David Stern Press Conference




NBA Commissioner David Stern made an appearance in the Twin Cities on Wednesday and addressed the media prior to the Timberwolves’ game against the San Antonio Spurs. Commissioner Stern spoke about the Wolves, his relationship with Glen Taylor, the collective bargaining agreement, the future of the NBA in Sacramento and Seattle and HGH testing, among other topics. Here is a full transcription of his press conference at Target Center.

Opening statement...

"Good afternoon. Thanks for coming. I have a meeting tomorrow with the mayor just to talk about where things stand in respect to centering back to the great building it was, which I hope will come to a final form in the next few weeks, which would be great. It will be exciting for the fans of the Timberwolves and it will be really exciting for the people of Minneapolis and the entire downtown area. When you think about the new scoreboard, the signage, the seats, the clubs, the restaurants, everything really takes the ambiance of the building, and worries about its guests, and brings it really into the 21st century. That is a very important development for the league and I want to show my support in that. While I'm here I get the opportunity to say thank you to a number of various supporters; sponsors for the Timberwolves and get a chance to say hello to everyone here. I don't want to say too much because I won't have anything left to say at All-Star but effusive to say we are having a great season. Our players are I think getting the respect they deserve for what they do on the court and off the court. We believe the collective bargaining agreement and the revenue sharing have put us on course to great success where we are going to see players salaries continue to rise, team profitability, team values continue to rise and our teams will be really as competitive or more competitive with each other than they have ever been. Obviously the one thing we haven't been able to figure out is how to deal with age or injury. We have several Timberwolves out with injuries tonight and a couple of Spurs who will be out as well. Other than that life is good. I'm already looking at my schedule for exhibition games for next year. We are planning exhibition games in Europe, Asia, Latin American and that's going to be great. We are looking forward to a great conclusion of this season and another successful season next year. I just got back from a game between Detroit and New York in London of all places. It was a sellout crowd and a huge appreciation for our game from our European fans. We are feeling very good about everything from the way our players are being received here and the way we are being received around the world. I'd be happy to answer any questions as long as you identify yourself before you ask it."

On relationship with Glen Taylor and how Stern is watching the process of Glen finding a successor unfold...

"I would say that I'm pretty involved in the process. I go back to the inception of the franchise with Harvey and Marv. They never needed a last name from me they were just Harvey and Marv. When they decided it was time to sell the club Glen Taylor came along on his white horse and we were very relieved to have him and keep the team here. Since that time Glen has been an unfailing supporter of the team, the city and ultimately the league as he became chairman of our board. As with many other owners over the year, I have suggested that he should think about the plan for the orderly succession of the team. Although I know he still loves it and he doesn't want to do it tomorrow that he should considered it and he has. He is doing it in a very thoughtful and prudent way. I think eventually it will happen. I think Glen is not what you would call an anxious seller. Sometimes I think he might have sellers remorse even though he hasn't sold it because he loves the team and he loves what it does for the community. I do believe he is in the midst of at least a thought process that is going to going find him at some point in the future, not immediately."

On the new collective bargaining agreement...

"I have an interesting perspective on it. Remember that our first goal was to have a hard salary cap. Period new paragraph. Under a hard salary cap everyone would be subject to the same rules and teams would have to break up. The players were insistent that they wouldn't agree to a hard salary cap. We decided that rather than testing that by losing the season it made sense to save the season and then make a comprise deal, which is this deal with an extreme luxury tax in year three. Any well managed team is going to think about the future consequences of their roster management. The Knicks elected to not retain Jeremy Lin. The Bulls elected not to retain Asik. Dallas elected to allow Tyson Chandler to be signed by the Knicks. The Oklahoma City Thunder elected to trade James Harden. I can't quite figure out the Memphis deal yet because I'm listening to some of the basketball guys down there for whom I have respect who say 'it's not just about money. You'll see it's a good deal from a basketball perspective.' For Memphis I tend to stand back and respect the request for time because I sat on the sideline when everyone denounced Memphis for trading a guy named Pau in a trade where a guy named Marc Gasol was the other end of the trade, so we will see. Every team is watching what they can do and how it can improve its team in connection with the much higher luxury tax. That is part of management. That is now part of roster management; cap management. Like it or not, our teams are going to have to manage well to get the best players they can. Manage well to hire the best coach. Manage well to manage their roster under the cap and manage well to do the best business that they can. Every team has the ability to do that, be competitive and be profitable under our current system."

