MODERATOR: Good evening, thanks for joining us for our annual All Star availability with Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik. We'll start with opening statements from David and then we'll turn it over to questions. David?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Thank you very much. Thanks for coming. I'd like to start by just saying hello to NBA TV, to Brian and Betty McIntyre. They were in a car accident last week, they are okay, but they have got a couple of bumps and bruises. Brian, I know you're missing your first All Star Game since 1980, but we're looking forward to next year.

I also just want to note the occasion. This will be Russ Granik's last All Star press conference, so please be gentle with me in honor of Russ's last press conference, of this type, although I'm sure it's not the last of his many achievements.

I also want to thank Les Alexander and the Houston Rockets. They have been a great host. This is a spectacular building, and the city itself has opened up its heart, and it's very welcoming to us. It's really been a terrific All Star venue for us so far, and I'm sure it's going to continue to be that way, and we're having a great time.

You know, taking stock at All Star week, it begins with the game. The Rookies and the Sophomores last night, I think it's a great addition to our events. It gives the kids an opportunity to play, and to let us see how really good they are. Sometimes the absence of playing time doesn't let you realize what achievement there is in this league at every level, and the Rookie and Sophomore game is really such an occasion for that.

We're going to have fun tonight, which is really just designed to demonstrate the other skills of our players, whether it's the skill at the three point, the skill at the slam dunk, the other skills contests or just the skill of having a little fun, combining a legend, a WNBA player and a current player.

You know, the week as it plays out, I visited the board meeting of the Legends. Tomorrow's breakfast, the Legends brunch, I guess it is, gives us an opportunity to welcome back the folks who have helped make our game great. And obviously, there's a long list of great Houston players, whether it's Rudy T., Clyde (Drexler), who has been around all week, Moses (Malone)has been to the events, Calvin (Murphy). It's really been a great reminder of really the contributions of the Houston franchise to the traditions of our league.

As this week unfolds, it's been great that we now have the Hall of Fame announcement about the players on the ballot. Russ is, as you know, chairman of the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Naismith Hall of Fame, to have that announcement wrapped into this weekend, or this week, reminds us about the traditions of our game.

We got a chance to visit with Jerry Colangelo and with the job that he's doing with Coach K in putting together the Olympic team and getting the players to be ready to contribute. I think there will be more to come on that after the All Star Weekend as the weeks come and go. But it's pretty exciting. And we think that's another good thing about the game.

Competition Committee met, and they are pretty pleased with the state of the game. I guess the size of the rules changes that I'll describe, there may be a couple of others that we'll leave for another time. I will tell you what they are thinking about. You'll be glad to know that coaches will now be able to call time outs, not just players, and that on breakaway fouls, there will be two shots, plus possession instead of one shot plus possession.

RUSS GRANIK: For next year.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: For next year, that's right, that the state of the game is pretty darned good.

You may have noticed, we've got a lot of WNBA players around. They add enormously to our weekend, and we'll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the WNBA this summer.

I met with the Development League owners who are here. We just announced our ninth team for the NBA Development League: The Bakersfield Jam. And I hope in the next three or four weeks to fill out a slate, so that we can demonstrate that we'll be going to 12 teams next year. It's important to us. We think that the Collective Bargaining Agreement, as it related to improving our game, was very focused on having a place where players who cannot get the time on their team could be assigned and develop the skills, develop the confidence, develop the rhythm and the teamwork. We've had 16 of our teams assign players. I think that over 20 players have been assigned. Maybe it's just 20, and that's out of really 45 that are not in the rotation on their team. So almost half of the eligible players have been assigned to the Development League. We think that will increase as we increase the number of Development League teams.

Just as an aside, you'll take a look, we have a lot of former NBA players as head coaches and assistant coaches in the Development League, and that's a good thing. That's how we develop future coaches, that's how we keep involved with the game, and it remains our goal to increase the size of our that league on an ongoing basis so the basketball improves. We, of course, continue to look there for referees because we work all of our referees to a three person system, in the D League, and the WNBA, and we think that's good. We have assistant coaches in the NBA who came up from there. We have assistant trainers, and of course our front offices are stocked with that. So we think that's really good for the overall game.

