NBA Commissioner David Stern doesn’t believe this year’s All-Star game in Orlando will be upstaged by Dwight Howard’s uncertain future.
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Stern spoke Wednesday in Houston, where he officially announced that the All-Star Game would be held there in 2013. Where Howard is playing by then is anyone’s guess.
The Magic’s six-time All-Star has asked to be traded, and he’ll be a free agent after the season. This year’s game will be played Feb. 26, less than a month before the March 15 trade deadline.
”We’re going to get a great rating. It’s going to be seen in 200 countries. We’ll have the usual media experiences like the one I’m enduring now,” Stern said. ”But the great thing is the game is going to start and then there’s going to be all this spectacular basketball playing, and all these stars are going to take center court.”
Last year, the trade talk swirled around Carmelo Anthony over All-Star weekend in Los Angeles. He was dealt to the New York Knicks less than a week after the game.
Stern says the league is OK with players choosing where they want to play, believing the terms of the collective bargaining agreement make it difficult to leave. In Howard’s case, the Magic can offer him a five-year contract extension with 7.5 percent annual raises, while other teams are limited to offering a four-year pact with 4.5 percent raises.
”I go back far enough to remember when Kareem decided he didn’t want to be in Milwaukee, and that’s a long time ago.” Stern said. ”Or when Wilt wanted to move some place. We’ve built in some pretty interesting incentives.
”That’ll work itself out,” Stern said. ”We don’t have a problem with that at all.”
Stern said the league was in good health, despite the lockout that shortened training camp and compressed the regular season to 66 games. He acknowledged that the level of play had suffered and said he wished teams could’ve played eight preseason games, instead of two. He’s noticed coaches rest star players more often to prevent injuries and go deeper into their benches than in previous seasons.
Ratings for games are up on all the national television networks, average attendance is slightly higher than last year and merchandise sales have increased since the 2010-11 season. The league is also setting record numbers with hits on NBA.com and video streams online.
”And if you’re a fan, boy, there are a lot of good games on every night,” Stern said. ”We’re having a ball.”
Stern covered a wide range of topics in a media gathering after the glitzy announcement at the Toyota Center, which included a performance by the Rockets’ dance team, a video montage of highlights from recent All-Star games, and the introductions of several former Rockets, including Robert Horry, Steve Francis and Clyde Drexler.
Stern said the NBA had no information about a report that Seattle was trying to get another team. The Seattle Times reported that the city had been working with a hedge-fund manager, who made a proposal to build an arena for an NBA franchise.
The city has not had an NBA team since 2008, when owner Clay Bennett moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City and renamed them the Thunder.
”We certainly considered it a loss moving from Seattle,” Stern said, ”and they would certainly be a very attractive place, if they had an arena.”
Stern also defended the quality of play in the NBA’s All-Star game in the wake of complaints surrounding the NFL’s Pro Bowl. NFC quarterback Aaron Rodgers criticized teammates for not playing hard in a 59-41 loss to the AFC this year, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has talked about possibly eliminating the game.
Stern says the NBA’s version offers ”different kinds of experiences,” and the majority of fans like what they see.
”If you play full-out in football, statistically, you may have some injuries and in an All-Star game, that’s not a great thing,” Stern said. ”Our All-Star weekend is about having a great time, showing off.
”You watch Kobe (Bryant’s) 3s or Blake Griffin’s slam dunks,” Stern said. ”If you’re a purist, you say, ‘That’s ridiculous, all of that.’ But if you’re a fan, and you want to have some fun, you say, ‘That’s fun to watch.’ So we have a completely different setup.”