On the possibility of the Sacramento Kings moving to Seattle...

"The latest with the Seattle/Sacramento situation is that we have submitted a signed agreement for the team to be sold to a very strong group from Seattle. We have received an application to have the team moved from Sacramento to Seattle. I have convened the appropriate committees and told them that as we get more information and more data we will be sending the information to them because they will have to make a recommendation to the board, which will likely decide the issue, both as the sale and the move, at our board meeting in April. The mayor of Sacramento has advised that he will be back to us soon with a proposal from a group to buy the team in Sacramento and build a building in Sacramento with a substantial subsidy from the city of Sacramento. We're abiding events. The Seattle application is to play in Key Arena-- probably for two years, possibly three. There is no final approval with respect to a new building in Seattle but events are well underway moving in that direction. They don't currently have a building, but they propose to improve Key as a temporary facility while a new one is being built. My guess is it's likely that the mayor of Sacramento will appear before the board with an alternate plan. That's why we have a board of governors, to make difficult decisions like this one."

On the likeliness of the Kings staying in Sacramento...

"I don't think it's a bidding war. There's a series of issues that are defined by our constitution that have to be considered. One of the things that our board is mandated to consider is the support for the team in the prior city. There are real issues for the board to consider; about buildings and the likelihood they'll be built, about the support in both cities. I think I might have helped compose the standards, but sitting here today I can't remember what they are. There are a lot of them. Actually, to confuse it just a little bit, the application for a transfer requires a three-quarter vote, and the application to move requires a majority vote. I did the sensible thing, combined the committees and said, 'You guys figure it out.'

On HGH testing in the NBA...

"What I said was, 'Our players have been great.' We've had an anti-drug program since 1983. We actually, under the last collective bargaining agreement, moved to six unannounced tests a year, with two in the offseason. We have a list of prohibited drugs that merits the Olympic list. We have lots of them, probably a hundred. With the agreement between the union and the NBA, we add drugs as they become different. HGH has always been a prohibited substance, except-- as you can tell from the goings-on in baseball and football-- how you test for them and the reliability is an issue. I think that we're watching baseball and football. What I said was, 'If they get through what I think they're going to get through, and have full-fledged testing, based on our overall dialogue with the union I think we'll be in a good place to have that as well for next season.' It's not a commitment, not a promise, it's an expectation. It might slide a bit but I think we're well on our way. Our players have, as a group, said 'We want to be demonstrably free of drugs, as much as any group of athletes in the world.' I think they've kept that pledge."

On the issues that Billy Hunter is going through...

"We have a dialogue with the union. We had it when Billy was there and we continue to have it with his interim replacement. I have lots of thoughts but I don't think it would be prudent for me to express them. As I sit back and watch the march of the collective bargaining, it has been interesting to me that the NFL was about a 50-50 deal, the NHL was a 50-50 deal, and we're a 50-50 deal. I think that the union, our union, which was not just about Billy Hunter but was about Kevin Murphy, a very respected economist and Jerry Kessler, a very famous sports lawyer who counseled players and unions in all three sports was there for the bargaining. It wasn't just about Billy, it was about the team that was put together."

On the Twin Cities getting an All-Star Game...

"I don't know. We haven't had an application, and I wouldn't say that this building is currently configured as a candidate for that topic. After the refurbishment is done, I'll tell Adam Silver that he should definitely open the envelope marked 'Minnesota All-Star Bid Application.'"

On the future of the Timberwolves' franchise in Minnesota...

"I view this (the renovations) as a step, a beginning of another process. There's no sense doing it unless, as part of the deal, we find a way to continually maintain the building so that it doesn't fall behind. I think that's contemplated based on the performance of the building that we're projecting and the ability to accumulate funding for capital improvements. I view this as a reset, with a little bit more attention paid perhaps, than has been paid for the past 24 years, to keeping the building current. That's a much easier job once you bring it up to standard. I don't think the fans have to worry about (the franchise moving) at all."

On other examples of renovated buildings in the NBA...