Finally, well, there is no finally here. One of the things that we on the basketball side I guess I would say, we're happy where the game is. We think that we're coming into this All Star week with a season that features lots of different styles; some teams run, some teams don't. We've got one team that has four players in the All Star Game. Rewarding that team, it probably could have been five and we think that's fine. And then we have some other teams playing a different style, and we've had some real break out individual season performances that demonstrate that we've got a lot of All Stars in our league, and they are having really All Star seasons. And that's a good thing, too.

I would be remiss if I didn't sort of say that we've spent a long week dealing with the non basketball component of NBA which is the umbrella of NBA Cares. Our players, our legends, our WNBA players, the entire family has been building houses for Habitat for Humanity, visiting the kids, visiting the Anderson Cancer Center, Kim's Place. Today I had the extraordinary pleasure of a dedication of a reading and learning and play center at the McDade School, which is an elementary school here in Houston that feeds into a middle school that feeds into Cashmere High, which is a school that the Rockets have been very, very interested and concerned about and working with. The turnout was extraordinary, from our greatest, from our 50 Greatest Players, Bill Walton, Bill Russell, Clyde Drexler, "Ice" Gervin, to our current players, Shaq and Tracy (McGrady) and Charlie Villanueva and Emeka Okafor, a local boy makes good. We had a referee there. I told him it was his best call this week.

In any event, the moms, the dads, the wives, the coaches they were there. And they were not there for the public, they were there because that kind of activity at an All Star occasion is part of the NBA's DNA, and that's important because you'll hear us talking about it increasingly, sports does have an opportunity to play a special role in a variety of issues and problems as the private sector is asked to do more and more.

One other subject and then I'll stop: New Orleans. We're enormously grateful to Oklahoma City for the job that they have done in accepting on an interim basis our New Orleans Hornets. We're going to play three games in New Orleans this season. The arena isn't quite 100 percent but it was Russ's judgment, and I agree, that it was a high enough percentage for us to play there so that we can demonstrate our commitment to the city and perhaps give a little bit of lift to the spirits of the folks in New Orleans. In conjunction with the governor and the Louisiana Superdome Commission, we agreed that we would play next season in Oklahoma City and play six games in New Orleans, and it's our expectation that in 2007 2008, the Hornets will be back in New Orleans.

One of the things we are planning to do after All Star is sit down with the city, as well, and hopefully finish negotiations for the NBA All Star Game to be played in New Orleans in 2008, because New Orleans is a great destination city. They do events in a great way, and we have no doubt that they will be ready to receive us in 2008, as their tourism industry swings back into action, and that makes us feel good as well. With that, again, I thank you for coming and ask us questions.

Q. David, you're obviously familiar with the arena situation in Seattle, with Howard's ultimatum last week, would you endorse the move of a team that has shown historical success, if they don't get the funding from the state legislature?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, first of all, A, it's up to the Board of Governors. B, I fully expect to be visiting Seattle in the relatively near future to weigh in on that subject and I'm quite on record as saying that Seattle has what is the least competitive lease in the league, which is a decided economic disadvantage.

I think if that situation is not ultimately improved, and we all knew it had to be improved, I think that the Board of Governors at the expiration of the lease would be inclined to listen to their partner's request for an opportunity to be in a place where there is a good lease and a good facility.

Q. You would not prefer to see it maintained in Seattle?

DAVID STERN: I would prefer, and I know that Howard Schultz and his partners would prefer that the team remain in Seattle with an opportunity to compete with other NBA teams. That's always our first choice. We used to be really successful at it until a couple of years ago.

Q. See if you can touch on Chris Andersen's situation and how his hearing went, and is there anything he could do, anything he can do to try to get back in?

RUSS GRANIK: Really, under our Collective Bargaining Agreement, we're required not to comment publicly about a variety of things related to the drug agreement.

So I think really all we can do is confirm, as you know that there was a hearing. It's under advisement. It's probably going to be at least a month or more before the arbitrator rules, and we'll just have to see what his ruling is.

