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David Stern also touched on NBA games in international cities and the sale of the Bobcats.
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Stern deflects union criticism, insists changes are needed

By Art Garcia,
Posted Feb 14 2010 2:42AM

DALLAS -- In stark contrast to the tough rhetoric of the day before, a jovial NBA commissioner David Stern took his turn at the microphone Saturday night to address collective bargaining negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association and the economic challenges still facing the league.

Collective bargaining discussions are top of mind, especially after NBPA executive director Billy Hunter categorized Friday's meeting with the league and owners as "contentious." Stern insisted that the league wouldn't negotiate through the media, but continued to stress that the current economic model needs to be fixed for a deal to be struck.

Creating an equitable revenue sharing system for the owners and players, and among the 30 teams, is Stern's aim.

"Our goal for our teams, our players, but particularly our fans, is to come up with a model that says that every NBA team can compete," said Stern, who peppered his remarks with one-liners during a light-hearted 40-minute news conference. "We understand the difficulties that the current economic environment and other things -- market size and the like -- put on teams, but when we get to where we need to get to, there will be a very robust revenue sharing where teams will not be in a position to decline to compete because of money."

Stern maintained that the NBA's plight couldn't be disputed by the union, and that the league's books are open and available to review by the NBPA. He said the leaguewide loss projection for this season is "about $400 million" and the losses have been "at least $200 million" for the first four years of the current collective bargaining agreement. Those numbers, Stern said, are among the "undisputed facts" that led to the league's initial proposal to the union.

Hunter detailed that proposal, delivered to the union on Jan. 29, on Friday. Among the league's ideas, according to Hunter, were a reduction in the players' revenue share to less than 50 percent, the institution of a "hard" salary cap, elimination of guaranteed contracts, revision of current player contracts and the elimination of cap exceptions, such as "Bird" rights.

Stern disputed Hunter's claim that the league was pushing for a new deal before free agency opened this summer. The current CBA expires after the 2010-11 season. Hunter said the league's offer was "torn up" and taken off the table, and the union would present its own proposal in the near future.

"If they don't like it, that's what counter [offers] are about," Stern said. "Speak to me, that's all. Off the table, on the table, under the table ... I don't even understand it. The answer is that it's there for them to make a proposal. We told them, as far as we are concerned, the proposal was one way to get to the result that we need. There could be a hundred ways."

The commissioner was encouraged by the show of support and the interest taken by many of the league's All-Stars -- including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade -- who attended Friday's session.

"A tradition that has all of the players involved is a good tradition, and particularly, the superstars, because as I told them when I spoke to them in between practices of East and West, they lead our league," Stern said. "They are ultimately the reason our fans are here and it's always good to see them in any context, because they are so important to us."

Stern is confident that a deal will get done.

"We will manage to get to a place where we always get to," Stern said. "There is always a deal and we plan to make a deal this time, too."

Among the other issues discussed by Stern:

• He expects the sale of the Charlotte Bobcats to be completed in the next 60 days and supports Michael Jordan as a potential owner.

• Future NBA games are probably coming to a number of international cities, which could include Mexico City, Barcelona, Paris, London, Guangzhou, Beijing and Milan.

• The league is opening an office in Africa, and has plans for offices in India and the Middle East.

Art Garcia has covered the NBA since 1999. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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