COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I’d just like to start with some thanks to Leslie Alexander, Tad Brown and the entire Houston Rockets organization, which have helped us to demonstrate once again that Houston is a great city to host an event or series of events, and this has been so far a terrific week for us.
Mayor Annise Parker, we want to thank her for your efforts together with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and the Houston Convention Business Bureau and Harris County Sports Authority. It’s always a collective effort. The transportation, the venues and the general hospitality has been spectacular.
All‑Star is as good a time as any to gauge how we’re doing in terms of our league. And first and foremost our players are having a great season and their teams are having great seasons.
There’s an enormous amount of interest in our games, and we don’t know who on any given day, in all deference to the departed Pete Rozelle, we’re getting there, on any given day you look at the box scores and you’re surprised to see that the team that is supposed to win has won.
And it gives me particular pride to see the number of former players who are not only coaching but broadcasting, in some cases, owning, and making contributions not only to the NBA but to the WNBA and the NBA Development League, all of which is on display here from our NBA Cares caravan, with legends and WNBA players and NBA D‑League players and NBA players, to our Jam Session, which I commend you to see, not only the best interactive showcase, but also to see the Digital Village, which will demonstrate to you why our players are at really the front of the digital revolution. We’re really getting posts from all over the world, several million Tweets that you can just come up, push the globe and they stop and you can read the Tweets all about All‑Star Weekend.
Last night you saw our future. It looks pretty good. Tonight you’re going to see the talent of our individual players. Tomorrow you’re going to see a couple of All‑Star teams that are going to have seven newcomers, talking about our future. And of course tomorrow morning we get to welcome back the legends that really does make this into a family gathering.
Adam and I had the opportunity to visit with the National Basketball Retired Players Association today, both the plenary session and the board, and it was a hoot for a couple of basketball fans. It was good stuff. And we’re going to be working with them. We just announced a new four‑year deal with them and we work very closely with them and will continue to work closely with them.
Everything else is good. We think that the Collective Bargaining Agreement is working. We think that it’s yet to click in its fullness, which will happen next year. We believe the revenue‑sharing projects together with the Collective Bargaining Agreement that our teams will have the opportunity to both compete and to be profitable.
And our international prospects remain as strong as ever. We don’t have anything to announce, but we’re going to be doing lots of exhibition traveling, I have no doubt, this coming preseason. Our digital footprint will become larger country by country, with respect to the websites that are going to be entering into partnerships and the like.
Adam is heading off to China next month. Heidi Ueberroth has me going to India in April. And the march continues as our game continues to prosper and thrive.
So here we are, and we’re happy to ‑‑ oh, yes, thank you. Just to anticipate one line of questioning, I told Adam, remind me to speak about Seattle and Sacramento. So it says, “Sac‑Seattle” because I knew I would forget.
I think it’s fair to say that we have an application in house, as you know, from Seattle to both transfer ownership to the Hansen‑Ballmer group and an application to move the team to Seattle to play in Key Arena while the process goes on to get permission to build a new building in Seattle, and the various lawsuits and environmental impact and other things are dealt with.
And that’s moving along. I met with Mayor McGinn of Seattle, we have two committees focusing on it, the Relocation Committee and Advisory Finance Committee, and we fully expect to have that process completed for report to the Board of Governors at its April 18th meeting.
We have been advised by Mayor Johnson of Sacramento, parenthetically, who we have not met with and who we have no plans to meet with here, closed parens, that Sacramento will be delivering to us a competitive bid to the one that we have received from Seattle. That will include the construction of a new building with a significant subsidy from the City of Sacramento, and other things that would bring the region together to support the team.
That’s all we have. The mayor has said that we’ll have that likely well before March 1, which appears in our constitution for when we must receive applications to move. It’s sort of irrelevant exactly, but that was a good enough date, so we selected that.
Changing subjects, I don’t have any comment on the Players’ Association situation other than we know as much as you do and nothing more. We’ve seen Derrick Fisher’s statements, and we await notification from the union as to who we should be dealing with, because it has been a principle of faith for us that we will deal with whomever the union tells us to deal with. That’s what we do, and it remains the same.
Now we’ll take questions.
