David Stern realizes what is happening, that there is a genuine swell of interest and excitement around the NBA.
I think we’re going to have perhaps our best season ever this year,” he said during a conference call with reporters on Friday. He talked about the buzz and acknowledged the fan interest in the Miami Heat. However he was ever the diplomat about the title.
“It would be premature for us to mail the trophy to Miami,” Stern said.
However, the dark clouds of Collective Bargaining Agreements with the players and the possibility of a lockout loom over the season. It took center stage on the media call, and showed how it could darken the NBA season
That doesn’t mean Stern backed down. He stood by the idea that there needs to be a fundamental change in the economics of the game.
“I would say the league is viable as long as you have owners who want to subsidize losses,” Stern said.
He said that it is a combination of factors that brought the league to this point.
“One of the things we have found out as we work with our teams to keep the high level of sales and first class arenas and amenities…. that it has become much more expensive to do the things we have always done. And the world changed. We’ve gone through the worst recession of anyone on this phone call… We need a reset that makes (the league) viable.”
Stern talked about a number of things that could be part of that CBA, noting that this is still in the conceptual phase and they have not gotten down to talking details yet.
Stern mentioned a “franchise player” tag as something that would come up, although he himself sounded hesitant about that as a way to restrict player movement once they have completed a contract.
Stern talked about a commitment to small-market franchises and coming up with ways in the CBA to make them competitive with the teams with deeper pockets.
Along those lines he talked about more robust revenue sharing between the owners, but added that some of the owners want teams to meet certain thresholds — seat sales, television deal size and more — before they get to fully share in it. They want those owners to prove they are really trying to sell the product, to avoid what happens in baseball where that revenue sharing money has gone right into the pockets of some small market owners.
Stern was unconcerned with the the statement from the union earlier Friday, one that threatened a lockout. Stern basically said that’s negotiations. And that he is optimistic that this can get done because the people at the table have been there before and know what is at stake.
We know we’re going to get an agreement, and we think the enthusiasm of the season and the growth it represents… we’re both intent on trying to reach a deal,” Stern said.