David Stern, hosting his final NBA Finals news conference before retiring next February, said Thursday that the Heat “has put together perhaps a team for the ages” but there are luxury tax consequences for Miami that could have been worse if many owners had their way.
The Heat has said it prefers to keep the Big 3 together in the summer of 2014 — when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can exercise out clauses and become free agents — but owner Micky Arison said his front office will need to be “creative.”
With the luxury tax becoming far more onerous during the next two years, the Heat would need to surround the three stars with low-salary players to avoid an enormous tax bill.
Asked if there’s any part of him as a promoter that would prefer to have this Heat team stay intact long-term, Stern said, “Yeah, as a promoter, absolutely. But there are 29 other bosses I have that think it’s a great system.
“And other than the Heat and South Florida media, our league owners think this is a great idea [to create deterrents to forming super teams]. Because we have owners who want very much to compete. And they want to be able to tell their fans they can compete. …
“I know the Heat have done a great job. They’ve put together a great roster. It has consequences that they are now dealing with, and actually they’re much less harsh than the consequences that would have followed had we gotten what we really wanted in collective bargaining. … I think we were more than compassionate.”
The NBA originally requested a hard salary cap.
Stern, who will be succeeded by deputy commissioner Adam Silver, addressed other issues:
• He said the league likes having instant replay but “has got to find a way to make it smoother.” The NBA is “toying with the notion of whether replay can be done with an off-site review, the way it’s done in the NHL, to relieve the burden on referees.”
• He said he doesn’t regret fining the Spurs $250,000 for sending home Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green — for the purpose of resting them — before the Heat-Spurs game on Nov. 29 in Miami.
“We have some obligation to our fans to come up with some system. … that has some kind of guarantee that if you buy a ticket for a particular team, that you might see a representative sample of that team. [But] I would never, never tell a coach that he shouldn’t rest a player that needs rest.”
• Stern acknowledged “you’re not going to cause somebody to stop [flopping] for $5,000 when the average player’s salary is $5.5 million. And anyone who thought that was going to happen was allowing hope to prevail over reason.”
He said “we would end” flopping “immediately if we decided to suspend players, but that might be a little bit draconian at the moment.”
• He said he has “the best job in the world” and called these Finals “the best I could possibly expect for my last Finals.”
Asked about his greatest accomplishments, he said: “I wouldn’t list anything. I would just say that you look at the body of work and you say that he steered the good ship NBA in a productive way.”
• Asked by an ESPN reporter about the perception that a Pacers-Grizzlies Final would have not generated excitement, Stern said: “It’s not us” creating that perception. “It’s the people who attribute views to us that we don’t hold. …
“The [networks] need to get the people that work for them to stop asking questions like that and really just promote it. We are delighted that teams in the lower half of the league [in market size], including Miami, have the opportunity to compete for a championship.”
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With NBA Coach of the Year George Karl and the Denver Nuggets parting ways Thursday, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is now the third-longest tenured coach in the league, behind the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich and Dallas’ Rick Carlisle.
“That is scary,” Spoelstra said.