NBA Commissioner David Stern wanted to crow about how well this NBA season has gone — television ratings are up and there has not been a step back in fan interest following the lockout. That was a big fear in some quarters going into the season.
But instead, in his annual pre-playoffs conference call with the media, Stern got to explain and defend giving Metta World Peace a seven game suspension for his elbow thrown to the head of James Harden last Sunday.
Stern said he thought World Peace “recklessly” threw the elbow but would not speculate as to whether or not it was intentional. He said he didn’t want to get into the mind of World Peace. Few do.
So how did he arrive at seven games (with the tone of most questioners being how did he arrive at “only” seven games)?
“We look at previous penalties,” Stern said. “We look at who is involved in the altercation. We do take into account the seriousness of the injury, and a variety of whatever else is in the atmosphere, and then it just becomes my job to decide what it should be….
“I have to decide what’s justice here and what’s fairness here and we came to seven.”
Stern added that the fact that six of these games World Peace is suspended for are playoff games — more meaningful games — played into the decision.
But all the World Peace questions could not stop Stern from talking about that a great season it has been. There had not been a hit to the league, as had been seen in 1999 with the last lockout and was expected here but has not materialized.
“And we came off a season where there was enormous momentum and great enthusiasm, and somehow starting on Christmas Day, may have been the single most differentiating factor,” Stern said. “The fact that we were there; that we had a five game slate, and for those fans that don’t tune in until Christmas, maybe they thought the season was just beginning; that just got us off on the right foot and it built on itself off of last year’s exciting playoffs…
“And in some ways… the bloggers, the social media, everything that was going on, our fans were out there, whether they were saying we were stupid, bad, good, ignorant, blind, whatever they chose to say, they were talking. So in some ways, our community, through social media, was staying engaged, and that’s a big differentiator in the way the world currently exists.”
We will see how that builds into the playoffs. But you get the feeling if LeBron James and Kevin Durant are there playing late in May and into June, Stern will like the ratings and interest then, too.