I tried not to let my general repugnance with David Stern cloud my objectivity in providing a balanced examination of his 30 year reign as commissioner of the NBA... but in the end I failed. Plenty of people have expressed gushing praise over his vision and achievements. I am not one of those people.

David Stern will finally retire from his position as NBA commissioner tomorrow, Saturday, February 1st. He does so after 30 years on the job, to the day. When I first began to mull over the profundities that define David Stern to me I think that this quote succinctly summarized my general feelings...

David Stern is the single most important person in the history of basketball.

- Bill Walton

Or not.

Actually, when I read that it emotionally scarred me in a way that closely resembles walking in on your parents... I may never see the game of basketball the same. Of course, Bill Walton is an walking caricature of hyperbole and overdramatization, but he's definitely not on an island in issuing encomiums to the exiting emperor.

David Stern is the number one force, the number one reason why the league is where it is today. That's not disrespectful to any one great player in any one era or any owner. This has to do with the leadership of one man.

- Pat Riley

The USA Today article that provided these jewels has cameos from other high profile NBA personalities, such as local legend Jerry Colangelo, who make glowing remarks.

Good for them. I disagree.

I contend that the position of commissioner was mostly just a sinecure based on timing and external factors. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is enough. Some businesses succeed because of good management and some succeed in spite of bad management. Has the NBA developed because of David Stern or in spite of him? In all earnestness, I believe there have to be at least a couple million people who could have done just as well... and carried themselves with more grace and dignity during the process.

Why don't we look at the record...

Stern took the league from tape delay to prime time.

Did he or was it just a complete matter of timing? ESPN had just started up (1978) and had a contract with the NBA (1982-84) before Stern's arrival. The NBA Finals had gotten ratings of 13.0 in 1982 and 12.3 in 1983 behind the star power of Larry "Legend" Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson. Just months after David was "sworn in" he was gifted the greatest golden goose of marketing this side of Tiger Woods in Michael "Air" Jordan. Did Stern make the stars or did the stars make the league? Basketball is uniquely suited to sell its prominent athletes due to their unparalleled exposure. With the growth of the media and cable television wasn't it just a formality this dynamic would establish itself?

If Stern made the game, not the stars, then why was the NBA Finals rating of 12.3 in 1983 higher than any rating since MJ retired. In fact, it's only crept over 11 once in the last 12 years. Has the NBA become more popular since Stern took over? Yes and no. In raw numbers it most certainly has, but that's mostly based on population, cable/satellite tv, market exposure, etc. The league has failed to captivate America the way it did in it's glory day... which started before David Stern did. Let's look at another sport that I think has a similar situation. Was the commissioner of the PGA responsible for the explosion in the sport's popularity or was it because of Tiger Woods?

Stern globalized the game.

Actually, FIBA official Borislav Stankovic opened the door for NBA players to compete in the Olympics. Here's what David Stern said about it...

The notion that the NBA wanted to redeem the 1988 loss? Patently wrong. From our view, we were stuck with playing in the Olympics. We didn't see it becoming the phenomenon that it became.

We said to FIBA that we weren't gung ho to play in the Olympics, but we would try to be good soldiers to support basketball. So they had a vote. The U.S. was against it, the Russians were against it, too. But the overwhelming vote was in favor.

To this day, Stern is still going against the grain on this subject by suggesting that NBA veterans shouldn't be allowed to participate and setting the age limit at 23. A suggestion that has rankled players that would be deprived of the privilege of representing their country. The Dream Team, which was a watershed moment in the globalization of the game, had to be practically shoved down Stern's reluctant throat. What a visionary...

Stern's dress code helped the NBA image.

On the heels of the "Malice at the Palace" episode the NBA instituted a dress code to help repair a tarnished public image. Players were associated with a rap/hip-hop lifestyle (the bad connotations thereof) and were viewed as "thugs" and "violent". While this policy has surely helped renovate the public perception of the league after the collateral damage it suffered, it was a reactive policy... not a proactive one.

