David Stern on Sale of Hornets and Nets, NBA Games in London, More
The sale from George Shinn to Hornets minority owner Gary Chouest had appeared imminent for more than a month, but negotiations had reportedly stalled when the two sides couldn't come to an agreement on price. Now, Stern said, it's far from certain there will be a deal at all. A subsequent report from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, however, indicated the sale will go through.
"It's taking a long time for George and Gary Chouest to reach an agreement, and every time there's not an agreement it's possible there won't be an agreement," Stern said to a small group of reporters after stepping off the stage. "So we'll see how that goes. ... It's not a given at all."
Nor is it the only organization in the process of changing hands. Stern said he expects Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov to complete his purchase of the New Jersey Nets as early as this week, while also adding that the Golden State situation has a much longer timeline.
Current Warriors owner Chris Cohan has been testing the market for months, with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison long expected to be his eventual successor. But as is the case in New Orleans, the lack of agreement on value has reportedly led to at least a dozen bidders getting involved.
"All I know is that there's a (financial) book that's being delivered (from Cohan) to interested parties, and I think there are interested parties," Stern said. "I think there's going to be robust expressions of interest. At least I hope there will be.
"I certainly think that the draft and the free agent period is a spur to maybe getting something done, but I don't know that that's going to happen here."
"Do I think the month of May or month of June for a signed agreement (is reasonable)? Maybe. Not a closing (agreement), but an agreement? It's a speedy schedule, but I would hope that it's possible. Nothing (has developed), but if I were a prospective purchaser, and I were interested, I'd want to say 'Let's go' so that I could be in there selling tickets and getting the team ready for next year. I don't know whether that's going to happen or not, but that would be preferable."
Stern was challenged on two of his more recent public statements, the first of which was his May 3 comment that he hoped Cleveland's LeBron James signed with the Cavaliers as a free agent this summer. As he clarified during that press gathering in Cleveland, Stern said it's simply his belief that the system in which players can earn significantly more by re-signing with their previous team fosters vital continuity.
"I've grown up in this business working very hard to assure that the team that has the player has the ability to keep (their players) because I had thought that the continuity was great," Stern said during the earlier press conference. "One player, one team. That's the way kids grow up, fans grow up, and that's the way the system was built. That part of me hopes that the continuity continues. On the other hand, we agreed -- and the players had a hard-fought negotiation -- to have the right to go."
Stern was also asked about his recent war of words with Phil Jackson after the Lakers coach was fined $35,000 for criticizing officials leading into a first round matchup with Oklahoma City. Stern had challenged the league's coaches to "make my day" and raised the threat of suspensions on top of fines. Jackson responded by calling Stern "heavy handed," and the commissioner opted not to retaliate from there.
"You have to read the language of diplomacy," Stern said when asked why he didn't continue the public conversation. "We understand each other. ... As you may have noticed, the rhetoric has declined. And you know why that is? It's not because I'm a tough guy. It's because maybe some of my coaches, subject to a relapse or a slip, understand that even though it is gamesmanship to a certain point, it does impact the game that we all love and that has been pretty good to everybody. So there's always a step down."
Among other topics discussed, Stern said the league is attempting to hold a regular season game in London next season and expects it to happen some time before the 2012 Olympics in London at the latest.
"I'd say it's a possibility for a regular season game," Stern said. "Not at the start (of the regular season). It's just a possibility."
Stern also touched on the longstanding possibility of the league's overseas expansion, saying that the creation of a division in Europe is "the better part of a decade out."
"As those buildings come (in Europe), and as the NBA gets more popular, I think there will eventually be an NBA division in Europe, but we're talking some number of years," he said.
In the most lighthearted moment of the meeting with the media, Stern claimed he hadn't seen the controversial VH1 reality show, "Basketball Wives."
"I haven't seen it," Stern said with a smile. "Is there anything you want to tell me about it? I haven't watched it, and I haven't even used my VCR on it. But I suppose I could go to YouTube or Hulu or somewhere and see it. But I've been busy. And I'm going to be very busy, so I may not get a chance to see it. But send me a report."
That hilarity continued afterward, when Stern was asked about his "VCR" reference as he walked toward tip-off at EnergySolutions Arena.
"Would someone correct my VCR to DVR?" he joked with reporters. "I was going to say TiVo, but I didn't want to give them a plug."
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