David Stern sat behind the microphone Monday afternoon with the look of a man without a real trouble in the world.
Oh, if that were only the case.
Stern made the appearance in part to announce a fine levied against Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert for his overly emotional reaction to LeBron James’ move to Miami.
Stern had no real choice in the matter.
No less than Jesse Jackson had proclaimed Gilbert public enemy No. 1 for his outburst saying that his language threatened James personal safety. Regardless of Jackson’s motives in making his statement, Stern realized that he had to do something quickly to defuse the situation, thus the fine.
Stern went on to say that he was not pleased with the way LeBron handled the announcement. He said the new Heat star had taken some bad advice.
There is no truth to the rumor that Stern also seriously considered announcing shortly there after that the sky was blue.
Where was Stern when this was going on?
A phone call to the James camp early last week from the Commissioners office which would have said something on the order of “The Commissioner doesn’t want this sort of freak show on the air. Call ESPN and cancel this or I’ll nix the deal in the best interest of the game.”
Whether Stern indeed has those baseball-esque powers is questionable, but would James have been willing to risk all of this blowing up at the last second?
Stern has no similar leverage with ESPN.
The money pouring out of Bristol these days is all that is keeping the league solvent until it locks the players out next summer.
Only five NBA teams made money last year. Of those who did not, 22 would lose less money by locking the players out tomorrow and refunding their season ticket deposits.
“The Decision,” as it was billed, was a bad decision all around.
It made Stern look powerless.
It made James look like a heartless fool.
It made Dan Gilbert out to be an irrational madman.
It made ESPN appear to be a network kissing up to idiots.
It made the Miami Heat appear to be leaning very hard on the league’s tampering rules.
Its bumbled execution allowed Jackson to throw in his two cents worth, warranted or not.
Even if the Heat win the 2011 title, it will be a tarnished crown and overshadowed by the impending lockout.
Add that to your legacy LeBron.
James took his advice from some of the same people who were once “advisers” to Maurice Clarett when he was a freshman sensation in the Ohio State backfield.
Wonder if James noticed where Clarett spent the last three and a half years of his life or how he got there?
Those advisers were the ones who put the ESPN show plans in motion. James apparently said nothing. If James is really the upstanding young man that Stern professed him to be, why did he not tell Cleveland of his decision or thank the fans who had showered their money and praise upon him for all of those years?
The James camp is an accident looking for a place to happen.
Stern can’t just sit back and hope that his second best player outgrows his posse. He needs to do something yesterday to make that divorce happen.
There is no saving the NBA from a lockout next summer. The cancellation of the 2011-2012 season is all but certain.
The collective bargaining agreement that Stern gladly signed off on has exploded in his and the NBA’s face. By the time the plug is pulled, the NBA will likely have lost something on the order of $500 million or more in the last two seasons of the deal.
Its credit vehicles are maxed out.
Stern is the captain of the Titanic sailing full speed through the fog.
He watched his protégé Gary Bettman run the NHL into a similar iceberg and live to tell the tale (truth be told what Bettman salvaged from the NHL lockout is financially stronger and a better product than the NBA has had this century).
Stern can’t be foolish enough not to know that the iceberg with his name on it is out there somewhere.
Was the face that Stern put on behind the microphone that of the poker player who knows he’s holding nothing or of a man unconcerned that he’s about to lose it all?
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