Obviously we're dedicated to trying to operate the drug agreement as precisely as possible in accordance with the terms under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I think it's clear from hearings that have taken place in the last year, things that have been written, that's what the public wants; that you have a drug agreement, there's very specific rules, and they want to know that those rules are followed. I think we make an absolutely extreme to do that. We'll see what the arbitrator's ruling is and go from there.

Q. Has there been any discussion at any level about changing the current system of playoff seeding?

RUSS GRANIK: I tried to call you (Mike Monroe) about that the other day when you wrote your column, because I thought you made as good a case as could be made for the subject.

Actually, the subject was discussed briefly at the Competition Committee meeting yesterday, and it was agreed that we would try and put together some historical information that the committee members were looking for before we looked at it.

I would say to you that I think there's some substantial reservation at this point, again, just judging from the debate or lack of debate in the room about whether it really is an issue that has to be addressed any time soon. I can tell you my view is that there are just a lot of anomalies that come into play when you talk about playoff pairings, particularly in the first rounds. You have situations where maybe a team didn't play that well the first half of the season and the second half of the season, they could clearly be the best team in the league, yet they only have the fifth best record, they are going to get seeded fifth even though nobody would like to play them.

I think it may be the situation that you wrote about that a number of us had discussed earlier, it maybe falls into that category, or maybe it's one that happens a lot more often than you would think.

I think the concern here this year is because we have two teams in the West that seem to be way ahead of everybody else. So Phoenix was one game behind San Antonio, you know, I don't it's all how you look at the statistical information. But we are going to look at it. The committee was definitely interested in discussing it and it will be on the agenda in June.

Q. In the last couple of months, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Oklahoma City have had preliminary talks, and there was talk Oklahoma reached out to the Marlins this week. Does that concern the NBA, you've had success in the NBA and if the Hornets go back to New Orleans, some other sport might come back in and take the market?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: No, it doesn't concern us at all. One of the things that we felt we owed to Oklahoma City was to let our team there be a showcase for the demonstration that Oklahoma City could support a Major League team, and, in fact, was a Major League city.

So it was with some pride every time I read an article in Time magazine or Business Week or Sports Illustrated about the enormous outpouring of support. If the Hornets go back, and I learn there's a hockey team and a baseball team in Oklahoma City, they will be getting exactly what they deserve, which is recognition in as a major league city. If they don't, we are very much interested in having them at the top of our list, and I'll have you talk to Frank Hughes after the press conference. (Laughter).

Q. How many markets are there that the NBA is not in that could be viable NBA markets? Are you running out of markets?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: No. There's a new building in Kansas City, they have come and talked to us. We have had some visitations from folks who are interested in building a new building in San Diego. We have met with the ownership of the Anaheim Ducks and The Pond. I'm sure there are others that, you know, we meet with from time to time that think of themselves as major league areas that are currently under represented in the sports area.

So there's no shortage of teams, but we have no expectation that we will be expanding any time soon. I think 30 is fine.

Q. I've got a couple of questions, but I'll narrow it down to two. What are the things that you're going to be evaluating between now and 2007 to determine the city (New Orleans) will be ready for the Hornets to come back?

RUSS GRANIK: I was down there with Joel Litvin and others from our office several weeks ago, and we got I think a very open and frank presentation from the business leaders and city officials. I think there was an acknowledgment on their part that, first of all, there are some priorities that are just greater than trying to be ready to help support an NBA team at this time. When you're talking about 41 games, it's a lot different than eight football games.

I think the way we left it in our discussions with them is to see how the population base improves, what happens with people who are moving back into the city, people who are there to help staff the arenas, to help staff the hotels, and we received a pretty persuasive presentation that those things were going to happen over the next 12 months, and hopefully they will, but everyone was in agreement that it made sense to let that run its course first and then see where we are.

Q. My follow up question is, has the city been given the bid proposal for the All Star Game yet or are they in the process?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We are far along. They know what, based upon prior applications, they know what we need. We just wanted to get through this All Star so we could commence the discussions.

