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).