NEW YORK — NBA Commissioner David Stern used a baseball analogy today to defend his $25,000 fine of the Los Angeles Lakers for failing to use a number of regulars in their final regular season game Sunday at Portland.
"We have to call balls and strikes," Stern said at a luncheon of the International Radio and Television Society. "The Lakers' action was clearly wide of the plate."
Stern said that fans buying tickets deserve the best product and that the Lakers did not supply that.
"We make an implicit promise at our games. 'Playing today: Those healthy and able.' It is not hard and fast, but that is our compact with the media and our fans."
With Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Mychal Thompson on the bench, Portland defeated Los Angeles 130-88, the most one-sided defeat in Laker history. The game did not affect the final standings or playoff situation of either team.
Would Stern repeat the punishment?
"This one was wide of the plate," he said. "We'll wait until the next one."
Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent, seated next to Stern at the luncheon, endorsed his colleague's disciplinary action. "We believe strongly that teams must make significant effort," he said. "It's a difficult line to draw. I think David did the right thing."