week. I didn’t exactly receive one of my warmest welcomes on the subject … but I did say that it was something that they’re going to have to come to grips with. I don’t have the exact right answer, but unbridled resting, like, ‘I can rest more of my guys than you can rest of your guys,’ is really something that we cannot let get out of control. I respect the right of a coach to rest his players. I think that what I’ve spoken out against is sort of not notifying the leagues, the team and sending them home. … We have to come up with some better way … to make sure that our fans, in effect, get their money’s worth.”

What, if anything, are you doing to help Adam Silver as he gets ready to take over your post?:

“He’s going to be so much nicer to you, than I have been. … But beyond that, Adam and I, by the time I step down on Feb. 1, we will have worked together in the NBA for 22 years. OK? So, if he’s not prepared now, he will never be prepared. He knows what I do that he would like to do, and he knows what I do that he would not like to do. And everyone has their own approach to it. There’s nobody that is better prepared in dealing with media, fans, the game, owners, television, international. I’m very happy, and proud, that I have recommended to the owners — and they have accepted — a successor who is totally steeped in our game and our business.”

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