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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.”

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.