Stern regrets shortened season
ORLANDO, Fla. - Injuries and subpar basketball have plagued the NBA during this lockout-shortened season, and while commissioner David Stern is here celebrating the All-Star Game, he also realizes matters could have been different.
The league and the Players Association did not agree to a labor deal until Thanksgiving weekend, forcing a 66-game season to be squeezed into four months, with some teams playing three straight nights.
Such a rigorous schedule and abbreviated training camp have led to injuries, while some clubs have rested players, such as the Spurs did with Tony Parker and Tim Duncan last week in Portland despite being on an 11-game winning streak.
Stern denied that there were increased injuries but said because of the compressed schedule more game time is being missed. He wished negotiations with the Players Association had been more effective during the summer.
“To me, the only positive was that we got a season which was in danger of not being and that we changed the outlook for the league dramatically, both as a competitive matter and as a financial matter,’’ he said. “We’re open to looking at a [new plan] as long as you have an economic package that comes with it that causes us and the players not to suffer.
“We were focused on one thing: How could we get ourselves together to make a deal? And the players’ union and we focused on Christmas Day and playing 75 percent of the games. That was the carrot that was dangling and we all sat around and we went for it.’’
Veteran teams such as the Celtics, Lakers, and Mavericks were hurt by the shortened training camps, while the Heat, Bulls, and Thunder used their youth to pile up early wins.
“[The agreement] enabled us to have a much better season than the last shortened season,’’ he said. “We had a training camp that was a day longer than [the previous lockout]. The only thing that I regret is that this deal was there much earlier. We just weren’t able to close it out. But we move on.’’
Hall names finalists
Pacers great and five-time All-Star Reggie Miller has a chance to nail his legacy, just as he did so many 3-point shots.
He was announced as one of 12 finalists for the Class of 2012 for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“When you’re in the backyard and you’re trying to play the 3-2-1 game, and you’re trying to be the Iceman [George Gervin] and do the finger roll . . . Now to be on the same stage with these guys. It’s just a great honor,’’ Miller said.
Miller is a first-time finalist along with five-time Final Four coach Rick Pitino, former Celtics coach Bill Fitch, and two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain.
On the ballot again are Don Nelson, Maurice Cheeks, Bernard King, Dick Motta, Hank Nichols, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes, and the All-American Red Heads, known as the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters and the first women’s professional team.
Shot for Rondo
Rajon Rondo did not make the initial cut for the 20-man USA Basketball roster for the 2012 Olympic Games, but chairman Jerry Colangelo said there remains a chance for Rondo to compete for a spot.
“I never rule anyone out,’’ he said. “It just so happens that that position, I’m having trouble even now, with the guards who went down, who’s going to be your point guards? That’s a tough one. There’s going to be some good players left off. The door’s still open for Rondo, and anyone else.’’
Colangelo also said Jeremy Lin could be an candidate for the USA select team, which will practice against Team USA leading up to the Olympics.
“In New York, he’s off to this great start,’’ Colangelo said. “Everyone has to pay their dues. We told players, if you join us, I promise you we are going to be successful, but you have to do it our way, and those that participate earn equity in our program. There’s a lot of players who want to play and they are paying their dues with the select team. So everyone has to pay their dues, no exceptions.’’
Rondo will replace injured Stephen Curry (right foot) in the Skills Challenge. Atlanta’s JerryStackhouse will replace teammate Joe Johnson (knee) in the Shooting Stars competition . . . Kobe Bryant was a no-show at yesterday’s media session, telling league officials he was ill . . . Dwight Howard has asked to be traded by the Magic, yet told reporters he was excited about the team’s potential of competing in the playoffs.