Stern gives players a reason to stop smiling

(This column first appeared on

By Jan Hubbard

When he visits NBA arenas during the season, David Stern often makes a grand entry into each team’s locker room before the game to mingle with the fellows, perhaps giving them a brief but very inspiring pep talk and showing them the king has his common-man side.

Usually, the commissioner is welcomed with smiles and handshakes and appreciation. When you have a leader who helped the average salary balloon north of $5 million, it’s only proper to be respectful. Plus it’s always a treat to be in the presence of royalty.

It was a decision of such overpowering absurdity, in fact, that Stern and the league looked foolish trying to defend it. Stern’s decision came on the same day he received a scathing e-mail from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert saying it would be a “travesty” to approve the deal.

As that e-mail was published, the league came back with a weak response that the trade was denied for “basketball reasons.” There was even a diversionary tactic of saying the trade had not been discussed at the Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday, but that was silly. Obviously Gilbert is not going to be sitting at the meeting with a laptop and e-mailing the commissioner while they are in the same room. But no one denied the commissioner had received the email.

Still, when he finally got around to issuing a press release, Stern felt the need to say his decision was made “free from the influence of other NBA owners.” That was so unusual and awkward that you had a feeling he had his hand behind his back with his fingers crossed.

Stern should have done the opposite – say the 29 owners jointly own the team, and they have the right to decide if a trade is good or bad.

The “basketball reasons” excuse was overwhelmingly mocked with Steve Kerr, the respected TNT analyst and former Suns GM, saying on ESPN radio that vetoing the trade was  “one of the dumbest things the league has ever done.”

[To view original column on, click here.]


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