The problem occurred under his watch, and still hasn't been fully repaired, but he is lauded for his damage control? Wouldn't a more impressive feat have been forestalling this snafu? Didn't the disconnection become apparent before meltdown stage? Weren't players given way too much liberty to dress however they felt to begin with? This was a job after all. Hadn't the more violent and brutal style of the game been left to the players to police for some time? This wasn't the no hand checking league we have today.

I would give Stern as much credit here as I would dole out to Bud Selig for the masterful way he looked the other way during the steroid era and then championed the clean up effort in baseball. It's not really that dissimilar of a scenario, is it?

Ad Infinitum...

Relocation - The Vancouver Grizzlies/Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans and Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder have all moved in the twenty first century. This type of relocation suggests instability in the league and alienates fans. The the Sacramento Kings nearly became the Seattle SuperSonics again? Musical chairs, perhaps?

The 1985 NBA draft - Was that envelope really frozen like Stern's cold dead heart?

Work Stoppages - Stern was on the job for two of them, 1998 and 2011. In the first he got his ass handed to him so bad that the owners were practically crying bankruptcy and insolvency. The commissioner has reportedly governed over a multi-billion dollar sport that couldn't turn a profit. Sounds like another gold star for the Hall of Fame plaque. The next one was protracted in an embarrassing fashion while MLB celebrated a new deal of labor peace and the NFL was able to avoid missing regular season games.

Chris Paul Trade Veto - The insanity of this ruling was stupefying.

Officiating - Consistently terrible, occasionally crooked. Does anyone else think this refuse makes the sport nearly unwatchable at times?

Imbalance - The commish has managed to create/extend a competitive nightmare in the league that allows the fewest unique championship winners of the major sports. Small market teams delight!


Finally, Stern became the essence of the pitiful figure that hung around just a little (or in this case a lot) too long. The last lockout saw Stern effectively castrated as he no longer held sway to influence the outcomes as had once been his calling card.

Now, Stern's carefully vetted toady deputy commissioner Adam Silver takes the baton from David, which doesn't give me a copious amount of confidence that Goran Dragic may still crack the Western Conference All-Star roster as an injury replacement...

And then the coup de grace... the "vicinity of the bench" ruling that more than anything defines not only Stern's reign as commissioner, but also the nature of his character.

It wasn't just the fact that Stern levied the suspensions against Amar'e Stoudemire and Boris Diaw for coming to the aid of Steve Nash, it was the way he heckled the Phoenix Suns and their fans when people had the audacity to question his decision. He was smug, arrogant and condescending.

It is probably a good thing for a commissioner to be bumptious to a certain extent. He must maintain equanimity and make confident, concrete (and sometimes unpopular) decisions. After he made his choice to uphold the letter of the law, which I still feel wasn't the spirit of the rule, he was justified to defend it. But he didn't have to rub it in our faces...

I'm sure that a fair share that have read this will think that I am spiteful, petty and small in my own right. Well, in these situations I just like to think, "What would David Stern do?" Maybe he would say this...

It's not being decided by [Robert Horry]. It's being decided by two Phoenix Suns who knew about the rule, forgot about it, couldn't control themselves, and didn't have coaches who could control them. And don't you forget it. Now, is it exactly fair? Probably not. Is it a red letter rule. Absolutely. Did it cost other players and teams their playoffs and championships? Yes. So, I guess there's no way to get the message through. Do you think next year the players will understand it?

I'm unhappy with the result. If the owners would like to change it, I'm happy to do it, believe me. I'd be very happy to do it. But to listen to the palaver that Robert Horry changed the series is just silly. What changed the series is that Amar'e and Boris ran out onto the court.

I won't ever forget it, David. You got your message through, by making an example out of us. Using the owners to deflect the discussion away from your ability to legislate the rule was disingenuous. You were the one and only person in a position to negate or defer the suspensions. But I never expected that out of you. That would have been silly.

