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THE NBA TIPS OFF: I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SEASON
Published October 31, 1997
The NBA opens its season tonight with 14 games on its schedule and much of the media focus continues to be on the league's naming of its first two women officials and a N.Y. Times article from last Sunday on the drug and alcohol use among its players. On Wednesday, NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik discussed the state of the league in a conference call with the media. TWIN TOWERS: Granik, on if there will be a new "code of conduct" from the league for its players: "I don't think there's a new code of conduct as such, but I think we have to decide to become more aggressive with the players and our teams about reminding them what conduct is expected of players who are competing in the NBA." Stern: "Asking our players to behave in a certain way, and asking our teams to behave in a certain way doesn't seem, to us, to be too much to ask. ... [W]e're going to be asking our players, our teams and ourselves to be a little bit more vigilant because there is an opportunity to lead." Stern discussed revising the league's drug testing policy to cover marijuana. He said he would like to discuss "the entire issue of marijuana and other things" with the NBPA, but, "frankly, we've been unable to get the players association to address that issue. ... [W]e're dumbfounded by the approach. We think that there is an extraordinary opportunity for our current players to follow the leadership mold of those that preceded them and we also think that [NBPA Exec Dir] Billy Hunter does not voice the feelings or aspirations for sports that a very significant number of his players do. ... [O]ur goal is to ... cut down on the use of marijuana if its occurring. ... And it's a bad example for professional athletes to set. But apparently Mr. Hunter has a different agenda, and we'll just have to see how that works out" (THE DAILY). In N.Y., Mike Wise wrote that, "Within hours after Stern criticized the players association for its refusal to address the league's concern over marijuana use, Hunter fired off a scathing statement aimed at Stern's 'misrepresentation of the issue'" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/30). In Tacoma, Dave Boling wrote that Stern gave a "[g]ood speech. And frankly, I love Stern's tough talk. And it's nice to think that such a visible enterprise as the NBA would rise to the forefront of this issue. But few of us are going to swallow such a heavy dose of altruism when everybody knows the NBA is not in the business of trying to lead by example" (NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/30). ESPN's David Aldridge: "Marijuana continues to be a hot-button issue for the league and the players' union" (ESPN, 10/30). NEW REFS: The league's appointment of Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer as the first women officials "is pure P.R. genius, a move that strikes precisely the right kind of chord in a society more sensitive than ever to gender equality," according to Steve Bisheff of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Bisheff: "Not only is [Stern] more progressive and free- thinking, he also recognizes the immense public relations value attached to a move like this" (OCR, 10/30). In S.F., Gwen Knapp wrote Stern "went to the to hoop hard this week, throwing down an historic dunk, scoring big points for NBA public relations." Knapp: "It was a power move, enlightenment as a marketing tool" (S.F. EXAMINER, 10/30). An S.F. CHRONICLE editorial: "All we ask if that the league give these women a chance to succeed or fail on the merits of their work" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/31). In San Jose, Ann Killion: "The NBA isn't in the business of losing credibility. The same respect the league received when it launched the WNBA should hold here. The thinking then was that the NBA wasn't going to pour money into a losing proposition. The thinking now is that the NBA isn't about to turn itself into a laughingstock" (MERCURY NEWS, 10/30). In Chicago, Bob Verdi: "If your initial response to the news contained a trace of skepticism, you were not alone. We are always suspicious of big business and the NBA is a big business that prides itself on setting trends. But I'm going to believe the NBA is sincere on this matter, that it's taking the high road, that Kantner and Palmer ... are at least as qualified as the male candidates" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/30). A HARTFORD COURANT editorial: "Critics who say the hiring is a move by NBA to get more publicity are overestimating the draw of officiating" (COURANT, 10/31). OVERALL: In previewing the NBA season, Stefan Fatsis of the WALL STREET JOURNAL asks, "Will mounting labor tension make the league yearn for old-fashioned distractions such as, oh, Dennis Rodman kicking a cameraman? ... [F]ans might do well to shout the NBA's 'I Love This Game!' mantra now, because they may not like what happens in 1998" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/31). In Chicago, Michael Hirsley examines TV ratings for a post-Michael Jordan NBA: "A lot of casual fans have been drawn to NBA telecasts by Jordan's aura. How many of them can connect similarly with potential superstars Grant Hill, Shaquille O'Neal, Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway or [Kevin] Garnett? Who will want to 'be like Allen Iverson?'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/31). In S.F., David Steele: "It's the dawn of another season in the NBA. And for the first time in years, the skies are dark, with forecasts of clouds for the foreseeable future" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/29). In L.A., Mark Heisler: "Storm clouds are gathering over a league in which things have never been better and worse at the same time" (L.A. TIMES, 10/29). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz: "The NBA has problems. ... [T]he quality of play is eroding. The NBA is shrewd at peddling stars, but in the rush to hype an increasingly artificial product, the league has lost substance" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/29).