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Former NBA commissioner David Stern ‘in awe’ of NBA’s product, potential

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NEW YORK (AP) — David Stern hasn’t left the NBA far behind. Just a few blocks, actually.

His office these days is located in a building near the one he had as commissioner, the job he left in 2014 after 30 years in which he helped turn a struggling league into a $5 billion annual behemoth.

For the most part, he likes the direction of the league the last three years.

“In addition to the talent, I’m in awe of the shooting skills of Steph Curry, of Klay Thompson, of a (Russell) Westbrook and a (James) Harden, et cetera,” Stern told The Associated Press by phone. “But I’m also in awe of the potential the league has both digitally and globally. So the game is strong, the attendance is at a record, the future is extraordinary internationally and the league is a leader under Adam (Silver) in the digital sphere.

“So it’s really a wonderful opportunity for the owners, for the players, and for my former colleagues at the team and league level.”

Stern, as would be expected, is keenly aware that it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Silver and the league. The NBA is still searching for solutions to some problems that were vexing under Stern, such as tanking and healthy players sitting out games.

He talks with Silver, but won’t comment on their discussions about those issues or anything else.

“That would involve the commissioner slash commissioner emeritus privilege,” he said.

Stern, 74, is more businessman than sportsman now, advising venture capital firms from his position atop DJS Global Advisors and investing in a number of startups, some of them in sports technology. He still watches plenty of games, and the viewing process helps guide his investment strategies.

The league that once begged for a television presence – the NBA Finals that were sometimes shown on tape delay into the early 1980s – now has national TV deals that are worth more than $2.6 billion annually. But fans aren’t just watching games on TV anymore, and Stern believes their viewing habits will change even more in the coming years.

“The fans are going to want to see be able to see what they want to see, when they want to see it and on any device they want to see it on,” he said.

Stern believes viewers will favor streaming services and virtual reality, with output from wearable technology to provide statistical data to augment what they’re watching. So this week he and a group of partners that includes Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim announced the launch of SportsCastr.Live , a streaming platform that allows users to be color commentators and to select which sportscaster they wish to have call, recap or make predictions on a game.

That adds to previous investments that include ShotTracker, in which sensors send real-time data to coaches’ smart devices, and LiveLike, a virtual reality platform to watch sports.

“The key catchword is personalization,” Stern said. “So I’m going to want to watch the visiting feed in virtual reality, which the NBA has one game a week now, with real-time stats that are going to be on my smart device because ShotTracker is going to bring it to me.”

That sounds like it would be a good fit for his new lifestyle.

The businessman doesn’t miss being basketball’s biggest decision maker, a job he held from Feb. 1, 1984 – a few months before Magic Johnson and Larry Bird first met in the NBA Finals and Michael Jordan was drafted – until Silver, his former assistant – took over. But when he stepped down as commissioner, he refused to let staffers call his departure a “retirement” as he prepared to move out of his former home just off Fifth Avenue.

Stern still takes some trips overseas on the NBA’s behalf.

“I’m as busy as ever, but not at night,” Stern said. “Nobody calls, nobody goes into the stands, nobody goes after their coach, nobody bumps an official. My life has been purified.”

“I haven’t cut down on vacation,” he added. “I think I’ve increased them and I love being busy and I love that my work brings me in contact with the sport that I’m such a huge fan of and that I have devoted so much of my life.”

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.

O.G. Anunoby invited to NBA draft, Harry Giles declines

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The NBA’s invitations to the draft are a good indicator of when players will get drafted. The league samples executives, who are more likely to be honest here than in leaks to the media, about how they rank players. So, the list is worth monitoring.

The players who will attend tonight’s draft nearly match the leaks – with one exception. O.G. Anunoby is going, and Harry Giles isn’t.

Here are the players who will be at the draft – a reasonable placeholder for the players most likely to get picked in the top 20 – via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Harry Giles declined his invite sources told DraftExpress.

Did Giles decline his invite because, with his extensive injury history, he feared falling too far? Or did he just prefer to watch elsewhere?

Was Anunoby simply 21st on the NBA’s list of players to invite? Or was the league too unsure of his medical status to include him until getting a stronger grasp now?

I don’t know, but the possibility that Giles could slip or Anunoby is more secure alters my perception of their draft stock (Anunoby up, Giles down).

Report: Knicks’ asking price for Kristaps Porzingis ‘massive’

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What has Phil Jackson actually done? He discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis with other teams and called the Knicks, not Porzingis, his priority. That’s it.

At face value, this is fine. It’s what devoted executives, not always Jackson, should do.

Jackson hasn’t traded Porzingis for meager return. He hasn’t traded Porzingis at all.

Everyone up in arms should take a deep breath.

Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe:

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

I wouldn’t rule out the Knicks trading Porzingis. The No. 1 pick got traded, after all. I wouldn’t rule out them trading Porzingis for too little return. Look at Jackson’s track record running the front office.

But wait until they do before bashing Jackson for not understanding Porzingis’ value.

There are plenty of better reasons to criticize Jackson, including overseeing the toxic culture that led to Porzingis skipping his exit interview and setting this latest “crisis” into motion. Publicly discussing trading Porzingis won’t endear Jackson to the budding star, but the problem is how it reached this point. Players in sound organizations can handle this. Jackson has engendered little confidence from his players, the distrust existed well before this round of trade talks.

Lonzo Ball recruits LeBron James to Lakers (video)

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Lonzo Ball doesn’t play for the Lakers. LeBron James isn’t a free agent.

But they’re headed that way – and Ball is already embracing it.

The Lakers are expected to draft Ball No. 2 tonight, and rumors are heating up about LeBron leaving the Cavaliers in 2018.

Why should LeBron join Ball in Los Angeles?

Ball on ESPN:

LeBron, I like to win. I know you like to win. I think our games can help each other out a lot. Any time you want the ball, just let me know. It’s going to be there.

Ball was asked to to pitch LeBron, so it’s not as if Ball is out here talking so brashly on his own. But answering the question was a rookie mistake.

Besides, I’m not sure Lonzo Ball can undo the bad blood between LeBron and LaVar Ball.