David Stern returns to Phoenix, discusses potential rule changes and the state of the league

PHOENIX — Although it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that the Phoenix Suns would have won the 2007 NBA championship if Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw had not been suspended for leaving the bench area during the fateful Game 4 of that year’s Suns-Spurs playoff series, to many Suns fans that ruling cost their team a title.

Of course, the Suns still would’ve needed to defeat San Antonio twice more as well as Utah in the conference finals and Cleveland in the Finals, but to me that was the best Suns team of the Nash era and it is too bad all we can do now is ask ‘what if?’

NBA Commissioner David Stern has never been too popular in these parts in the almost five years since that ruling, but with the Spurs and new power forward Diaw in town, Stern made his first trip back to US Airways Center to take in a Suns game since that ruling on Tuesday night.

Stern exchanged pleasantries with Suns guard Steve Nash on the floor before the game but overall did not get too visceral of a reaction from the Suns’ crowd, as Dan Bickley writes.

Before the game, he met with the media to discuss a variety of big picture topics such as the state of the league after the lockout, the college game and potential future rule and replay changes. You can see his press conference in its entirety below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_3lCBqjjY4]

To me the most interesting part of the talk involved Stern elaborating on his affinity for eliminating basket interference. Below is an excerpt of that part of the interview:

Stern: Our competition committee has the final word on these things, but I think there’s going to be a very robust discussion about goaltending. … There has been some discussion about goaltending, and there are serious issues about all of this because if you give the coach the opportunity to throw the flag, it’s the whole advantage of — taking away the advantage of the team that got the ball that’s on their way down the court and the coach throws the flag. It’s kind of interesting. But we’re going to look at it. I won’t give you the whole history, but we probably have a dozen things now that we have instant replay up from nothing, and what we want to do is get it right without killing the flow of the game. In fact, my last proposal has always been — and my first proposal, that doesn’t get any respect at all — is to eliminate basket interference. It hits the rim, adopt the European rule, it’s in play. Is the hand just over the cylinder or not? Why task the referees with that? Just do the European rule. And it will make free throw misses more fun, too. But that’s not something I’ve been successful on dating back to when Jerry Colangelo was in charge of the committee that put in a wonderful set of rule changes that improved our game greatly. They left one on the cutting room.

Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver: But over time it’s inevitable given the advances in technology that we’ll increase our use of instant replay. We want to get it right. It has to be balanced against the flow of the game. I think when it’s clear in certain cases that the viewer at home can see there was a missed call, our referees want to get it right, too. We will continue to look at it.

Stern: And it’s ironic how many of our fans would be satisfied with doing lots more just in the last two minutes. That’s something we’ve sort of resisted but we’re getting pulled along because it counts the same in the first two minutes as the last. … We’re going to look at it and see what’s going on.

I love the innovative attitude that Stern and Silver take about just wanting to get calls right. Getting rid of basket interference should make the game more exciting as well.

Near the end of the talk, Stern discussed some of the great storylines in the league and had this to say about your Phoenix Suns: “Phoenix was out of the hunt at the All-Star break and all of sudden look at them, this is spectacular.”

Stern was in an overall jovial mood while talking about a league that seemingly hasn’t missed a beat after the lockout, but something tells me not all Suns fans were as happy to see him in their backyard.

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Tags: Adam Silver Basket Interference David Stern League Issues

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