MIAMI (AP) — The travel plans for NBA teams could be a bit more extensive a decade from now.
NBA Commissioner David Stern told a luncheon audience in Miami on Friday that he envisions a five-team European division within the league sometime in the next 10 years.
It’s not a new notion, but Stern’s words nonetheless represented a strong stance that the NBA is more committed than ever to expansion and further globalizing the game.
“It’s a wonderful topic, because 10 years ago, I said, ‘Oh, it’s inevitable, it’ll happen in 10 years,'” Stern said, speaking to business leaders. “And now what I’m saying is, ‘It’s inevitable, it’ll happen in 10 years.’ But in terms of globalization, we’re going to see a desire for franchises in Europe — and in about 10 years, you’ll send me a postcard.”
As for now, the Nets and Raptors will play two regular-season games in London in March.
Stern was in Miami to attend the Miami Heat home opener against the Orlando Magic, the first real game in South Florida for LeBron James and Chris Bosh as Dwyane Wade’s teammates.
The talk of European growth comes at a somewhat awkward time, with some in the league fearing that contracting current clubs could be an option as the NBA and players’ association continues trying to bridge a wide gap in collective bargaining talks. Just last week, Stern suggested on a conference call with reporters that contraction may be on the table, but said he won’t spend “a lot of time on it.”
“I think we’ll have a division and I think the Heat will play in Boston one night and then they’ll go to Paris and spend a couple days on the Champs-Elysses shopping and relaxing,” Stern said. “And then they’ll go and play five teams. And when they finish that, they’ll play them again. Then they’ll come home, having had a nice trip to Europe and they’ll be finished with their European obligations.”
Orlando backup center Marcin Gortat, a native of Poland, didn’t seem overjoyed about the idea.
Gortat said players wouldn’t want to deal with the travel, that Stern wants to “control the whole world” and that expanding to Europe could hurt the NBA’s standing as “the best league on earth.”
“That’s impossible. In my opinion, that’s impossible,” Gortat said of the notion. “That’s just too much travel. I would just want it just to stay the way it is right now. And if we have to, just maybe expand from Canada.”
Among the other comments by the commissioner:
—With regard to ongoing collective bargaining talks, Stern reiterated he is not pessimistic about business prospects.
“What we have is the extraordinary ability to increase our revenues, except we’re currently locked into a system that pays 57 percent of those revenues to the players,” he said. “And given the additional expenses it now takes to raise those revenues … we actually wind up losing a little money. A little, like a few hundred million dollars amongst friends here at lunch.”
Stern told the luncheon audience that everyone involved knows what’s at stake and that “just about everything” is on the table.
“We think it’s getting to be about that time where we have to get serious,” he said. “And I hope we can get serious, because we realize that the game is going along quite well. Anticipation is great. There’s some other teams in the league besides the Heat that think they have a shot. … This is going to be a great season and we would like it not to end with a thud.”
—Stern lauded Wade for picking up the league’s community service award for the offseason, noting his work with children in both Miami and Chicago.
“I often say that community relations and public relations are side-by-side, but public relations relates to how people think about you. Community relations really is about how people feel about you,” Stern said. “I know the Heat feels great about Miami and I know that Miami feels great about the Heat.”
—Before the Heat-Magic game Friday night, Stern said the league will investigate reports that the New York Knicks conducted secret workouts with college players. Stern did not expect a quick resolution and would not say what sanctions, if any, the Knicks may face if found to have circumvented league rules.