Q. David and Adam, the D‑League Showcase this afternoon, where do you see the D‑League going kind of in the short term? And is there a road map you can envision for 30 D‑League teams?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: I attended the D‑League Showcase this afternoon. We think it’s a wonderful event and I met with the D‑League owners yesterday, as well. I think ultimately we’d like to have a 30‑team league, and we do envision a one‑to‑one relationship between every NBA team and a single D‑League affiliate. We think it’s the second best basketball in the world after the NBA.
One of the things we spoke to the D‑League owners about was increased use of D‑League teams internationally. We play a big slate of preseason games now internationally. We played the Knicks and Detroit in London this year, but it’s enormously labor intensive to move NBA teams over, whether it’s during the season or preseason. But the D‑League stands to play internationally, as well.
It’s development not just of the game, but also development of business, as well. Increasingly many of our top executives also began their careers in the Development League. So we find it to be extraordinarily successful and we look forward to continuing to build it.
Q. Commissioner, in the Seattle situation is there anything more the city of Seattle needs to do to ensure that it’s in the best position to get a team?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Not that I’m aware of.
Q. What do you think of what they have been able to pull together and deliver to you so far?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: As I’ve said before, there’s a very strong ownership group that has come together, and there’s a plan for a $600 million or so, maybe it’s only 590, building that I haven’t studied any plans of, but it seems to be in the normal course a standard application that’s quite strong.
Q. What do you make of the League’s current performance, drug‑testing program? And can you envision changes along the lines of what baseball has gone through?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: What is it that baseball has gone through?
Q. They’re adding like a biological passport and blood testing.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, I would say that we have a comprehensive drug testing program that has a long list, probably a hundred or so, I’m not even sure the number, of drugs that are prohibited, including HGH, subject to an agreement of the validity of an appropriate testing protocol. And we expect that to happen, we really do, before the start of next season.
With respect to the biological passport, I think the blood test is the precursor to the biological passport. And that’s a subject for discussion with the Players’ Association.
And let me say, our players have been front and center with us on this one. They want to be and be perceived as playing in a drug‑free sport. We have six unannounced tests a year. Two of those are authorized out of season. And we have an independent group of experts that adds drugs to the list of prescribed drugs. And we test in a way that the samples get sent to an approved lab and we’re there.
There will always be some kind of leap‑frogging there, as there was in 1983 which we were the first league to have an anti‑‑drug program and dealt with a variety of things. So it’s always subject to be improved. But together with our Players’ Association, which I think has taken a leadership role here, I’m sure will continue to improve it.
Q. David, how would each of you define the words innovation for every aspect of the League that is attempting to get better, in social media, to digital media to consumer marketing to the players, to the international league?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Cousin Jason, thank you for that question. We appreciate the opportunity (laughter.)
Let me just say the people of the NBA, the teams, the people at the League office, we push at each other in the most incredible way across everything we do, from human resources to social responsibility, to player programs, to events, to international, even the lawyers, okay? We push back and forth and back and forth. And our teams, working with team marketing and business operations, our digital operations, our marketing operations. It’s really quite incredible to watch. And internationally it’s really fun. We were at the Africa reception today, and Amadou Gallo Fall is doing a great job. We’re going to our China Night, our Spanish Night after the game.
And everyone is pushing everyone else in a good way and that’s how it happens. It’s the people of the NBA. And we borrow many things from the teams because they are in their own way the state of the art, as well. So they push at each other and they push at us and we share best practices.
Q. This is going to come down to an economic issue between Seattle and Sacramento, but you’ve invested a lot of the league’s resources, last year in Orlando you spent so much time trying to broker the deal. How do you decipher between the economics and the emotional aspect of what’s happening? Have you gotten a read of your owners this weekend?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I’ve gotten no read of our owners because they expect to have the Committee to process it first, and will respect the Committee system and League office’s ability to wash through all the date, things that are necessary under our constitution and bylaws.
And I don’t believe it’s going to come down to economics because it’s not about, okay, “I say 525. All right. I say 526.” To me that would be economics. I think the owners are going to have a tough issue to decide. But I don’t want to get to it because we don’t have the predicate for that tough decision yet. It’s going to wait upon Mayor Johnson making good on his statement that there will be an offer. And it’s going to, I think, be upon, in the Sacramento area, a number of the regional municipalities and the various people who have been saying they’ll give the mayor the support that he needs. And we’ll see.
And then the owners are going to have to deal with it. This is a good time to be a commissioner and not an owner.