Now the palaver over your retirement can dissipate. It's time for you to go away.

The Phoenix Suns have the league's 8th best record going into February, their best record after 46 games since the "7 seconds or less heyday". But the fans still have not noticed.

"We must be unafraid."

--rookie General Manager Ryan McDonough, May 2013, when describing his task at rebuilding the 25-57 Phoenix Suns. He proceeded to draft two of the rawest talents in the "not ready for prime time" 2013 NBA Draft, not sign a single free agent until Dionte Christmas in August, and systematically trade veterans for youth over the next several months.

"No telling how good we can be."

--Channing Frye, August 2013, after 18 months away from NBA basketball, just before he was cleared to play this season after recovering from an enlarged heart.

"I don't know why people say [Phoenix] is a bad team. They are pretty good."

--Tony Parker, October 2013, after the Spurs barely beat the Suns in the final minute in just week two of the season.

"We're a hard nosed team."

--Goran Dragic, January 2013, describing the play of his team each and every night. You can count on one hand how many times the Suns have been soundly beaten this season. Maybe just two or three fingers.

"For the lack of a better word, we're just kind of stupid. We're just like, ‘We're going to win.'"

--P.J. Tucker, last night, about the Suns attitude facing the Indiana Pacers just eight days after drubbing them in Phoenix, knowing the Pacers would give their best effort last night to get some measure of revenge on their home court.


The Phoenix Suns are now 28-18 on the season, their best record at this point since before Shawn Marion was traded to Miami in 2008.

Let that sink in. This is the best 46-game mark since the Suns were in their heyday.

But do local sports fans care? Apparently not. Certainly not enough to drive downtown to cheer on the team in person.

The home arena is just 75% full on most nights. Even a nationally-televised game - the one in which the Suns pasted the league-best Pacers by 24 - didn't draw a sellout.

You can lament economy, but the tickets are no more expensive than two or three years ago when the arena sold out often. The economy was much worse then, and the team was nowhere near as fun to watch.

Highlight reel plays are made every couple of minutes this season. Sweeping dunks, big blocks, scrappy plays are the norm.

The Suns have had pretty wins, scrappy wins and gutsy wins.

Yet the Suns home attendance is just 26th out of 30 NBA teams. 26th. Teams like the Pistons, and the Bobcats and the Jazz have more fans at their games than the Suns.

The prevailing logic is that fans are late-adopters. If there's not a transcendent talent to watch, they want to pay to see a proven winner. If the Suns make the playoffs this season, the fans will come next year.

But next year won't be the same as this year. Part of what makes this year so fun for the players and the diehard fans is that there are no expectations.

The players are fearless because they're not supposed to do anything well, so why not just go ahead and play well. Why not just put up the middle finger on all those doubters.

But next year, the expectations will be there. An early-season loss to the lowly Kings will feel like a heavy burden, not a shoulder-shrug. A close loss to a playoff team will feel like a devastating defeat rather than a moral victory. A missed assignment will be a cause for finger pointing.

Enjoy this season for what it is, Suns fans: FEARLESS. UNAFRAID.

Whatever happens this season is "found money". The Suns aren't supposed to win anything. Their rookies will get better next season and the season after. Their cap space will be spent on higher-ceiling talent. More youth is on the way.

But once the season ends, so does the magic. Eric Bledsoe won't get a free pass on injuries when he's making $13 million a year. Markieff Morris will start worrying about an extension, as will his brother. P.J. Tucker will go from the league's best bargain to overpaid - either here or somewhere else.

Enjoy it NOW, Suns fans.

Cheer for the team NOW. Don't wait, or you might just miss out on a great season.

They say the NBA is where amazing happens. Well for the last five days, amazing happens wherever Goran Dragic and the Phoenix Suns come to play. Their 102-94 win over the Pacers is just the latest in...

