So apparently this is what BallinEurope does when
dithering about Official Fearless Predictions™ for Euroleague waiting around to record podcasts: Watches video of league management types.
On the other hand, this isn’t just any commissioner we’re talking about today – This is El Jefe himself, arguably the most influential figure in international basketball for a couple decades, David Stern.
Stern met with press alongside Euroleague CEO Jordi Bertomeu – the two looking a bit like an American presidential ticket – before what BiE is calling the Dirk Bowl matchup between the Dallas Mavericks and Alba Berlin. Naturally, Stern covered lotsa topics focusing on European hoops and the future of the big league. Should you not wish to watch the entire 25-minute powwow, BiE breaks down the highlights below, in diary format a la Bill “The Sports Guy” Simmons.
0.00: With Stern and Bertomeu sitting in front of the traditional logo-laden wallpaper background, a thought comes to mind. Oddly enough, the listed cosponsor of the NBA Europe Live Tour is the Basketball Veterans Association. Was this some sort of bizarre consequence of the NBA player lockout?
2.30: By the time Stern proclaims “that’s all I have to say” (Yeah, surrrrrrrrrrrrrre), he’s already gotten in two nice sound bites. In European fashion, Stern states that “I like to call [the NBA-Euroleague preseason games] friendlies.” Okay, so it wasn’t that great a line in itself, but punctuated with the rictus grin gets the man a 10 for delivery.
The funniest line, meanwhile, was clearly “I’d like to thank Mark Cuban…” Someday, watchers of this press conference will be telling their grandchildren that they witness this solar eclipse-level event of rarity.
3.05: Bertomeu is as sober and serious as always, but BiE always appreciates the Euroleague boss’ honesty: He knows that this stuff is all about marketing the game in Germany and Europe. Why dress these games (cool as they are) in any other way?
4.32: And once again, Stern steps in to talk about London, somehow describing it as “an important basketball city.” More on this later. Also positive: Stern avoiding throwing the lockout debacle down the ol’ memory hole by acknowledging the lack of these international club games in 2011.
5.55: What about expansion to Europe. “I would say those thoughts are far,” opined Stern, citing the usual bugaboos about market growth, infrastructure, etc., but here’s the bit that always strikes BiE: How about the technological support? You’re talking about a five-hour flight at serious high speed from New York or Boston to London. How could scheduling a Paris NBA team work? With 20-game homestands?
8.18: Nerves and feedback obscure the website name of a reporter, who barks out a question about Dirk. The way Stern answers, you’d think the Alba Berlin game was the greatest goal he’d achieved since the Dream Team days…
9.11: A German reporter asks about Cuban. “Mark and I have a very good relationship” with that half-smile/smirk. Apparently, Cuban’s quite a helpful techie…
10.22: Does Stern have any predictions for the upcoming seasons? “I don’t know anything about basketball,” began the commissioner to few laughs as apparently the journos took down every word – perhaps sarcasm doesn’t quite translate into German – “but it seems everyone’s decided it’s going to come down to Miami, Los Angeles [Lakers] and Oklahoma City.” But Stern also pimped Brooklyn, New York, San Antonio, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia and the Clippers as possible contenders.
12.05: A German reporter contends – though BiE might beg to differ a bit here – that the game hasn’t really grown in Deutschland during the Nowitzki Era. Perhaps not really believing (or wanting to believe) the argument, Stern instead goes into stealth mode, putting forth his belief that the NBA is best marketed through pay TV, i.e. cable or satellite networks. This begins a bit of flip-flopping, or perhaps burning the candle at both ends, as Stern seems to believe that *the* key to marketing basketball is watching on TV one moment but actually developing ball at the grassroots levels.
O, and the NBA Game Pass broadband package is a swell option for European fans: “That’s the way of the future for us [internationally].”
17.06: The question, “How important are successful foreign players to the NBA?” Once again, it all comes back to the Dream Team for Stern, a team whom, the commissioner reiterates, played in the 1992 Olympic Games on FIBA’s request. Stern still admits that he didn’t know what the effect the Dreams would have on the international game – and this admission really should make one admire this commissioner. How easy would it have been at any point over the last 20 years for Stern to rewrite history and boastfully proclaim that he masterminded that Team USA squad, that he knew he was reshaping basketball as we know it? Stern’s humility on this point is truly outstanding.
18.39: After Stern remarks that some 90 foreign players came to NBA training camp, Jordi grins through his teeth/winces, the pained expression increasing when Stern points out that “especially the young players” poached from Europe are important.
20.08: From Poland, an optimistic hope that the Euroleague Final Four and NBA preseason events might move further into the Continent. Bertomeu’s tough for media types to read sometimes and naturally no definitive answer can be offered on such a question, but the CEO seemed surprisingly optimistic about the possibilities…
21.28: …but when Bertomeu notes that the new Sopot arena in Poland seats 14,000 or so, Stern tightly remarks, “Good.” (Translation: “Ahhhhhh, I’ll think we’ll stick to arenas with ‘O2’ in the name, thanks.)
21.45: And what about the standardization of rules between US and FIBA styles? “Not during my lifetime,” says The Boss. In fact, Stern claims that the possibility of introduction European standards on goaltending (“It’s the call [referees] get wrong the most,” Stern admitted) was met with virtually no enthusiasm.
23.10: Naturally, Bertomeu says that he wants to tweak European ball in the direction of the NBA; after all, says Jordi, it’s a faster game.
24.33: Finally, the last question went to John Hobbs of Talk Basket, with a question about British basketball. So as not to open a whole can of worms here, BiE will simply advise audiences to look out for episode four of the “Taking the Charge” podcast series over at heinnews; tomorrow, we’ll be running an extensive interview with Hobbs on British basketball and this very press conference. For now, though, he advises the British b-ball loving public to be patient…