Q. Do you advise at all?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I’ve been known to (laughter.)
Q.We just gave Kobe the Chinese version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. We just mentioned social media was crazy all around the world. Is there anything new in your mind to use social media more to get the NBA to keep growing bigger?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: The beauty of social media is that it grows by itself dynamically and organically. We’re quite familiar with an Sina Weibo. We’ve had great experience with it, and other sites. And we expect that our friends and fans in China, who are increasingly mobile with smart phones, are just going to continue to do it, but there are going to be a billion smart phones and cellphones in Africa, not too long from now and a fair number in India.
So we’re a little bit ahead in China; we have 150 people or so there, only five in Africa and five in India. But it’s coming, and what happens to us is the ability to transport ourselves digitally. If you’re walking around with a cellphone, a smart phone, in most countries, you can get NBA League Pass International. If you want an extra thousand games, compared to what we’re sending, you need only sign up with your smart phone.
So we see digital just on a global basis to be a driver of our international growth in an incredible way.
Q. A couple of days ago you described Seattle as a great city for the NBA, but obviously the League left there five years ago. What exactly makes it a great city?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: It was a great city five years ago.
Q. Do you regret the way the League left Seattle? And does that impact the ‑‑
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Actually, it doesn’t impact anything. This is being done by the book. But I seem to remember, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Mariners, and a $300 million‑plus subsidy for the Seahawks, and there was a legislation which precluded that for the Sonics, and Speaker Chopp said that we should take the money from our players. Is there anything that I’m missing there?
Q. You’re about there.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Okay. So I don’t want to ‑‑ but it saddened me, because it’s a great city. And I think I’d like to see us go back there. But the history is being rewritten in a way that your question gave me an opportunity to set the record straight.
Q. Is this strictly about the arena deal in your mind?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: This is strictly about what the owners decide. There’s a great and strong application from a terrific city to bring in a third and possibly a fourth team in a brand‑new building, well financed ownership group, without the ability yet to build, because there are several things that have to be overcome. But that’s really good. So if you’re a commissioner, you like that.
Q. But the way that move was handled five years ago to Oklahoma City, does that impact what you’re doing now with Seattle and Sacramento?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Not at all.
Q. You mentioned that China is NBA’s largest segment, so what’s your plan to give out the market in this year and in the future?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We are anticipating scheduling additional exhibition games there again. I’m not allowed to mention cities or teams. There’s a group here with signs here, “Don’t say, David.” And we have offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing and we’re considering opening an office in Guangzhou. And we have had meetings here with a number of companies that want to partner with us in China. And that’s a big deal for us.
Q. If I could take an another stab at the Kings situation, assuming that Sacramento does present a credible, competitive bid for the Kings, including an arena deal, can you give us a sense of just how realistic a shot Sacramento has at dislodging the deal put together by this very strong ownership group from Seattle? Is it possible?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Oh, certainly it’s plausible to me, but I don’t have a vote. But I expect that the owners have a very open mind on this. And it isn’t plausible yet to talk about it until the predicates have been fulfilled.
Q. Adam, this kind of becomes your event after this year.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Praise the Lord (laughter.)
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: I’m just sitting here learning, observing.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Telling me what to say. But other than that it’s great.
Q. Adam I think the rotation is open after next year, as well. David took this event to a football stadium, to Las Vegas, I was kind of wondering what kind of plans you may have, Beijing, Sacramento, Seattle.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: He’s going to play it outdoors in New York.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: Brian, as you know, I’ve been here for over 20 years, so I’ve been part of those plans. And most of the senior management from the NBA is here sitting in the front row. So it will be the same team of people that continue to look at those opportunities. We’ve discussed playing internationally, All‑Star Games, I’m not sure if it will work logistically, but it’s something we’ll continue to study. We’ve looked at other neutral cities. We’ve looked at refreshing All‑Star Saturday Night and other innovative events for the weekend, and I think we’ll continue to do that, the same way we have under David’s leadership.
Q. David, you would advise, as far as what can make this event better, than what it’s grown under you?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I have no advice to give. I’m going to sit back and enjoy it. And at the same time I’ve promised at the Africa reception I’ll be visiting Africa, and I’ve promised tonight at the China reception I’ll be visiting China. And Adam is going to visit all of those places.
