Though championing solid television ratings and the overall quality of play, NBA Commissioner David Stern said the league and its broadcast partners are in talks about adjusting next season's playoff broadcast schedule and that league officials are monitoring the decrease in scoring, with possible rules changes on the horizon.
Stern and deputy commissioner Russ Granik, in a state of the league news conference before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday night, also said there is no guarantee the men's Olympic team would earn a medal at this summer's Olympics in Athens. Stern added that any plans for international expansion in the near future are on hold because no new arenas are being built or planned overseas.
"In terms of scheduling of the playoffs, this year, perhaps more than any other, we really stretched to try and get virtually every game on national TV unopposed," said Stern, referring to staggered start times that prevented playoff games from running simultaneously. Stern added that some conference finals games might be shown on network television next year instead of exclusively on cable TV. "I think we kind of accept that maybe we stretched it too far this season. As a result, we're working on a schedule next year that will be for the first round, will be at least two, maybe three days shorter."
Stern said there wouldn't be any four-day breaks in next season's playoff schedule, and the league will try to limit the three-day off periods as well.
In terms of the slight dip in scoring in the regular season and in the playoffs, Stern said the league's competition committee met Monday in Chicago and determined, "if the trend continues to keep dropping, that is something that we'd have to take a look at and see whether anything needs to be done in our rules, like we did a few years ago.
"We don't expect any drastic rule changes this summer, but again, if the trend, if it keeps dropping, then I think it's something that we would have to look at in our rules."
Regarding the number of players who have declined invitations to play on the Olympic team or cited a variety of reasons why they can't honor previous commitments, leading the selection committee to put together a team of younger players, Stern said, "We think in the end, we ought to, this team ought to be -- we can't guarantee medals anymore with any team from the U.S. -- but certainly we think the team we're going to send out ought to be and will be competitive."
Pistons center Ben Wallace said he's been extended an invitation to play on the Olympic team but that all the details about playing, including some regarding security, have not been finalized.
Take It Like a Man
Wallace, one of the NBA's strongest players but at 6 feet 9 an undersized center, said playing against Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal is an unwelcome chore.
"Ain't no secret how to play him," Wallace said. "You've got to go out and take your beating like a man."
When asked what it was like trying to move O'Neal, Wallace looked at a handful of reporters leaning against a wall near his locker and said, "You know how that wall is going to be there and not move? That's what it's like playing against Shaq."