"Well, if you look at the Palace at Auburn Hills, it's a 1987 building that has made substantial investments and is really in very good shape for one of the oldest buildings in the league at this point. If you look at what the Suns have done in Phoenix, where that building has been continuously updated, that's a great example. I'm sure there are others. There are massive renovations, obviously, like Madison Square Garden where it took a billion dollars to transform it completely and build a new building. It's pretty important to make capital improvements on an ongoing basis, because the fans actually deserve it. It's great for downtown. The number of people that will be drawn to this building when the various transportation arms are completed, and the plans that I've seen involving a new, additional sky walk, I get very excited about the impact that a fresh, continually busy building can have on a vital downtown."

On Joakim Noah violating the dress code last week...

"Actually, I haven't checked the picture and I didn't know about it until I read it on my way here in the clips. So I'm guessing, like you are. The rule is that you have to be in a sports jacket on the bench. Was he in a sports jacket? A jacket is one thing. I think there is a sense that our players know very well, that you shouldn't wear a hood on the bench. I guess that was it. I wasn't asked for my opinion, and frankly I'm glad that I wasn't. Our dress code is so minimal; the people who write about it today say, 'Oh, the dress code.' They forget that it's about wearing a pair of jeans, a pair of shoes and a short sleeve shirt with a collar. That's the dress code. Except for on the bench, where coaches are required to wear jackets and players are too if they're not in uniform. That's it, it's a very light touch. And, by the way, thank you for the award that you're giving tonight to Kirilenko."

On "saving the franchise" a few years back...

"You know, Sid, I forget a little bit (what my thinking was). As I tried, I was reminded about that today. I think that the deal that was made suggested that the franchise could be sold and that the NBA Board of Governors wouldn't be a part of the process, it just would go. That's always something that offended me, because my job is to protect the prerogative of the Board of Governors. As I recall, I said 'Not so fast' and we filed a lawsuit. I can't remember, I think it was in Federal Court here in Minneapolis. I do remember that there's still a judgment outstanding against me in the Parish Court in New Orleans requiring me to schedule the team in New Orleans that year. I'm probably in contempt of court with regard to some outstanding document. I remember being offended by the process that the buyer thought would do it. You just buy it and you do it? Oh, no no no. I worked hard to protect the prerogatives of the Board. And, I thought, we had just expanded! I can't remember the year...1994. We had just opened up in 1989? We were there for five years. You come into a market and you tell them how you're going to do everything great, and then all of a sudden you're gone? I just thought that Minneapolis had not received a fair shake."

On his relationship with Glen Taylor and his involvement with the Board of Governors...

"Well, the team did what it did at that time and I did what I had to do as Commissioner, but that didn't stop me from respecting Glen as a businessman and as a person. I would say that we have become very good friends and work closely together, with him as Chairman of the Board and I have enormous respect, not only for his business acumen, but for his very serious concern for this team and its future in the Twin Cities. He wants it to stay here. All discussions about sale revolve around finding the person, or persons, who will commit to keeping it as a first-class franchise in the Twin Cities."

On the NBA approaching individual corporate sponsorships on jerseys...

"Yes, we are approaching that day. I'm not a huge fan of that subject, and those discussions have gone on with me sort of sitting on the sideline. Actually, right now, we're the only league that doesn't have corporate representation on its jerseys. We don't even have the name of the manufacturer, whereas the NFL and the NHL do. That's been something I have been very proud of historically. There is a revenue opportunity, and as so often is the case, taking advantage of that becomes a separate discussion. Yes, I think it will happen. It's not going to happen this season; it's not going to happen next season. When it does happen, I'd like you to send me a postcard. I want to really keep track of it. I understand it. You have an opportunity to maximize revenue. We just came back from that game I talked about in London. In the Premier League, probably the most successful league in the world, they laugh at us. 'You guys are arguing about a patch? You can't even find the names of our teams on the uniforms.' On the kit, excuse me. They go from here to here and it's one airline, or an insurance company or Unicef...you name it! They're completely, in my view, mucked up. We're talking about a two and a half inch patch. I recognize that once you start, you're on the trail. But, you know, players get half of it."

On Sid congratulating him on his work as Commissioner...

"Thank you Sid Hartman. I was afraid you wouldn't be able to read my handwriting. He's the man, okay? People who don't know about Sid...literally, at the beginning, with the Chicago Zephyrs in 19...what was it Sid? A long time. He forgets. It was amazing and you've been a very important part of (the NBA's) rich history. Thanks everybody, enjoy the game."


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