Commissioner wants to scale down noise, pyrotechnics

Updated: May 14, 2008, 2:04 AM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

CLEVELAND -- David Stern's senses have been assaulted, and the commissioner feels it's time to turn down the noise and scale back the pyrotechnics at NBA games.

Stern went on a rant Monday night prior to Game 4 of the Celtics-Cavaliers series when asked if the trend toward loud, fiery in-arena entertainment gimmicks had gotten out of hand.

"I'm going to get in trouble for this, but I think they're ridiculous. I think the noise, the fire, the smoke is a kind of assault that we should seriously consider reviewing in whether it's really necessary given the quality of our game," Stern said.

Ben Wallace said the smoke from pregame fireworks in Boston prior to Game 2 worsened the dizzy condition that knocked him out of that game after just four minutes, and the Cavs decided to keep him in the locker room prior to Game 3 so he would not have a similar reaction during pregame introductions in Cleveland. The Cavs put on one of the league's most elaborate player-introduction rituals, with four huge jets shooting large streams of fire out of the corners of the center-court scoreboard.

"It may be that these are the maniacal rantings of a fan from a different era, and I recognize that, but you know I'm sitting there waiting for the next cannon to go off, and then the fire heats up the arena so the temperature in the arena rises by 15 degrees -- that's if you can see it because you're still waiting for the smoke, which is chemical, to clear, which is invariably done by the end of the half," Stern said.

"But I always bite my tongue because I'm not the demographic that wants to be assaulted by loud rap, smoke, pyrotechnics and chemicals. It makes me sort of outdated, but I think it's time for us to say, 'Hey guys, let's look at it one more time,'" he said.

Stern has had similar concerns in the past, and in 1996 the league strictly enforced a little-known rule on maximum in-arena decibel levels when the Utah Jazz were competing in the Western Conference finals against the Seattle SuperSonics.

"I think that's what has happened is that very well-intentioned people feel that it's their obligation to root their team on to victory, to urge them," he said. "But what they do is, they think if you turn up the loudspeaker it's going to help them perform better -- even though there are babies in the building.

"I think we should have it as a time capsule item, because in some future century people are going to look and say, 'What were they thinking about?'" he said. "And I'm positive that Red [Auerbach] is watching and getting ready to call me, because I think we've gone over the top."

On Tuesday, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich offered an even more critical take.

"When you get that powder and all that stuff on you, people, I think, that have lung problems are really endangering themselves," Popovich told The Associated Press on Tuesday night, shortly before tip-off of Game 5 of the Spurs' second-round series against the New Orleans Hornets. "They can't ingest that stuff, you know. It is dangerous. But in general, every time I'm at a place where they do pyrotechnics, I just tell myself, there's going to be an accident. It's like the stop sign that doesn't get put up until a kid gets killed."

Such displays are the norm during the Hornets introductions at New Orleans Arena. Also, there was a 19-minute delay during the first half of Game 1 of the series because of a mascot's stunt involving a ring of fire.

After the mascot, known as Super Hugo, successfully used a trampoline to jump through the fire and dunk a basketball, firefighters on site were unable to put out the flames with a carbon dioxide extinguisher and resorted to a conventional foam spray, which left a white residue all over the court.

"With all that fire and kind of explosive material going on and there's kids, people, cheerleaders, this, that, all over the place, something's going to happen," Popovich said.

Stern's criticism "was a mild warning, probably, and probably, we should take note of it," the coach said.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.