- Joined Jan 27, 2001
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP)-LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers don't have to get to the NBA Finals for the playoffs to be a success, commissioner David Stern said Tuesday.
Speaking hours before the NBA Draft Lottery, Stern downplayed the idea that having James in the Finals would be a windfall for the league.
"You mean as opposed to Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony or Kobe Bryant," a smiling Stern said. "None. We have nothing but stars. We should be called NBS instead of NBA, and I don't do justice to the squads because in Sunday's Game 7s, the two players who got the most ink were Mr. (Hedo) Turkoglu and Mr. (Pau) Gasol, so the international element of the NBA makes us stronger and is beginning to catch the attention of the press."
James and the Cavaliers will face Howard and the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals while Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers will play Anthony and the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference championship.
When asked about James as a player, Stern joked that he knew nothing about the game and was just at the lottery to watch.
"He is pretty good," Stern finally relented. "Whatever his expectations were he has exceeded them," Stern said.
James was the focus of the 2003 Draft Lottery and he resurrected the Cavaliers after being taken No. 1 overall.
The commissioner then quipped that he is not as muscular as Howard but that he has huge admiration for his game.
"And Kobe is Kobe, and Carmelo has had a year of development that is extraordinary, and we're not even doing justice to the rosters of each of these teams," Stern said.
In roughly a 15-minute question and answer session with the media, Stern discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from Dallas owner Mark Cuban, wrestling promoter Vince McMahon, the Nets' move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, N.Y., and the salary cap in 2010.
The commissioner said he has not personally spoken to Cuban since the end of the Mavericks-Nuggets series, but he has had someone speak to him.
Cuban was involved in a controversy with the mother of Denver forward Kenyon Martin. A Dallas fan referred to the Nuggets as thugs and Cuban said he told Martin's mother that her son was included in that group.
"I expect him to be relatively quiescent on this subject through the conference finals ands the finals and then we will talk more about it after this spectacular basketball is allowed to take center stage," Stern said.
The commissioner was amused by McMahon's complaints that the owner of the Nuggets was to blame for the Pepsi Center being double booked for Monday night. The World Wrestling Entertainment was to have matches there, but the building isn't available because the Nuggets are scheduled to play Game 4 against the Lakers there.
"He is the premier showman and he demonstrates it again and again as he has here," Stern said of McMahon, who he called a friend. "(He gets) lots of good ink and pub."
Stern implied that the Nuggets are going to have to pay money to McMahon because of the double booking, but he said they could avoid it by letting the Lakers be the host for Game 4. He doesn't think that will happen.
Stern also said he would not mind if the new collective bargaining agreement pushed the minimum age for players to enter the league from 19 to 20 but he said he was happy the way the current rule was working.
On the Nets move, Stern said he expects the team to break ground on the new arena in the autumn.
He said Newark (New Jersey) Mayor Corey Booker was misinformed when he recently said that the Nets would never move to Brooklyn and the team would be put up for sale.
Stern said the salary cap probably would decrease over the next two years because of the economy and its effects on teams.