Stern: Players can talk before deciding
LOS ANGELES -- There will be no free agency summit.
So says NBA commissioner David Stern, claiming he's been assured at the "highest level" that there will be no sitdown among LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the other superstars who could hit the market on July 1.
And that was the players' choice, not an order from him.
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"I would expect our players to talk to one another, and we don't have any problem with that," Stern said Thursday during his annual NBA Finals news conference. "If some kind of tampering is implicated, I will have a later and different view, but we're not expecting that."
The idea of the get-together among the free agents grew after Wade said the players would talk to each other at some point, though he never said they would all gather in one place to have an official discussion.
And though some fans wondered if that would constitute tampering, Stern wouldn't have tried to stop it.
"They can have it," he said. "I was wondering whether they would get together, eight players and they'll all look at D-Wade's ring? They'd be better off watching these finals to see how you construct a team and how you play and the like. There's not going to be a summit."
Stern did have to do rule enforcing, confirming the league had told Lakers coach Phil Jackson to stop rewarding players with $50 for taking charges.
The league has been busy lately handing out fines, penalizing Dallas owner Mark Cuban $100,000 and docking two others lesser amounts for comments about James. Teams aren't allowed to talk about players under contract with another team until free agency opens July 1.
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"You really don't want to be a complete spoilsport, but you work hard and you say, 'OK, this crosses the line,' and you fine somebody," Stern said. "It's no fun, and it's not necessarily a productive use of our time. But our teams who have these players under contract are easily offended, and appropriately offended when inappropriate statements are made about players already under contract, and that's what we do."
Stern said a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the one that expires next summer is "No. 1" on his agenda, but isn't sure it will get done this summer. The league and players are far apart early in negotiations, and union executive director Billy Hunter was recently quoted as saying Stern's proclamation at the All-Star game that the league would lose $400 million this season was "baloney."
"I grew up in Stern's Delicatessen. He has his meat wrong," Stern said. "This is substance. We've given him our certified financial statements. We've provided access to our tax returns, and we're awaiting their review of those, and if there's more needed, they'll get more. And then eventually we'll get around to talking about it and we'll work our way through it."
Also, Stern said he wants to look into the rule in which players are suspended for one game in the postseason for technical and flagrant foul accumulation. The Celtics would lose starting center Kendrick Perkins with his next technical, and both Jackson and Boston coach Doc Rivers have criticized the rule.
Otherwise, much of the talk -- as usual this season -- was about free agency. Stern said he wasn't bothered that James gave his first interview since the season ended to Larry King for a program that will air Friday. Transcripts were already released, stealing some of the spotlight from the Finals.
"It actually, I think, demonstrates, I mean, we're really up there now with Bill Gates, President Obama and Lady Gaga," Stern joked. "How can you beat that trifecta, to add LeBron James to that?"
And Stern seemed to back off his earlier comments that he hoped James remained in Cleveland. He said that earlier in the postseason, figuring James staying would prove the success of the CBA, which allows teams to pay their own free agents more than any other team.
"I'm a recovering single-team person," Stern said. "LeBron will have played with Cleveland for seven years. That's a huge amount of time. Cleveland has been given the edge with respect to the raises they can give him and the length of his contract. I think that's a good thing. And then you just, it's up to the players to decide where they want to go. They fought very hard for that right, and I'm perfectly fine with that."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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