Q. Are you able to confirm that Monterrey, Mexico is going to have an exhibition game this year before next season? And what's your opinion of Mexico, there are very, very few people who is going to watch this All Star Game and the last Finals because it's on a very small network on cable. Almost nobody in Mexico is going to see it. Those two questions, please.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I don't see Ski Austin. Ski? I'm getting a thumbs up. I can confirm there will be an All Star Game (laughter) an exhibition game, a preseason game in Monterrey which is a great city which has wonderful hotels, a new arena and a per capita income double the rest of the country and several Fortune 500 corporations there.

And on the other side is you should tell the TV Azteca and the main one, Televisa, that they should stop talking to each other and make us an offer that we can accept, and then there would be a lot of people that could see the game. Until then, we'll go with people who want to negotiate and pay for the game. It's an old American sort of notionality of capitalism and we're proud to be a part of it. (Laughter).

Speaking of that, business is very good for us. It's important to us for sponsors to be involved, we have 21 sponsors and that's helping our game to grow. We had a press conference this morning that confirmed we will be sending four teams to Europe in October. It's really, you know, we say it as a matter of fact, but if you've been around long enough, you would think that we would some day say it, you would scratch your head and could it be possible.

The Clippers will be conducting training camp in Moscow and playing Red Army Moscow. The 76ers will be conducting training camp in Barcelona and playing FC Barcelona. The Spurs will conduct training camp in Leon, France and then play in Paris. The Suns will conduct training camp in Treviso and then play in Rome. And then two of the teams will go to Cologne to play again in a tournament against the two teams that are in the finals of the Euroleague Final Four, which takes place in Prague in May. If that works out, and we expect that it will, we'll do it all over again in 2007 as a demonstration of our global reach, and that entails the 215 countries that will be seeing our game tomorrow in 44 different languages.

Q. Do we have a date on teams for the exhibition games?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: No. (Laughter) All we can do is confirm the fact. We have a ventriloquist there, and I am a puppet and that's all the information that I have.

Q. Despite what you've said, there seems to be a widespread assumption around the league that the Hornets won't leave Oklahoma City they are doing so well and they were struggling last season, and the problems about depopulation, are there circumstances under which you will not go back to New Orleans?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: There are none that I can anticipate. And widespread assumptions, I don't know, you know, I don't know how to a deal with those. That means hearsay, rumor.

Q. You are making an unqualified commitment to go back?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We are planning to go back. Let me ask you a question: Do you think we'll go to the Olympics if bird flu is pandemic? That we are all planning, talking about what is going to happen? There may be a thousand different reasons why the world tomorrow will not be the same as it is today. All you can do is set things in motion and plan to follow through on them. And we're planning to go back to New Orleans. I don't know if that's not good enough for you, but I'm trying.

Q. New Orleans, I think is more to the point.

RUSS GRANIK: The team has an unqualified commitment and a lease at the arena.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You know how these lawyers are, they are very literal.

Q. I understand that. So an unqualified commitment would be we are going back?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We plan on going through with the commitment to return to New Orleans, and, in fact, there's a lease to that requires it. You want a certificate? Is there a notary in the house? Whatever you'd like. (Laughter).

Q. I don't want anything. I'm merely asking.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Okay.

Q. To follow up on what Russ was talking about earlier as far as the seeding, what are your thoughts on it? And I know the word "anomaly" was mentioned, but do you consider it a competitive flaw in the system if you do have two teams in any given season that are clearly better record wise? And the second one, I believe you said in a preseason conference call that you would name Russ's successor right around the All Star Break and where does that stand?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Right. I'm going to deal with the reorganization of the NBA office at the April meeting of the Board of Governors. I think that we ought to celebrate Russ here and not, you know, try to embarrass him as much as possible in the course of the weekend and save the next one for April at the board meeting.

You know, one of the reasons that Russ is going to remain a senior advisor to answer questions like the basketball ones that you just asked, because if we did what you and (Mike) Monroe suggested that there would be anomalies the other way. We went through this some months ago, saying, boy, we can't win on that one and I just don't know the answer to it. Obviously there will be issues, no matter what the system is. But, you know, it's been a pretty good system. It's held us and we've done pretty well by it and it by us. I'm sort of disinclined to change it, but we're going to get the data and maybe something will emerge from a little data mining that will suggest that we have it all wrong, or a little bit wrong, and then we'll make the change.

