ORLANDO, Fla. — The NBA got off to difficult start this season, thanks to a lockout that cost the league 16 games. When labor peace was reached in December, the result was a 66-game schedule compressed into a four-month time frame.
Results have been mixed. There is increased urgency, since fewer games makes each one that much more important. But the downside is a lot of nights of bad basketball.
There are too many games with little or no recovery time in between, limited practice time, canceled shootarounds, more potential for injury, a more grueling travel schedule and players with dead legs by the time they’re on their fourth game in five nights.
Commissioner David Stern addressed a few of those issues during All-Star Weekend.
“With a carrot of December , All-Star, and 66 games, we managed to have a season, and a pretty darned good one, in terms of competitiveness, and it’s enthusiastic reception by our fans,” Stern said.
“The number of games being lost is slightly up because teams are being smarter in their own ways, and competitively, by perhaps keeping a player out of a game that might have been an off day in past years.”
Stern added that from the reports he’s received from trainers and doctors, injuries are about the same as they were last season.
The commissioner also was reluctant to make too much out of one of the NBA’s biggest storylines this year: the Dwight Howard trade drama.
“I’m old enough to remember Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and assorted others who desired to go someplace else,” Stern said. “I’m sure Dwight will make a good and wise decision for him.”
Stern said that the league has no plans to make any changes to compensate a team, such as an extra draft pick, if it loses a star player.
The Chris Paul trade from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers was a two-fold issue that drew the liveliest exchange, because the Hornets need a buyer, and Stern, acting as the Hornets’ representative, turned down a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers instead.
“I didn’t veto anything,” Stern said of the original trade. “We are acting on behalf of the owners, as the owners’ representatives. New Orleans decided not to make that trade. There’s no superstar that gets traded in this league unless the owner says to go ahead with it. In the case of New Orleans, the representative of the owner said ‘That’s not a trade we’re going to make.’ “
“But that representative was you,” a reporter continued.
“Correct,” Stern replied. Pressed further to evaluate the merits of the original trade proposal vs. the actual one, Stern, an attorney, said, “I have no further questions for the witness.”
On a lighter note, Stern displayed genuine joy when talking about Jeremy Lin, who’s popularity has impacted basketball on a global level. “He got what every player wants: an opportunity,” Stern said. “He took advantage of it, and I think that’s why it’s a universal story of the underdog stepping forward. We’re proud of him, and we think it’s a great story. It’s great for the league, and it’s great for Jeremy.”