Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Updated: May 19, 12:32 PM ET
Stern ready to see summer unfold
ESPN.com news services
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- NBA commissioner David Stern says the excitement surrounding free agency might force him to hide in his office until players such as LeBron James decide where to play next season.
James could lead one of the deepest free agent classes in years, with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire all eligible to walk.
With politicians and fans already making their pleas and pitches, Stern knows the free agency frenzy is just beginning.
"We're having a good playoffs. We'll have a great finals, a really interesting draft and then Katie bar the door in July," Stern said. "Songs, banners, balloons, blimps, armies, I don't even know what. I'm just going to hide in the office and let it all roll out."
The biggest of the stars is James, the two-time defending MVP. He helped the Cleveland Cavaliers has become one of the league's top teams, but the club has failed to reach the NBA Finals despite having the best record in the league the past two seasons.
Cleveland was stunned by Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals this season, putting James' future there in doubt.
Stern said he liked the way the free agency system was tilted so that the incumbent teams have a better chance to re-sign their top players. He insisted the league will not tolerate teams recruiting free agents before July 1, although he is powerless to stop fans and cities from doing it.
"I've learned to live with it and actually enjoy it," Stern said of the civic lobbying, according to the New York Post. "When I saw the governor's song in Ohio, then Mayor Bloomberg playing no favorites in his responses on the Knicks or Brooklyn, I was like, 'OK, this is beyond me.'"
The response has also impressed him.
"It shows the importance of the culture that will continue as we head to July 1," Stern said, according to the Post. "It shows what a fixture the NBA has become and the comings and goings of our players have become stories unto themselves."
In a news conference before Tuesday's NBA draft lottery, Stern also says he expects much from new owner Mikhail Prokhorov in his bid to turn around the New Jersey Nets.
The Nets, who finished with a league-worst 12-70 record, have more than $23 million in salary cap room and the richest man in Russia to now foot the bills.
And Prokhorov made it clear he thinks he can convince the top players to come to the Nets.
"We have two competitive advantages," he told TNT in an interview to air Wednesday. "We're creating history practically from scratch. It's very exciting and our desire to win is really great. Our second competitive advantage in being the first foreign owner is to create a really global team with fans all around the world. I feel pretty sure to persuade the very best of the best that the Nets is the place they need to be."
Stern said Prokhorov's money isn't going to be what turns around the Nets.
"He's going to do it by hard work and good management," Stern said. "That's what works -- drafting a good player that comes out of the lottery and the draft, by surrounding that player with other good players, by making sure that people understand that he's committed to the entertainment experience at the Prudential Center."
The Nets plan to play in Newark, N.J. for the next two seasons, before moving to a new home and arena in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Stern also admitted that he has occasionally thought about retirement, but he has no timetable for leaving because he loves what he is doing.
"It's a pretty good job; I have thought about it," the 67-year-old Stern said of retirement. "I thought about it every two or three years for the last 26. But so far so good."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.