State of the Union

In what was essentially NBA Commissioner David Stern's preseason "State of the Union" conference, he touched on a few areas including this summer's Olympics, the economic status of the league, and competition from Europe for NBA talent.

Here are the highlights:

* The Olympics, Stern said, "uplifted the sport of basketball on a global basis."
Of the 36 players on the medal stand, Stern said, 26 were players with NBA experience. (He also noted the numbers were similar on the women's side ... in relation to the WNBA.) Going off of that, Stern mentioned the NBA just successfully executed four exhibition games in Europe and four in China, which "reaffirmed the game on a global basis."
Lots of "global basis" talk.
* Stern addressed the impact of the weakening economy: "From a business perspective, we are gong to be about flat in attendance, which is good, we think." Stern said he and the owners shared ideas about the state of the economy and "keeping the game relevant." Stern said, on average, each team has a thousand tickets for $10 or less. And they discussed ways teams can do more in their individual markets to demonstrate to fans the NBA wants to keep the game "as close to them as possible."
Added Stern: "Our partners tell us they want to be involved with the NBA."
On the topic of how many NBA teams are making money, Stern said about half.
* Collective Bargaining Agreement: "In terms of the CBA, knowing what will happen, I'm going to take a pass. It’s premature for me to speculate now, except to say our owners are going to be focused. [We'll] begin discussions with the players for a succession agreement much sooner than the expiration of the next three years."
* Stern responded to a question about the European market, which this off-season lured a couple of mid-level NBA players, including the Hawks' Josh Childress, who signed with a club in Greece. Said Stern: "If they want to induce NBA players on salaries that exceed the budget of the team, they are free to do that." But Stern said they don't believe the economic model exists that would support such contracts. "We don’t mind the competition," Stern said. "It’s good for our players."
* The speculation that an All-Star Game might be played overseas: "We think it would be neat, really neat, to play in Paris, London, Berlin ..." Stern said. "But considering moving the audience -- 30 teams, sponsors, 6,000 rooms -- I’m not sure the logistics of that move, that mass ... I’m not saying never, but ..."
* The "home court" free-throw discrepancy in the playoffs: "I don’t see it as a problem at all," Stern said. "Have you watched the games, have you looked at the calls on their merits? And I’ll tell you we are without concern on that subject. In fact, we think the refereeing during the playoffs continues to demonstrate the progress we’re making in developing a professional staff."
And there we have it, folks, a quick rundown of the NBA heading into the 2008-09 season, which begins next week. Stern said he would be in Boston on Tuesday night to distribute to the Celtics their 2007-08 NBA Championship rings, and then on Wednesday he would be in Oklahoma City to check out the goings on with that transplanted franchise.
Again, Sixers open on Wednesday at home against the Toronto Raptors.
-- Kate