Q. My question is to both of you and it’s a two‑part question: One, NBA has been in India for the past four years now. What are your expectations from the market? And is the NBA open to setting up an academy in India like the one it did in China?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: The answer to your second question is absolutely we’re open to opening an academy similar to what we’ve done in China. It’s something that in fact David is planning to go to the market to Mumbai and other cities in India in the next two months to continue looking at those opportunities.
In terms of growth in India, I think we’re a ways away from scheduling a preseason or regular season game there. But we’re continuing to grow our digital business, our sponsorship business, our television business, same as we’ve developed markets throughout the world, and we’re encouraged by the growth of the game, the participation by young boys and girls there. So it’s another market of well over a billion people. And we’re very hopeful that the game will continue to grow there.
Q. Two questions for you: First of all, if you were to draw an outline to Sacramento to make sure they hit a list of bullet points to make sure they get the attention of the community and the owners, what would that be? And secondly, do you see any scenario where both cities are happy here?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I don’t see any scenario where both cities are happy. And I wouldn’t presume to, through the media, tell Sacramento what it has to do. They have an open door at the NBA, as does the Seattle application. And we have had ongoing communications with both cities and their potential groups.
Q. What do the metrics tell you, since we’re in Houston, Jeremy Lin’s economic impact now as compared to the height of his popularity in New York?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: In terms of the global NBA business?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: It’s grown. His popularity has increased in China. The Houston Rockets, have continued to remain a popular television attraction, both in China and in Taiwan. I think he’s demonstrated that he was not a flash in the pan. That he’s a highly successful NBA guard who’s continuing to grow in his development. And I think he’s continued to grow as a person. He’s engaged in lots of different marketing activities in the offseason. But most importantly people are seeing that he has real growth potential as a player.
I think from a global standpoint our teams appear virtually throughout the world, and the ultimate impact economic is yet to be measured. It’s still the case that as our fans become more sophisticated in markets such as China he’s not the most popular player. The most popular players are the ones that win championships. Jeremy has a ways to go from that standpoint. But it’s fun to watch his growth as a person and as a player.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We get daily reports from the China media. And for those of you in the American, non‑China media generally, the discussions are all the same ‑ about last night’s games, about possible trades, about the cap, about revenue sharing. It’s really quite extraordinary that the global conversation goes on, and it is a global conversation.
Q. David, it’s your last All‑Star Game, you’ve presided over a whole bunch of them, 60 or 70. (Laughter).
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I think it was 150.
Q. What’s your favorite All‑Star memory from all the years’ games and why?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, this is my 37th All‑Star. The first was 1976 in Philadelphia. And I would have to say my favorite memory actually compounded and growing to the present day is awarding Magic Johnson the MVP trophy in Orlando. What year was it? ’92. Okay. Giving sweaty Magic Johnson a big hug right after he hit the last three and still being able to hug him, because he’s alive every time I see him. That is at the top of the list. And it will not easily be dislodged. Even though I do enjoy every All‑Star, that one will resonate for the rest of my life.
Q. You may have just answered this, but I’m wondering if it looks like there’s going to be two viable markets in Sacramento and Seattle, if expansion would ever be considered?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I’m going to leave three envelopes for the next commissioner and let him decide how that gets answered.
Q. Dan Gilbert has mentioned trying to bring the All‑Star Game back to Cleveland. Has that been considered in your office?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: We don’t consider anything in a vacuum. We announce that bids are open for future All‑Star Games. Do we have anything in house from Cleveland?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: I was in Cleveland last Friday, had extensive discussions with Dan and members of his organization and we’ve encouraged them to bid for subsequent All‑Star Game. We had a great experience when we were there back in ’97, and one of the great moments, I think, after Magic hitting that last three‑point shot was the presentation of The 50 Greatest on the floor.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: That was big.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: We would love to return to Cleveland.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: As the executive producer of that moment, I would like to say that that is a close number second, but not quite. To get those 49 guys, and we knew it was the last time we were ever going to get them together like that, and to put them in effect a uniform, through a jacket of the team that they represented, that was a big thrill, too.
Q. Two more Seattle Sacramento questions for you.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Great (laughter.)
Q.What is the argument against expansion right now? The other is, is there any reason anybody in Seattle would have to be concerned that Clay Bennett is head of the Relocation Committee?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: The second one, absolutely not. Clay has been terrific. And in some measure we’ve combined the two committees, and he would be happy to do less in the face of the question that you might ask. So the answer is no.