Q. The attendance in Toronto has been dropping the last couple of years and the team has not made the playoffs in four years, and given what happened in Vancouver and there is some concern in Toronto that maybe the outlet for that franchise might be on shaky ground and with the economic disadvantages of the dollar, does that cross your mind or are unconcerned about that situation at all?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Not a bit. The economic situation was what it was when we went into Toronto, and I think it's actually better than it was when we expanded. That's just simply not an issue.

I think that I used to go into Toronto, and the sky is falling when it wasn't, because there's sort of an underappreciation in Canada about what a great city Toronto is and what a great sports city is. And the team isn't doing so well. I'm familiar with that; I live in New York. (Laughter).

And so it will get better, it will get better. It always does. Whatever it is, our system is geared to help the teams that are not doing quite as well. So I have no concern whatsoever. I think that major league sports is a quintessential organization for the future with two teams and a building with plans to build other aspects out. It's absolutely secure in our league.

Q. How do you think the Memphis Grizzlies franchise is doing in year five, and is Pau making the franchise bigger for the franchise or bigger for Spain?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, I think it's big for both, but I think it's important for the franchise. I think a lot of good basketball is being played there. They may have had a rough patch competitively, but I think the franchise is doing great and is a source of great pride in the community. The FedEx Forum is a spectacular building.

There's always something in the margins in all of our teams. If you're not winning, you don't do quite as well attendance wise and if you win, you do better. And there is this immunable issue of wins and losses having to even out. And we like what we see in Memphis, and we are particularly, particularly impressed what the team has done in the community at St. Jude's and other places, and we like the market very much.

Q. With this event, All Star Weekend, you're going to have it in Vegas next year and probably in New Orleans in '08, what about beyond that? You've spoken in the past about maybe we would try it in Paris. Would you like to keep trying destination cities, or would you like to put it overseas and give it a one year try?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: No, I don't really think there's an overseas destination that makes sense for us from a building perspective. And in addition, we don't really currently have the time within the schedule to do something like that. I think we'll be looking at 2009 and beyond to NBA cities.

But, we're open on the subject. If something strikes us as enhancing this week, whether it be another non NBA city or some international distinction, we're open on the subject. Nothing has been pre decided here. But we're very hopeful that it's New Orleans in 2008 and we think we can get that done in the next couple of weeks, and that will give us some breathing room to take stock and decide what we do after that.

It's a very important event for us. It is something which allows us to really welcome our world into a city. It has taken on that kind of importance for us, because our finals, our buildings just can't expand to accommodate the kinds of interactions that we need to have and the planning we need to do for a big event. So All Star is very important to us.

Q. On the playoff seeding, if you do decide to change direction, can you talk about what recommendation might be on the table? And would one be to just seed the teams 1 through 8 by record?

RUSS GRANIK: I think the one thing that there might be some interest in, and I think it was sort of Monroe's Plan B, would be to maybe look at how you seed the top four teams. In other words, right now, the top three seeds go to the three division winners and the fourth seed goes to whoever has the next best record.

One thing that we have kicked around is whether you might say, all right, those same four teams are going to get the top four seeds, but maybe you do it in accordance with their record so that the division winners could be, for instance, first, third and fourth, or first, second and fourth, something like that. I think that's a possibility.

It's very unlikely I believe, that we would go to reseeding after each round or anything like that. I think that's very impractical for us in a lot of ways, and I don't think that it's very likely that we would ever go to just taking the top eight teams, the top eight records in each conference because I think we view it as we want to make it something significant for winning the division.

The issue is, there's lots of different competing interests in what you're trying to do here. What we have to wrestle with is which are the most important interests and how do we try to balance it.

Q. Along that same line, how concerned are you with the potential incentive for teams to maybe lose at the end of the season on purpose if it's in their self interest?

RUSS GRANIK: I think we are no more concerned than we have ever been. As I said before, we've always had, if you want to pose the worst possible scenario and imagine the worst motives, you always have had the possibility, not based on seeding as division winners, but simply based on the circumstances of a season where a team can look and say, you know, gee, I would rather this team is playing really well now, maybe they don't have the record that they should have if we only played a 30 game season. And teams, if that's in their interests and they are willing to do that, you've always had that possibility. I don't think we've seen any evidence of that, perhaps ever. I think we used to worry about it for draft pick and I think we fixed that pretty well with the lottery years ago.

