CLEVELAND — David Stern’s office is located in the heart of New York City, but the NBA commissioner continues to spend a lot of time on the North Coast.
Stern’s latest visit came Monday night, when he formally presented Cavaliers superstar LeBron James with his second consecutive NBA MVP award at Quicken Loans Arena.
“It seems like I was just here doing this, but wait, that was last year,” he said. “LeBron is a joy to behold, and it’s pretty exciting to see what he’s done for this team.
“I’m happy to be here to give a very great player his MVP trophy.”
Stern handed over the Maurice Podoloff Trophy in an on-court ceremony just before Cleveland and Boston tipped off Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Before stepping in front of the crowd, though, Stern expressed hope that this isn’t the last time James receives a major award in a Cavaliers uniform.
Stern said he understood why Cleveland fans are uneasy about “The Chosen One” leaving via free agency on July 1, but stressed that the NBA’s salary rules are designed to keep him here.
“Our collective bargaining agreement provides that the home team has the ability to pay more and pay longer to keep their players,” he said. “In my view, that’s the way it should be. The idea of (creating the Larry) Bird exemption was to allow teams to stay together.”
He admitted, though, there is a decent chance James will seek greater fame elsewhere. The New York Knicks and Miami Heat have made countless roster moves in recent seasons to try to clear salary cap space, and will undoubtedly woo him when he hits the open market.
“How long has he been here?” Stern asked, knowing full well that James was the top overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. “You know, that’s the deal. Here’s the draft and here’s where you go. Then, here’s where you sign another contract. Then you have an opportunity to test free agency — it’s part of the system that the players bargained for.
“It’s been great having LeBron in Cleveland, and hopefully he’ll stay. That’s the way the system was designed.”
One other Cavaliers news item came out of the 15-minute news conference, but it doesn’t involve any of their players.
Stern said there is no timetable for the NBA Board of Governors to vote on the sale of 15 percent of the team to Chinese investment group New World Development Company.
That transaction — negotiated by Kenny Huang, who has worked with the team on several foreign sponsorships — was announced with much fanfare last May, but remains in limbo. The Hong Kong-based firm hasn’t issued any statements on the process in recent months.
“As far as I know, it has not been approved and there are no current plans for it to be voted on,” Stern said.
But before the session got bogged down in off-the-court issues, the affable boss quickly shifted the focus back on the task at hand. Namely, the eight teams still in the hunt for the world championship.
“It’s great basketball and it’s a great time to be an NBA fan,” Stern said, smiling. “And we still have this little thing ahead called The Finals.”
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