Commissioner calls a foul on Jackson

NBA commissioner David Stern held a wide-ranging news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night. NBA commissioner David Stern held a wide-ranging news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / June 4, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — Chiding Phil Jackson and siding with Doc Rivers before the start of the Finals, NBA commissioner David Stern last night said the Lakers coach acted improperly when he offered his team money to play tougher. But the commissioner backed the Celtics coach for questioning the wisdom of a rule governing technical fouls in the postseason.

Stern, responding to reports that Jackson told his players he would pay them $50 every time they take an offensive charge, said in a news conference at Staples Center before Game 1 that he told Jackson to “cut it out.’’ The Lakers said Jackson offered the unsanctioned financial rewards to motivate them to play with greater intensity.

“Actually, it’s against our rules,’’ Stern said.

The commissioner said he had no immediate plans to discipline Jackson and would discuss the issue with him after the playoffs.

He described the rule Jackson broke as one of numerous rules that “our teams actually behind closed doors ask us to enforce. And so we are enforcing this one by asking them to stop.’’

As for the technicals, Rivers has been pleading for the league to change the rules. At one point, he complained his comments were falling on deaf ears. The issue is vital to the Celtics because Kendrick Perkins, already assessed six postseason technicals going into Game 1, is at risk of the league suspending him for a game if he draws one more.

“The Lakers are saying they’re going to be physical,’’ Rivers told reporters before the series. “So there’s going to be a double technical in this series, and if there’s a double technical in this series, there’s a very good chance it’ll be with Perk involved. And that hurts us.’’

One solution would be for the slate of technical fouls to be wiped clean after every postseason series.

“I think he has a worthy point,’’ Stern said of Rivers. “We are where we are now, but I’d like to take a look at it between seasons. As much as I hate to agree with Doc, I think he actually has a point.’’

Stern, meanwhile, found himself in the uncomfortable position of claiming that the NBA lost $400 million last year, even as he praised the league’s magnificence and global reach. He has cited the $400 million loss in negotiating with the players union over a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal ends next year.

The players’ union president, Billy Hunter, has called the league’s claim “baloney.’’ The commissioner countered that he “grew up in Stern’s Delicatessen,’’ and Hunter “has his meat wrong.’’

Stern also took issue with President Obama, who said recently that NBA teams should lower their ticket prices.

“The commissioner needs to figure out how to price tickets so that ordinary people can go to games,’’ Obama told TNT’s Marv Albert.

Stern, describing himself as “a loyal Democrat,’’ said, “I hate to disagree with my president, but we do have a minimum of 500 very low-priced tickets in every arena.’’

But rather than addressing the exorbitant price of many seats, Stern took a subtle shot at Obama.

“The president has a standing invitation’’ to NBA games, Stern said. “I’m not sure he would sit in one of those [low-priced] seats.’’

Stern also went to considerable lengths to downplay the notion that a group of superstar free agents, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, will gather for a summit to exert control over the game through the decisions they make about their futures.

“I’ve been assured at the highest level that there is no summit,’’ Stern said.

But, he added, “If some kind of tampering is implicated, I will have a different view. But we’re not expecting that.’’

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