NBA players need to rethink pay, says Stern

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – NBA Commissioner David Stern is  not in a giving mood these days despite having an office that  overlooks the holiday-season revelry of glittery Fifth Avenue.  

Stern figures he has given enough over the years. His league  lost some $370 million a year ago and is looking at another  financial disaster in 2010.
“The system has produced an extraordinary financial pool for  our players where the average compensation exceeds $5 million,”  Stern told Reuters in a recent interview. “There needs to be a  re-set in our system.  

“We think there’s room within that system that the owners  can be put in a position where every team can have an  opportunity to compete and be profitable.” In a wide-ranging interview, the commissioner spoke of a  time when he expected there to be multiple NBA franchises in  Europe, and the chances that LeBron James could lead the Miami  Heat to the title. 

David Stern

Stern’s office is a jump shot away from the Rockefeller  Center Christmas tree, sits in the shadow of majestic St.  Patrick’s Cathedral and is in the heart of midtown Manhattan’s  bustling shopping district. The 68-year-old, long-time commissioner is focusing all his  attention on hammering out a new labour deal with the players  and preventing the league’s first lockout since the 1998-99  season.
The players receive 57 percent of the NBA’s revenues but  Stern said the costs of generating that money had increased  dramatically.
“This split is directed toward the gross,” said Stern. “And  in the interim, as the percentage has crept up in successive  deals, to 57 percent, concessions were made to the players. 
“But the cost of producing the pie has been going up as  well. But the players don’t share in that cost. They only share  in what the cost generates. Everything has gone up.”  
Stern cited security, airline fuel and game presentations as  a few of the areas where costs had risen dramatically. He said  players’ expectations needed to change. “We need to come up with a sustainable business model that  will cause owners and prospective owners to be willing to make  the large investments to grow our game on a global basis that  will be very good for the fans, the players and the owners,” he  said, waving his hands for emphasis.  

“We’re very much inspired by that goal.” Stern said he saw the NBA spreading to Europe in the next  decade although he would not be guiding the ship. “If you ask me if I will be commissioner in 10 years, the  answer is no,” he said. “But if you ask me if I think there’ll  be franchises in Europe in 10 years, the answer is yes. “We have to analyse the market to see who wants us and if  there’s an appetite for a 41-game home schedule at the prices  that would be necessary to compete. “But when the league expands to Europe, I’m sure it will be  done with multiple franchises. That will make the travel even  easier.”  

Stern said he had no expectation about the Heat’s success  this season “other than they would be a winning team”.  

James and fellow free agent All-Star Chris Bosh joined  Dwyane Wade in Miami during the off-season to form a team many  believed would challenge for a title right away. 

After a slow start, the Heat have begun piling up wins and  now have one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. Stern cited former title teams of the Lakers and the Celtics  as examples of what star-laden teams could accomplish.  

“Three All-Stars can do a lot,” said Stern. “The three I  have in mind are James Worthy, Magic Johnson and Kareem  Abdul-Jabbar. And Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.  
“When All-Stars play together for a while, they can do  wonderful things.”
Stern said the 64-year-old NBA was “perfectly positioned” to  grow, citing the game’s burgeoning popularity around the globe  but said there needed to be movement on the collective  bargaining agreement that ends in June.

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