DALLAS – NBA Commissioner David Stern opened his lockout-delayed season by hearing boos from Mavericks fans.
Stern was in Dallas for the NBA finals rematch between the Mavericks and Heat, and he was on the court for the start of the Mavs' banner-raising ceremony honoring their first championship. The jeers came as soon as he started speaking, but he quickly turned them into cheers by offering his congratulations to team owner Mark Cuban.
Cuban's often contentious relationship with Stern could've been as much of a reason for the boos as the lockout, which pushed the opener from Nov. 1 to Christmas and cut the season by 16 games.
Cuban and Miami's Micky Arison were among five owners who voted against the labor deal. Stern said "it doesn't send any signal whatsoever" that the two owners in the most recent finals were against the agreement.
Stern said Arison only objected to the revenue sharing. He also pointed out that Cuban was part of the labor relations committee and the planning committee.
"(Cuban) might not have been enamored with the final outcome because it takes away the advantage that overspending can give you," Stern said.
Stern also said he could have done a better job of explaining his reasons for blocking a proposed trade of Chris Paul from the league-owned Hornets to the Lakers, only to later agree to a deal that sent Paul to the Clippers. He said that "lost in the frenzy" over his action was the fact he quashed the deal in his role as the owners' representative looking out for the best interests of the Hornets — not as the commissioner looking out for the best interests of the league as a whole.
"Our view was that the best thing was for New Orleans to be a young team," he said.
Stern blamed himself for not clarifying that sooner.
"I don't think it affected the integrity of the league," he said. "I do think I could have done a better communications job. ... It's a job that, as the owners' representative, I was stuck with. But I think that it was better to have me do it than a group of owners do it because I have the singular focus of doing what's best."
The booing Mavs fans may not have realized they had Stern to thank for getting Lamar Odom to Dallas. Odom was supposed to have been in the Lakers-Hornets deal; when he wasn't, he was so upset that the club didn't want him that he asked to be traded.
After the Dallas-Miami game, Stern was headed to Oklahoma City for the opener between the Thunder and Orlando. Magic star Dwight Howard is trying to force his way to the team of his preference, just like Paul did. Asked if that was bad for the league, Stern said it's always happened, using Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as examples.
Stern had compliments for another superstar he was about to watch, LeBron James.
"I see a level of acceptance and maturity," Stern said. "He's clearly saying he might've said a few things differently, etcetera, and he's going to let his talent do the talking. I think that's pretty exciting because he's got some pretty exciting talent. So we're happy for him and we're looking forward to how the season winds up."
So, how does he expect the season to wind up?
"I said to Mark, 'It's ironic, the most underrated team in the league is the NBA champion,'" Stern said. "I think Dallas has a pretty good roster. ... I said before last season, 'I think we're going to have to play the season. We're not mailing the trophy to Miami.' It turns out, we mailed it to Dallas. We'll see what happens this year — but Miami really seems formidable with those three superstars."