David Stern talks lockout, spews usual rhetoric


David Stern is at the basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies this weekend. Last night he was shaking the hand of the Knicks Chauncey Billups, who is being recognized for his charity work. He was doing what a commissioner should do.

But the cloud of the lockout looms over everything, including the Hall.

When asked about it by Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, Stern gave us the usual rhetoric, taking little shots at the players’ income.

“I would say that we have very smart players,’’ said Stern, “who recognize that this system is very good to them. You got 13 players on a roster averaging $5 million apiece, that’s $65 million, and what the owners have said is, ‘We’re going to try very hard as we reset this thing to keep you as close to that number as we can.’

“The NFL, which is usually profitable as opposed to the NBA, which isn’t, got the double-digit [revenue] reductions from their players. Our players will understand that when the rhetoric stops, the owners are trying to do the right thing, and our players always try to do the right thing.’’

Just for the record, if you take the amount of money teams spent on salary last year and divide it by 30 teams, you end up with about $70 million per team. Use the median and you do end up closer to Stern’s $65 million. But for the players, the bigger problem is the owners last proposal wanted to freeze salaries at that level for a decade so that all the growth in revenue during that time — all the money from new television deals — would go into the owners pockets. The players, who see themselves as the product the public is buying (nobody goes to a game to see an owner), want a cap that rises as the league makes more revenue.

Still, if you’re looking or a note of optimism, Stern tried to give you one. And we tend to agree with him here, I can’t believe both sides would really wipe out an entire season (even losing games in this economy is going to anger casual fans in a way neither side really seems to grasp).

“I expect that we’ll make a deal because the alternative is very destructive,’’ he said. “It’s destructive of $2 billion worth of player salaries and it’s destructive most important to our fans of the game. And if it spirals badly, everyone gets hurt.”

He then went on to try and divide the union a little bit saying older players would get hurt more. Because he’s Stern.