David Stern reflects on his time as commissioner, good and bad

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When David Stern announced he was stepping down as commissioner in 15 months on Thursday, he tried, or at least feigned trying, not to reminisce on his time as commissioner.

But Stern also likes to talk.

And so he did at a press conference about the NBA Board of Governors meeting that became about Stern retiring. He was asked what the best and worst times of his to be 30 years as NBA commissioner were.

“The best is a long list of things, it’s hard to even pick,” Stern said, before going on to pick. “That our Olympic team in 1992 was able to show the world how great our players were, despite some previous questions about our players and their place of the world. To me that was a high point but it just keeps getting better than that.

“The low point… I haven’t enjoyed the responsibility of having to end careers, which I haven’t had to do recently, with respect to drug use and the like many years ago. One of my preseason phone calls each year, this year was from Michael Ray (Richardson), who is up and coaching again in Ontario, Canada. That wasn’t a great situation for me personally.

“But for the most part it’s been a series of extraordinary experiences and enormous putting together of pieces of a puzzle. And it goes on forever. And there will always be another piece of the puzzle, and so the question is ‘at what point do you decide to let somebody else do it?’ And that’s the point it is at now.”

That 1992 Olympic team started to spread the NBA gospel overseas, and that international growth has become a passion of Sterns (something the owners like as it pads their pocketbooks). Without the Dream Team the internationalization of the NBA would have been slower.

Stern banned several players from the game for drug use — Michael Ray Richardson, Roy Tarpley, Richard Dumas, and most recently Chris Andersen (but he also was later reinstated), among others.

Stern’s legacy, which will get hashed out here and everywhere over the next 15 months, is generally positive but far from perfect. There were two lockouts and if you think Stern did no wrong you should go ask the people of Seattle. But in terms of marketing, he got it, he saw the NBA as a star-driven league and expertly rode the wave of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and then Michael Jordan to new heights.

It slipped after Jordan finally retired and may be tough to get back there, but Stern is leaving Adam Silver a league with the potential to return to those days. With marketable stars and a prominent place in the culture. We’ll see what Silver can do with that .

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.