Just on the theoretical basis that this might happen, it's always been possible, and yet I don't think any of us have really felt that we've seen this happen in the past.

Q. A lot of players and other people are looking forward to next year already in Las Vegas, I just wanted to get your opinion on what kind of concerns you might have about the atmosphere there, and how much of a dry run is this for an NBA franchise?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, we are most concerned about making sure there's room at the Marriott for the media. (Laughter).

Our second, this is not a dry run, we have one issue with Las Vegas, and it's not about gambling, as I've said. Gambling, 40 states have lotteries. Those that don't have lotteries, there's Indian reservations that have gambling establishments or video poker in all of their eating establishments, so everybody gambles now. Whether that's right or wrong, that's state government policy that's been left to the states and that's what America does.

We're going to Las Vegas because we think it's a great destination city. They have removed the All Star events from the betting line, and we think that we have no problem with people who want to go there and gamble. It's state sanctioned, state sponsored, state regulated. They have great hotel stock, great shows, great restaurants, great family events, great golf courses and we are looking forward to being there for our All Star Game. We don't think it's a stigmatized city in our view. We actually were participating in getting legislation a decade ago, two decades ago, you know, federal legislation that provided that no state that at that point didn't have sports betting could have it. And so in some ways we helped cement the legal monopoly that Las Vegas has on sports betting. But we are not going to go there while they have betting on NBA basketball games.

Now was there another part of the question that I didn't answer?

Q. That was the first part that you alluded to the journalists, and just about the atmosphere.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: It's a great entertainment place. We were so oversubscribed here, which is great what started out as 13 hotels went to 25 hotels, and on Thursday of this week I got the call that we are still 100 rooms short. I don't think we're going to have a room shortage in Las Vegas. I realize that the convention center has 600,000 feet of great space for the Jam Session. There will be lots of talent around and our guests. I'm sure will be well entertained whatever hotels they stay at and we're looking forward to it and we'll have a great time.

Q. On a personal note for, the media I can speak for is very pleased of Las Vegas next season and we are supportive of making it a future site if you're interested.

You've ticked off all of these legendary players, Bill Russell, Oscar (Robertson), have you ever approached Michael Jordan about being involved in any of these activities? A couple of years ago, you talked about him being eminently involved in ownership, has anything come of that?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Michael is in town. Michael has trouble being in a town. He's been mobbed and he has trouble moving around. His popularity continues and he values his privacy and his family's privacy.

He was at All Star Weekend last year and he's at All Star Weekend this year. I think it's okay with us exactly the way it is. There was an opportunity that we had that didn't pan out. There have been other opportunities that I have discussed with him or his advisors, and I think that he's, shall I say, a value shopper, and that's good. But I fully intend to continue the dialogue, and I would expect, although nothing is imminent, that one day he will be an investor in an NBA team.

Q. Completely unrelated, regarding what happened in the NHL, have you said anything to your players regarding gambling in light of that situation?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Our players know that if they do something that's illegal or improper, that they are subject to discipline under the NBA Constitution. They also know that if they bet on basketball, they will be permanently barred from the NBA, bet on NBA games. We reinforce that every year, both in team meetings and at rookie sessions, and generally. And we didn't rush out and do anything else beyond that. In fact, I think they don't need a stronger reminder than the widespread publicity that that event has gotten.

Q. As you alluded to a couple of questions ago, things are not going so well at Madison Square Garden.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I didn't say that. I just said the team wasn't winning.

Q. Well, the team is not winning, the general manager has been named in a sexual harassment lawsuit, does it concern you that the so called marquee franchise in the NBA has proceeded to be a circus?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You don't have to be subtle. (Laughter) You can ask a direct question.

You know, I used to get asked this question the last time the Knicks were down, I guess pre Patrick (Ewing). Isn't the league just going to disappear because there isn't a strong franchise in Madison Square Garden? I guess it was when the Lakers and the Celtics were ruling the waves, and we continue to prosper. We'll set another attendance record this year. Revenues are terrific. Attention is being focused on our game and our players as never before in this country and around the world. We've got 30 marquee franchises and I'm not going to fall into the trap.

