NEW YORK — That there is a David Stern bobblehead. Every NBA owner received one last night as part of the farewell tribute to David Stern as he presided over his final Board of Governors meeting.
Dan Gilbert joked that the head only moves from side to side.
We are taking wagers on which owner puts his up for sale first on eBay. (My money is on Donald Sterling).
Wouldn’t be surprised if Mark Cuban has already handed his over to his voodoo advisor.
You got the clear impression Wednesday that it was all lovey-dovey with Stern over the past two days as a part of his era ended, and the transformation of deputy commissioner Adam Silver to commissioner Adam Silver took its next step. Naturally, being the funny guy that he is 1 percent of the time, Stern blamed Silver for the facial design on the bobblehead.
The big news of the meeting was that the NBA will be returning to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the finals, with an extra day off between Games 6 and 7. Of course, this is a move that should have been made long ago, and Stern deftly dodged every “what took you so long?” question, many of them posed by a certain newcomer to the digital media world.
Stern was in a piss-poor mood only once during his press conference, and it came when I asked him to tell the public something about Silver that they did not know, but should. Stern even took exception to my description of him as a lightning rod, which is about as apt of a description of a lightning rod as had ever been concocted. (Stern and I have a long history of going back and forth).
Stern began by inventing a false premise for my question and then disputing that false premise, arguing that Silver was actually quite well-known throughout the NBA business community through his work as an NBA lifer. He ignored the point that I was asking him to say something about his successor that would resonate with the basketball public, the folks who do not sit in a glass tower at Olympic Tower and lord over the sporting public.
And finally, Stern got it.
“He’s a nice guy, a good guy. He’s a huge basketball fan. He’s an astute businessman,” Stern said.
“You guys will take care of (Silver’s public perception) in due course. Either you’ll build him up or tear him down, whatever the occasion merits, that is the way the occasion works, doesn’t it? He’s liable to become a lightning rod.”
Silver was booed at the NBA Draft in June as he came out to announce the second round, and he took it well — although not as well as Stern, who waved his arms to the crowd in a “Bring It On” gesture that the Brooklynites complied with. But in all seriousness, Stern has become Public Enemy No. 1 among basketball fans in various locales, especially Phoenix (see Robert Horry hip check of Steve Nash), New York (birthplace of over-the-top leaving the bench suspensions) and various other cities, of which Geneva – where FIBA is headquartered) should not be excluded. In San Antonio, Stern only checks in at the No. 2 spot because of the existence of one Joey Crawford.
Nobody outside of the NBA business world knows much about him, so we can throw a few facts at you …
Back when Stern was a fledgling attorney with a background as a salami engineer at his family delicatessen, Silver’s father took Stern under his wing at their law firm and made him his protegé. Stern in turn, later took Silver under his wing and reciprocated.
Silver became NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer in July 2006, assuming his role as the league’s second-in-command following more than eight years as President and COO, NBA Entertainment. Hey played key role in the negotiations of the league’s last two television agreements, the last three collective bargaining agreements, the NBA’s expansion into China and its divestiture from NBA.com, which is now run out of Atlanta by Turner Sports.
The building in Secaucus, N.J. where they used to hold the draft lottery? Not sure exactly who made the call on which type of explosive to use, but they actually dynamited the place into rubble a couple years ago.
Silver also oversees the NBA’s game telecasts, which are carried in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages. So if you are looking for someone to yell at regarding the league’s TV timeouts at the 9, 6 and 3 minute marks of the second and fourth quarters, get out your ballpoint pen, pull out a sheet of loose leaf paper, get an envelope and mail him a letter (A note to the wise: Snail mail is more effective than e-mail in more situations than you’d imagine.)
Silver is going to be a kinder, gentler commissioner — but it is up to him and his handlers as to how he is viewed by the public. Since the lockout ended in late 2011, Silver has kept a relatively low profile in the public spotlight, eschewing any more attention that what he would normally receive from playing his usual role as Stern’s sidekick at their joint news conferences. This was done my design, with Silver not wanting to usurp Stern in any way — real or perceived.
If I had to pick out one single nice thing to say about Silver, it’d be that he is clever without being condescending.
His predecessor was clever, too.
But Stern ruled with an iron fist. He was an intimidator in the office — even to low-level interns he met on the elevator. He liked to bully people — probably more so than any person in the NBA not named Gregg Popovich.
When Silver needs to be a bully, he does it gently. Just ask anyone from the union who negotiated against him two years ago — although they’d probably describe him as a wily pickpocketer.
I spoke to Silver after the press conference, asking him what was the coolest thing he had seen on his recent travel to Brazil and China during the NBA Global Games.
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