On expansion, I’m going to give the answer ‑‑ give Adam some time to think about it over the next many years ‑‑ there’s a large group of owners who believe that expansion is an economic matter, is a neutral thing. At least the way we’ve done it to date, you get a lot of money in and in return for that you cut the new team in for a large and growing source of revenue from national TV, national licensing, and all things international and digital. And then it doesn’t really seem to make that much additional sense as the increased revenue that demands to the gross PRI and increased each player costs and the like.
So it has to be parsed and analyzed but right now given that we’ve just come through an intriguing collective bargaining negotiation and coupled it with specific revenue sharing, over $200 million, I think the sentiment is to let it all settle and assess how we are doing and what the projections are for how we’ll do.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: Just to add to the competitive issue, too, whether there are 15 more of the world’s greatest players available without diluting the league. And we think we’re at the right point now in terms of numbers of teams and numbers of players. There are only so many of the world’s greatest players that can perform at the highest level.
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: I disagree with that. I think it’s an unlimited number. But that’s a separate issue. As I said, you know that we’ve had 30 players from Africa in the last 20 years? Unthinkable 20 years ago, unthinkable. And we don’t know where the next ones are coming from. But on his broader point he is correct.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about the minority owners of the Sacramento kings and their possible right of first refusal. The other day I believe you said that would be accommodated. Could you elaborate more on that?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: If they have it, I guess they’ll exercise it and deliver an offer to the owners that is good. If they don’t have it, they won’t exercise it and some court will say yes or no and there will be some negotiation. I just don’t feel it as a defining issue here, that’s all.
Q. Commissioner, have there been any discussions, with the City of Miami to perhaps get the All‑Star Game down there in the future?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Not that I’m aware of.
Q. Last year another participation of players at the Olympics, but there was grumbling from some circles that maybe this should not be the case anymore. Maybe the Olympics should go back to college players from the United States. Is there any movement in that direction that you know of? And Mr. Silver, going to the future, is there anything that you’re going to consider?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, I would just say that it seems to us that the current situation will be continued. We have suggested to the IOC and FIBA that it would be a good idea to shorten the duration of the competition, because basketball is now the longest competition in the Olympics; basically from a day before the Olympics start to a day after, our team is really required to be there. But we are not talking about any changes in composition.
Q. Might have been a little late, you might have answered this question, but I also wanted to see about specific strategies for growth in Africa, what countries within Africa, what development strategies, what other type of strategies are in place?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: Well, under the leadership of Amadou Gallo Fall we are developing in effect an academy in Senegal, a program with USA ID. We are doing clinics throughout Africa. We have Luol Deng visit the continent this past summer and he did clinics in four different African nations where talking to governments, federations and corporations, because there seems to be almost an endless hunger for the kind of coaching that improves coaching techniques and playing techniques. And even this year we’ll be making our 10th visit to Africa. In the last ten years, for Basketball Without Borders, where we actually have seen players enter the league through that program, although that’s not our intention.
So it’s virtually unlimited. And we’re very excited about that. And we’re going to be doing similar things in India and around the world.
Q. Brooklyn now has an arena with the Barclays Center, Madison Square Garden has had a huge renovation over the last couple of years. Is there any plans you have to also coming back to New York City in a couple of years when the next open bid is available?
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: This is terrific. There are two applications in, one from Brooklyn and one from the Garden. And I really think that Commissioner Silver is going to have a great time with those applications, I really do, and I asked him to send me a postcard to tell me how they go.
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: Just to be clear, those applications are for 2015. As you all know we’re in New Orleans next year.
Q. Is it likely one of those two venues will be the host of that All‑Star Game?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: Yes.
Q. Is there a time frame that will be announced?
DEPUTY COMMISSIONER ADAM SILVER: No. (Laughter.)
COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN: You see, he’s learning fast.
I would like to use this occasion to say how much I have enjoyed these sessions, otherwise I wouldn’t subject myself to them on such a continuing basis. And really to thank the people in the front row, in addition to the media here, because they’re the people that make the NBA as good as it is, and who are going to surround Adam and nurture the continued growth of the NBA.
And on a final note, don’t forget after you watch the game, the events on TNT, tune to NBA, and NBA.com if you want to get more than your share of all things NBA.