Actually I recognized that historically, every city is provincial as everyone else, and New York is no different in sort of what is the media capital of the world, newspapers, etc., but the way people get their information now increasingly and the way that when you and others write outside of New York is so quickly disseminated by, we'll do fine with the normal distribution of wins and losses and some teams will be suffering. With respect to allegations, they are just that, and I don't think it's fair to say on the basis of allegations or to deal with them as though they are fact.

Q. So it's a normal dip?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Absolutely. You just heard it, Toronto is if I knew what was going on in Las Vegas and I knew anything about an over and an under, I would have guessed the over and under number of wins that is New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets would have would be about 20, and they are they are on a playoff run

RUSS GRANIK: And then the Clippers.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Finally. Every year I would come running out of my office, "Let's schedule the Clippers this year for TV," and they would send me back to my room. (Laughter).

This is the year that Russ and Joe would say, "Oh, God, he's at it again." But it changes. The system does work, and it will continue to work and change and rearrange itself.

Come on, we have a little more time, this is Russ's last press conference.

Q. I'm just curious, you talked about the business of the league being good, how does it compare now to what it was before the brawl? What economic impact do you feel now that the brawl had?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: None. I think that what the brawl did was give our reputation a big hit. It became very, very convenient to refer post brawl, if you were a talk show host to the thugs and punks of the NBA. It was a slander then, as it would be a slander now, to take from the specifics on a brood generalization, and we've had to work hard with our players to help them and help us to demonstrate that our players strive to demonstrate their passion for the game, their commitment to their communities and their engagement with the fans, together with the respect and history and traditions of our game.

NBA Cares is a our way of capturing that, no matter what Sam Smith says about not sending cameras out to pick these events up. When you guys yell "uncle" and tell me that there are too many of those spots, that's when we will double them, because our players do more in the community than any other professional athlete in the world individually with their teams and with us, and they travel the world. We are absolutely committed to giving them their due, despite the cynicism that abounds from campaigns like that. That's the injury that I think we suffered, and we need to deal with that, and we are, in the things that we do to check on those things, to do test borings, there's been a strong upsurge and appreciation for our players talents, and what they do and who they are, and we are going to continue emphasizing that, and that's what the brawl and some other activities resulted in, in sort of a dip in that reputation.

Q. Was Allen Iverson's worldwide appeal one of the reasons why the 76ers are one of the four teams that are going to be playing in Europe?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Actually, Joel Litvin is from Philadelphia and he is sort of... (laughter).

Actually, we wanted to take the 76ers. They are an exciting team and they have gotten to be very well known because of Allen.

And Allen is actually, in our way, is a poster child for another thing which is important to us. And that is that there's been a reaction some years ago to those of our players who had cornrows, tattoos and somehow that exterior led itself to people commenting upon that.

The reality is that Allen proves as well as anyone else has ever proven, that if you've got game and you leave it all out there, you pick up the admiration of people around the world, and people we'll lies that the exterior is not a defining characteristic, and we love to see that happening. Because that's what shows our game at its best, sort of the teamwork, what it takes to play at the level and what he's willing to put up with in terms of injuries to continue to excel at this level.

So we are delighted to have the 76ers going to Europe.

Q. Considering the ever growing number of international players in the NBA, how important is the success of the USA basketball team in international competition? And how come Serbia has the most number of international players and the NBA doesn't have the TV contract?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: How many players?

Q. Eight.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: How many people?

Q. 8 million.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Last night I received a report from Lithuania, three million and six players, so I think on a per capita basis, I think Lithuania gets it. (Laughter) So I think Serbia is doing great but they didn't agree to pay us a fair rate, so we are not there, but we're combining it. I'm surprised, I thought we did have a relationship.

Sport Club TV.

Q. There's a relatively obscure cable system. (Laughter).

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You should get together with my friend in Mexico and tell the network they should lighten up and continue with us.

Thanks everybody and especially thanks to Russ Granik.

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