Stern excited about playoffs but looking to July
AP Sports Writer
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) – NBA commissioner David Stern says the excitement surrounding free agency might force him to hide in his office until players such as LeBron James decide where to play next season.
James could lead one of the deepest free agent classes in years, with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire all eligible to walk.
With politicians and fans already making their pleas and pitches, Stern knows the free agency frenzy is just beginning.
“We’re having a good playoffs. We’ll have a great finals, a really interesting draft and then Katie bar the door in July,” Stern said. “Songs, banners, balloons, blimps, armies, I don’t even know what. I’m just going to hide in the office and let it all roll out.”
The biggest of the stars is James, the two-time defending MVP. He helped the Cleveland Cavaliers become one of the league’s top teams, but the club has been failed to reach the NBA Finals despite having the best record in the league the past two seasons.
Cleveland was stunned by Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals this season, putting James’ future there in doubt.
Stern said he liked the way the free agency system was tilted so that the incumbent teams have a better chance to re-sign their top players. He insisted the league will not tolerate teams recruiting free agents before July 1, although he is powerless to stop fans and cities from doing it.
In a news conference before Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, Stern also says he expects much from new owner Mikhail Prokhorov in his bid to turn around the New Jersey Nets.
The Nets, who finished with a league-worst 12-70 record, have more than $23 million in salary cap room and the richest man in Russia to now foot the bills.
Stern said Prokhorov’s money isn’t going to be what turns around the Nets.
“He’s going to do it by hard work and good management,” Stern said. “That’s what works – drafting a good player that comes out the lottery and the draft, by surrounding that player with other good players, by making sure that people understand that he’s committed to the entertainment experience at the Prudential Center.”
The Nets plan to play in Newark, N.J. for the next two seasons, before moving to a new home and arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Stern also admitted that he has occasionally thought about retirement, but he has no timetable for leaving because he loves what he is doing.
“It’s a pretty good job; I have thought about it,” the 67-year-old Stern said of retirement. “I thought about it every two or three years for the last 26. But so far so good.”