- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

NBA commissioner David Stern said he hopes the District will adhere to the request of Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who wants $50 million to refurbish Verizon Center.

“I don’t intervene, but at a time when people told Abe he was being stubborn and pig-headed by electing to build downtown, he said, ‘I don’t care. I’m going to do this for Washington because I think it’s important.’

“But the results are if you walk the streets, the area is nothing short of astounding. And I think he’s to be applauded again and again and again for this. To extend additional funding if it is available would be just a slice of what it will cost to build the new baseball stadium. I think it would be a great opportunity for the city to express its appreciation for the job Abe had done for urban renewal at the highest level.”

Stern also addressed several other topics before the game last night, saying he will tell league owners that expansion right now would not be advisable. If and when the league does expand, Stern said he sees NBA teams in China before Europe.

“I think 30 teams is a nice round number, and I will not be recommending to the owners that we expand,” Stern said. “I think that what we will see in the next couple of years is the possibility of a joint venture with the NBA and someone in China about a sponsored and branded league in China. I have had some fun talking about the 20-year plan for five European teams but that just makes good copy. But China is closer. Europe is an interesting situation that will take years to develop.”

Stern also said the league was poorly characterized following the All-Star Game in Las Vegas in February, arguing it wasn’t NBA players who received headlines.

“Our guests had a great time,” Stern said. “There was a huge influx of people who did not have tickets. Those who don’t have tickets to the game aren’t our players. The last time I looked the most recent person talked about was playing for another league [Titans’ Pacman Jones].”

Time for reserves

Andray Blatche and Calvin Booth each got extended playing time. The odd man out was Brendan Haywood, the only active Wizards player not to play.

Blatche, who did not play in Games 2 and 3, finished with seven points and five rebounds in 21 minutes, executing a three-point play after drawing a foul on LeBron James.

“They were very active,” James said. “Andray Blatche, if he keeps working on his game, is going to be very good because he is definitely a matchup problem.”

Booth had four points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. Guard Donell Taylor also got more playing time, finishing with three points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.

Misery ends

DeShawn Stevenson scored no points on 0-for-8 shooting, finishing the series shooting 19.6 percent.

“The first game it was tough to get going,” said Stevenson, who shot 46.1 percent in the regular season and is expected to opt out of his contract. “The second game it was a mental block. It’s tough because you are playing the same team and it’s the playoff. You have to fight through it. I didn’t go through that in the regular season.”

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