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David Stern talks contraction: We’re not that serious, but we’re going to talk about it anyway.

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One David Stern quote from his conference call with the media Friday showed just how of two minds the league is on the idea of contraction (folding one or more struggling franchises).

“The issue of contraction is one that has to be asked as part of negotiation with players…” Stern said. “But if there are no buyers in markets where teams are for sale then has to be discussed… Are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment?

“But we’re not spending a lot of time on it.”

So we need to talk about it. But not much.

Which means it’s a negotiating red herring. Even if there are serious underlying issues to be address.

Those discussions need to focus on how to keep smaller markets competing fairly with Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago and New York. Stern said there would be measures in the new CBA that will allow smaller markets to better compete with larger markets, although he did not specify what those are. Already there are incentives — more money and years — teams can offer to keep their own players. Didn’t work in Cleveland or Toronto.

Another side of this same issue is revenue sharing between owners, which Stern said needed to be more “robust” but was taking place on a parallel track to the CBA talks.

But they’re not going to spend a lot of time on it.

Because, honestly, the other owners don’t really want to spend money to buy out one of their own.

Still there are markets of concern.

Stern talked about the situation in Sacramento, where plans for a land swap to clear the path for a new arena fell through recently.

“My optimism on there being a new building (in Sacramento) has faded completely,” Stern said. “We really tried hard, the Maloofs spent a good deal of money…. And frankly it wasn’t meant to be. I don’t have any more good ideas. Where we flow on that, right now we have a season to worry about.”

Also in New Orleans there is an owner — George Shinn — who is having trouble striking a deal to sell that team.

Contraction of those teams is a great bargaining threat. But not a reality. The Kings moving is very much reality, but not folding. Not being contracted.

The league is booming and its not going cut out markets, particularly markets in the Midwest where the NBA wants to make better inroads. Stern basically directly told reporters from Memphis and Milwaukee the teams are safe.

Frankly, they all are. But we’re going to talk about it anyway.

Kobe Bryant says his age 37 is not like Michael Jordan’s age 37

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Once again, Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is being compared to Michael Jordan’s.

There’s a lot of reason’s that’s flawed — starting with Kobe being drafted on to a Lakers team that had Shaquille O’Neal and was already considered NBA elite, as opposed to Jordan working to build a franchise up. That said, Kobe has invited the Jordan comparison at times and it has been a constant through is career. Fair or not.

Kobe is coming back this fall after seasons of injury to the NBA and those comparisons continue — now to the Wizards’ version of Jordan. And Kobe is not at all fond of that, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “My 37 (years old) isn’t MJ’s 37 (when he returned after taking two seasons off to play for the Washington Wizards), you know what I mean? Nor is it the same team or the same system that he was playing in. It’s much, much different. There’s really no barometer, no (precedent) for training physically, for recovery. It’s uncharted territory.”

Kobe is right, starting with Jordan was retired at age 37 (he came back at 38). Also, Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 38 and was not coming off multiple major surgeries.

Kobe is entering his 20th NBA season and what any real basketball fan should wish for him is health. Let him play one full season (with limited minutes and nights off), let him get to the final game of this season next April and make his own decision on his future. Let him leave the game on his own terms.

That said, if Kobe can average Jordan’s numbers at that age — 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game — it will be a major accomplishment, and the Lakers will have a better record than many of us expect.

And Kobe may want to play a 21st season as well.

Celtics ease to 124-91 win at Olimpia Milano in Global Games

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MILAN (AP) — The Boston Celtics eased to a 124-91 victory over Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum on Tuesday, comfortably winning the first of a double-header in Europe as part of the NBA Global Games.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 18 points, including nine in his first seven minutes after coming off the bench midway through the first quarter.

Jared Sullinger added 14 points, as did Avery Bradley, who also had four three-pointers, while David Lee weighed in with 13 as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Alessandro Gentile – who is reportedly wanted by the Houston Rockets, who hold NBA rights to the 22-year-old – top scored for Milano, with 19 points.

Next up for the Celtics is Real Madrid in Spain on Thursday.