Stern withholding judgment on snub

Updated: June 3, 2009, 9:38 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NBA commissioner David Stern says he has reached out to LeBron James about James' refusal to speak with the media after the Cleveland Cavaliers were eliminated from the Eastern Conference finals.

But Stern is withholding judgment and not ready to makes his views on the incident public until he talks to James about what happened, he said Tuesday on ESPN Radio.

In an appearance on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," Stern acknowledged he was not pleased that James, the league's reigning MVP, didn't meet with the media, or shake hands with the Orlando Magic, following the Game 6 loss Saturday night.

Noting that in the recent past, other players and teams have been fined for failing to meet the league's media guidelines, Cowherd asked why James had not been fined.

"I'm in the process of making a phone call or two now to talk to LeBron ... so I don't want to speak to that at this moment," Stern said.

"So you're not happy?" Cowherd asked.

"I think that's fair to say," Stern replied.

When further asked about James' storming off the court without postgame handshakes with the Magic -- and whether one action was more troubling than the other -- Stern said both were important. "One goes to rules, another goes to values," he said. "I think both of them should be followed."

"Everything's big when you follow the NBA, so I'm going to step back and ask not to be pushed too hard right now [on the incident]," Stern added. "I've got a few irons in the fire."

On Monday, NBA spokesman Tim Frank told 1050 ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand that James would not be fined, adding, "We haven't had any issues with him before at all."

Stern was also asked about the NBA's 19-year-old age limit for rookies, with recent allegations involving NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose's one college season at Memphis raising questions about whether talented high school stars should play a year in college before entering the NBA. Rose has been connected in media reports to NCAA allegations that a player on Memphis' 2007-08 Final Four team had a stand-in take his SAT. (Memphis said Tuesday that it was unable to find proof that a former player had cheated on the SAT.)

Stern pointed out that the NBA does not require that young players spend a year at college, noting they're free to play in Europe, the NBA Development League or in junior college. That, he said, gives them a year to play against tougher competition -- and better informs the teams that might draft them.

And despite the success of some players who successfully leapt from high school to the NBA, "there's a long list that I won't mention who didn't make it," Stern said. "The idea that allegations of wrongdoing suddenly get put back on the fact that like all employers we set entry-level requirements ... doesn't make any sense to me."

Stern also offered cautious optimism for the league's long-term economic outlook, saying he expects decreases in revenue next season despite recent record TV ratings for the playoffs. "Our business is affected by the economic downturn but not as badly as some others," he said. "It won't be cataclysmic but it will be noticeable."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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