- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - David Stern is in the same situation as the owners he welcomed to town this week: his business has been hurt by the financial crisis.

The NBA commissioner slashed millions from the All-Star budget. He’ll send two teams to Europe for exhibition games in the fall, half of what he used to.

But he knows things could have been worse, and he believes they will get better.

“We did relatively well in a difficult year in the economy,” Stern said. “Our prospects, leaving aside the unknown of the economic and financial condition … are terrific and we’re going to work together with our players to come up with a model that makes it more profitable.”

Economic discussions dominated the NBA’s Board of Governors meetings that ended Friday after two days. The owners have a variety of business interests beyond basketball, so even if their team is doing well there’s a good chance something in their portfolio isn’t.

One of the sessions featured a discussion with Jamie Dimon. The CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase talked to owners about the economy for more than an hour.

“We have a business that is affected by every aspect of the economy,” Stern said. “In markets where autos are down, Detroit has its reaction. In markets where land is an issue and foreclosure, in Arizona, it’s enormous. We have owners with interests dare I say in retailing, banking, cable, hospitality, transportation, cruise ships, farming, printing, technology, investment banking, real estate, gaming, it’s an extraordinary array. …

“We’re just interested, and our owners were interested, in hearing a person who has successfully guided his company and is knowledgeable talk to us.”

Money concerns have forced teams to trim payroll, lay off employees, cancel travel plans and make other adjustments. On Friday, the Charlotte Bobcats said they would likely hold their training camp at their practice facility and wouldn’t enter a team in the Las Vegas summer league.

Stern, however, said he doesn’t worry about a competitive imbalance between teams that are doing well and the ones who are struggling.

“(Fans) want their teams to operate responsibly,” Stern said. “I know it’s easy to say they just want to win, but our fans are too smart for that. …

“I think that’s what we’re beginning to see and I can’t imagine that sports is going to be the only business that is unaffected by having to manage a budget and a set of revenues.”

Stern said ticket renewals are even with this time last year, following a season when the NBA had its third-highest attendance ever with more than 21.5 million fans and set a record for group sales. TV revenues are up, and he said a deal completed with DirecTV on Thursday will put NBA TV in roughly 10 million homes.

Still, growth slowed this season and he predicted a probable reduction in revenues next year _ though he added many industries would say the same.

“It isn’t great, but we did OK. Against the industries that we do business with and are very knowledgeable about, we did very well,” Stern said.

“Did we do as well as we wanted to do or planned to do? No, but no industry has. And are our prospects good? Yes. There’s core strength in what we do, but is it going to be impacted by the financial industry and the economic crisis? Of course. And the big question when we gather in a year will be to say how much.”


_The Competition Committee will further consider in May the use of instant replay to review whether shots beat the shot clock. The issue was discussed after San Antonio beat Sacramento last week on Michael Finley’s shot that shouldn’t have counted.

_The league is mulling an invitation from the Iranian Basketball Federation to send the Utah Flash of the NBA Development League to play in Tehran this summer.

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