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It was a tale of two halves in Indianapolis tonight.  The Suns were on fire in the first half and thoroughly owned the Pacers, dropping a season high 66 points on them.  The Pacers made a game of it in the third quarter by ratcheting up the defensive intensity and finally getting some shots to fall.  That intensity continued into the 4th quarter.  Despite a run by the Suns to get the lead up to 11 early, Indiana continued to keep the game close, cutting the lead to 1 on a few occasions.

But at the end of the night, the Suns NEVER TRAILED TO THE PACERS AT HOME. (Ed. note: I got excited.  The Suns trailed 2-0 and 6-4 in the first quarter.  But they led from the 7:44 mark on.  Please don't sue me.) Despite only scoring 36 points in the second half, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Indiana Pacers by a score of 102-94. Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson both made their displeasure known about the All-Star reserve selections with monster games.  Stephenson had a triple double (14 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds), while The Dragon abused George Hill to the tune of 28 points and 7 assists.  Gerald Green and Marcus Morris had 16 apiece and Markieff Morris finished with 15.  For the Pacers, Roy Hibbert had the big game with 26 points.  P.J. Tucker was on Paul George like white on rice, holding the All-Star to 12 points on 5-17 shooting.

It was a good if tense night, Suns fans.  Read on for the details and celebrate!

1st Quarter

This game figured to be a great duel between a pair of All-Star snubbees in Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson.  Both players came out with aggressive drives to the hoop.  Stephenson's resulted in an assist to David West for a lay-up and Dragi? with an and-1 that he missed the FT on. The refs made their presence felt early and often.  Luis Scola made an early appearance when David West picked up 2 fouls in the first 2 minutes.  Indiana was also careless with the ball, committing 3 turnovers in the first 3 minutes.  The Suns were unable to capitalize though.  Dragi? did not seemed to affected by the elbow early, driving fearlessly into the lane early.  He was clearly looking to take the game to the Pacers.

After falling behind 6-4, Goran Dragi? and Gerald Green went on a 9-0 run to take a 13-6 lead and forcing Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout.  Indiana hung tough crashing the offensive boards, but the Suns played tough D and attacked the Pacers in the paint punctuated by a Gerald Green dunk and P.J. Tucker fast-break floater, maintaining the 8 point lead.

At the 3:30 mark, Pacers' guard Lance Stephenson left the game with an unknown injury.  The Suns' aggressiveness in the paint bit them a bit when Tucker was called for a charge, allowing Indiana to close the gap to 4, 21-17 on a pair of Roy Hibbert free throws on the following possession.  Tucker made up for it on a wide-open layup on a pretty pass from Marcus Morris.

The Pacers ran a considerable amount of their offense through Hibbert to limited effect.  He had 11 points on 11 shots in the first quarter.  On the other end, the Pacers had no answer for the Suns' shooters.  The Suns' shot 62.5% including for 4 of 5 from 3-point range.  Dragi? and Green led the Suns with 8 and 7. Leandro Barbosa capped a 15-2 onslaught with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Phoenix a 36-19 lead.

2nd Quarter

Did I mention Channing Frye yet? He had 5 first quarter rebounds and 5 points and started the second with some nice transition defense to prevent an easy Pacers bucket.  Indiana tried to go on a run scoring 5 quick points to start the quarter, but the Suns were having none of it.  The Suns's offensive plan seemed to be "Run, Run, Run!" and responded with 4 points of their own.  Lance Stephenson returned to the game looking to take over, scoring 4 straight points to cut the Suns' lead to 14 points at 42-28.

Man, this game was aggressive.  Dragi? missed a mid-range jumper at 7:48 and Phoenix stayed after it, with Marcus Moris, Alex Len and Dragi? all getting offensive rebounds and finally resulting in a Gerald Green 3-pointer.  An Indiana turnover on the next possession resulted in a Marcus Morris fast break dunk to extend the Suns lead to 47-30.   The Suns' lead grew to as much as 19.  Again, Indiana tried to start a run, but could not stop the Dragon.  The Dragon hit a jumper, assisted Marcus Morris on a jumper and then hit 2 free throws to maintain the 19 point cushion.

