David Stern on contraction

Fox's Jason Whitlock and NBA commissioner David Stern discussed The Decision, LeBron-as-villain, cooperation with the players union, "respect for the game" technicals (Stern wishes he'd done it sooner), and more.

Particularly fascinating, to me, was Stern's two-pronged reaction to Whitlock's question about closing an NBA team or two. Stern makes a strong case that there's plenty of talent around to support 30 teams, but there may be other new reasons to close teams (as discussed on TrueHoop the other day): Aggressive new revenue sharing means closing the worst team or two would buoy the entire remaining enterprise.

Whitlock asked Stern what he thought of "LeBron suggesting the league would be improved by contracting a couple of teams and grouping more stars together."

Stern's response:

As soon as I saw that commentary, I said, "This young man is going to wish he hadn’t raised the subject," and I felt badly for him.

I actually agree with those who argue as a competitive-talent matter our current number is fine. And I distinguish that from an economic matter, if you get my drift. To me, I’m acutely and positively aware that with 85 or so players that have come from outside the United States -- and more on the way, no doubt -- that we basically have eight more rosters of teams than we had when the league was at 24. (The addition of foreign players) enormously enriched our game. You and I could go down the list and talk about Yao, Nowitzki and Parker and Ginobili and fill in the blank. ... We’re out there, and we’re doing great. When I was at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, the three teams on the medal stand had 36 players and 26 of them were NBA-experienced players — eight on Spain and six on Argentina. Given the embrace the world has given basketball ... there will not be a problem.

The issue where contraction has been raised in the past and might be raised again is when you watch teams struggle in the economic sense and they are partners of and they’re included in what I would call shared revenues, where in a couple of years we will have developed in the near future, where between licensing revenues, network television revenues and revenue sharing, where certain teams at the bottom end were getting $50 million a year from their partners from the group effort whether or not they sell a piece of merchandise or whether or not they appear on network television, then the issue gets raised among owners would it be economically sound for us to consider contraction. That’s a subject that will be fully aired after the season is over.