Stern says coaches need to 'comply with the rules'
A day later, NBA commissioner David Stern wasn't backing down: Coaches, he said, need to ``comply with the rules.''
This part was unspoken: Or else.
Stern, speaking before Friday night's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round series between Boston and Miami, reiterated what he said Thursday in Oklahoma City, that coaches criticizing league policies or referees sends ``very bad messaging'' to the league's fans and needs to come to a quick halt.
Not even $35,000 fines seem to be doing the trick.
``Coaches are under a lot of pressure and I grew up trying to respect that pressure,'' Stern said. ``I used to just say, 'It's the playoffs.'''
Now, there's no excuse. At least, none that he'll tolerate.
In a one-week window ending Thursday, Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace, Magic forward Matt Barnes, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson all were fined for comments, mostly about foul calls. Van Gundy even likened the gaps in the schedule of first-round games to what high school or college teams typically would experience.
``When you start throwing one- and two-game suspensions in the threats, I think that means a lot to both ballclubs and to coaches,'' Jackson said before Friday's practice in Oklahoma City. ``It seems awful heavy-handed to me, but David is one, he isn't shy about being heavy-handed. ... There's a certain gamesmanship that goes on that obviously he feels cheapens the game.''
Rivers joked with reporters that he couldn't talk about Stern's stance.
After that, he had plenty to say.
``Sometimes we really are defending our guys,'' Rivers said Friday. ``I think everybody's on the league side at the end of the day. Listen, I've been a league guy for 20-whatever years, I love this league and I want this league to do well. I don't think any coach doesn't want the league to do well. Having said that, the coach's job is to do what he can to help the team win. Correct?''
Stern's response: ``It's a coach's job to comply with the rules.''
He had particularly pointed comments Friday for Van Gundy's stance on the schedule.
``My response is that he's speaking like he's in high school,'' Stern said. ``He should grow up. We've got a business here that feeds a lot of people who make a fair living at it, engages America and I'm really very tired of hearing coaches who think that because they have a postgame platform that anything that comes into their minds is a good thing to say.''
For his part, Van Gundy can find the humor in his penchant for getting fined.
``You'd think you'd learn. Like the kid who sticks his hand on the stove and gets burnt, usually he doesn't do it again,'' Van Gundy said Friday before the Magic left for Charlotte, where they'll play Game 3 - with Stern in attendance - on Saturday. ``I guess I'm not as sharp as most 3-year-olds.''
Among Stern's other topics Friday:
-There were discussions last Monday, albeit with neither Stern or NBA Players Association head Billy Hunter involved, between the league and the union about the next labor agreement. ``Some additional exchanges need to take place'' before another meeting will be scheduled, Stern said, adding that numbers started being exchanged last fall. ``We just want to get it moving,'' Stern said.
-Stern said with the salary cap for next season expected to be down only about 1 percent compared to this year, a far-better number than teams were told to plan for in a down economy, that the league's fan base deserved credit. ``Our teams couldn't do it without the fans responding in a positive way,'' Stern said.
-With the long-awaited free agent bonanza set to begin July 1, Stern said the fan in him is excited to see what'll happen. ``The fan in me would like everyone to sign where they are. The commissioner in me knows the players have bargained for, and therefore are entitled to, do whatever they like to do when they are free agents,'' Stern said.
So his message to fans?
``Sit back and enjoy it. It's going to be fun,'' Stern said. ``As I said, it's a whole new season. We've got playoffs, finals, draft, July 1.''
Associated Press Writer Antonio Gonzalez in Orlando, Fla. contributed to this report.