Markieff "The Barometer" Morris was hampered by foul trouble early, but Marcus more than picked up the slack with a heat wave of this own, scoring 10 first half points on 5 of 9 shooting.  The Suns and Goran Dragi? dominated the half, going to the break with a 66-49 lead.  The Suns shot 52.8% to 40.0% for Indiana.  Dragic was unstoppable.  He finished the half with 21 points on 8-12 shooting and 5 assists.  The  Lance Stephenson, also with a message for the All-Star voters, was on pace for his 4th triple double of the season, recording 12 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.  Roy Hibbert had 15 to lead the Pacers' scorers.  P.J.Tucker was effective on the Pacers' leading scorer, holding Paul George to 4 points on 2-7 shooting.

3rd Quarter

The Suns kept the pressure up in the second half with Dragi? missing a jumper and Miles Plumlee missing the 1-handed putback.  Not to be deterred, the Dragon drove and dished to Plumlee for an easy jam on their next possession to push the lead back to 19.  Indiana put together a 6-0 run to get it to 70-57, but P.J. Tucker drew a shooting foul and hit 1 of 2 to stop the bleeding.  Unfortunately, he gave it back by drawing a technical foul for taunting the Pacers' bench afterwards.  On the ensuing possession, Paul George completed an and-1 to get the lead down to 10.  Plumlee missed then missed a dunk, and then the Suns gave up an offensive rebound to Roy Hibbert allowing him to score.  All in all, it was a 12-1 run by the Pacers to get the Suns' advantage down to 71-63.  Would the wheels continue to come off?

Yes.  Yes, they would.  Roy Hibbert continued to have his way inside scoring 8 straight points and the Pacers' defense was smothering, allowing Indiana to draw within 4 points at 75-71.  After a Suns' bucket, Dragi? drew a technical after getting called for a phantom reach-in.  He was benched for Ish Smith shortly afterwards.  David West made a pair of foul shots to cut the lead to 3.

It was a brutal quarter for the Suns, who only made 5 of their 19 field goal attempts (26.3%) and got outscored 25-11.  The good news is that they maintained their lead, 77-74.

4th Quarter

C.J. Watson hit a lay-up to start the fourth quarter and got the lead all the way down to 1 point.  After exchanging some free throws, Marcus Morris nailed a 3-ball to put the Suns up 82-77.  The Suns forced turnovers on Indiana's next 2 possessions leading to a Barbosa floater over Ian Mahinmi to get the lead back to 7.  In the face of intense defense and a hostile Fieldhouse crowd, the Suns seemed to be maintaining their composure early in the fourth.  A Marcus Morris and-1 allowed the Suns to get the lead back into double digits, but the Pacers answered with a 12-2 run to get it back to 91-90 with 4:20 remaining.

As Indiana continued to threaten, Gerald Green went to work, hitting a pair of free throws and long jumper to help Phoenix maintain its suddenly fragile lead.  The unusually quiet Markieff Morris hit a big 3 pointer with just under 3 minutes left to go to put the Suns back up by 6.  George Hill posted up Dragi? to make it 98-94 with 1:28 left in the game.  But as always, The Dragon had an answer!  P.J. Tucker trapped Paul George in the corner, forcing him into an awkward 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired.  The long rebound led to a one-man fast break ending in a Dragon Dunk to give the Suns a 100-94 lead with a mere 44.8 seconds left in regulation.  Roy Hibbert, after a tremendous night, bricked 2 free throws on the ensuing possession and that was it for the Pacers.

Suns win 102-94!

Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic was left off the list of seven Western Conference All-Star reserves voted in by league coaches, leaving him out of NBA All-Star weekend but with a slight chance...

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