SALT LAKE CITY — David Stern made a rare visit to Utah on Wednesday and, as usual, the NBA commissioner had good things to say about the Jazz organization.
Stern ranks Salt Lake City up there with Oklahoma City and San Antonio when it comes to successful small-market teams.
"I'd say as a triumvirate they really set the bar very high for rallying the community to be around them," Stern said, "(for) giving a great, great value proposition of an arena and game entertainment."
In jest, Stern added that like the Spurs and Thunder, the Jazz also "have fans who unfairly pick on my officials."
Stern is in town to address the Governor's State of Sport Awards ceremony today. Part of his speech will focus on Larry H. Miller's legacy.
"Having lived it with him, (Miller) decided that this team was going to be a community asset. It was not about the profit," Stern said. "It was about the community and that was true when he built what was then the Delta Center. He knew he was cementing the bond between the team and community, forgoing enormous profits and large amounts of money if the team had been considered to move anywhere else."
Stern added that Miller did things his way.
"The best kind of charity is where you don't know you're the recipient and the better one than that is you don't know you're giving it," he continued. "(Miller) didn't go around patting himself on the back about it. He just really stepped up and did it. And everything the Jazz did was about the community, and I have a great deal of admiration and respect for what he did."
Stern also lauds the job the late Miller's son, Jazz CEO Greg Miller, has done since his father passed away.
"It's been seamless," Stern said, noting that Miller taught his family his philosophies until the end of his life. "There's such a strong set of values here, a strong tradition of support for the basketball operation, a strong support for the community that it just wasn't an issue. ... I think everything has been fine here."
The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement makes it so things can continue to be fine for the Jazz on a competitive and financial basis, Stern believes.
"I just saw an interview and (Dallas owner) Mark Cuban had said under the old deal he could just throw money at things. He could stockpile players, use exceptions, do all kinds of interesting things," Stern said. "But now if you are a taxpayer, you can't acquire a player by sign-and-trade that way teams used to ride the cap. You can't have the old full midlevel exception and it's going to cost you a small fortune to spend a lot of money above the tax level.
"That," Stern added, "we think is a real game-changer for leveling things out."
OTHER TOPICS STERN ADDRESSED:
On Jazz season-ticket sales: "(Because of) the activities and flurry of last year, I think some fans might have been concerned, and that I think reflected itself in some early sluggishness in renewals, but I hope renewals are out now for next year and if I were a fan of the Jazz I'd make sure I got my renewal slip in and I'd buy tickets, because this is a team very much on the rise."
Overall state of the NBA: "It's been a great season. We're up in every metric we measure ourselves by. We're having really good races in both conferences and feeling really good about our collective bargaining agreement."
Surprised by Jazz's success?: "I'll never forget Red (Auerbach) being annoyed because the Jazz had drafted (Darrell) Griffith and he got stuck with Kevin McHale, so I don't even bother to make predictions about what's going to happen in our league. I will say that the Jazz came out of the trade with New Jersey as well as Denver came out of the trade with New York, and they're both fighting for a playoff spot. And the Knicks are fighting for a playoff spot and New Jersey might be but for the injuries they had, so maybe it was a good trade for all parties."
More on the CBA: "Not only were we able to honor all of our players' contracts and not reduce any of them, which has been the result after other lockouts, but (we were) able to continue forward with those contracts in place at robust of 50 percent revenues to players but at same time reducing our payment to players by 12 percent. That's a big reduction in any business and make our business more profitable and desirable."
Sacramento's arena situation: "I'm very hopeful it gets on track because the owners have a respect for the Maloofs (Kings owners) and enormous respect for what Sacramento has done over the years in supporting an NBA franchise. It's always been our first preference to keep a team where a team is if they're playing in a good facility."
On NBA finding an owner for New Orleans: "Soon. We're having intense negotiations with three different groups. It remains my hopes to tell the owners next week (at owners meetings) that we're very close or at the verge of or maybe just have made a deal for New Orleans that will keep the team in New Orleans that will have a very favorable lease, important capital improvements, intense tax benefits and a new TV deal, to boot, that allows the team to be neither a revenue-sharing recipient nor a revenue-sharing payer. That's our goal."
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