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PORTLAND NOTES

Stern Wants Longer First-Round Series

April 29, 2002|J.A. Adande

PORTLAND, Ore. — NBA Commissioner David Stern visited Portland on Sunday on his usual tour of playoff sites and watched the Trail Blazers and Lakers play their third game in eight days. There could be more action in the same amount of time if the league adopts a best-of-seven format for the first round.

A change from the best-of-five first-round format, which has been in place since 1984, is a collective bargaining issue that would require agreement from the players' union.

"We have asked the players association, but we haven't gotten a positive response from them yet," Stern said. "Remember, the players get 55% of every dollar we bring in, guaranteed. We estimate that this could probably bring in over the course of the new deal $100 million.

"That would the total basketball-related income, which would allow for a higher salary cap."

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Stern on the difficulties and complaints--from both the Lakers and the rest of the league--about the officiating on Shaquille O'Neal:

"We used to get the same calls on Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and on every other center that we've had that's been as good or great as Shaq is. That just emphasizes how difficult it is to ref Shaq. We've sat and we've watched tape and ... it's hard.

"I think his enormous combination of strength and speed and trying to find out where the contact is [makes it hard]. He's very difficult because this is not a completely non-contact sport, and referees can be thrown off sometimes by what appears to be happening as opposed [to what is]."

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Another topic of discussion with Stern was the incident in the Charlotte-Orlando game Saturday, when the referees nullified a three-pointer by Charlotte's Baron Davis after he caught the ball with seven-tenths of a second remaining in regulation. He clearly beat the buzzer, but the referees got together and decided it wasn't humanly possible to catch and shoot in that time.

Stern said the issue will be brought up at the competition committee meeting next month.

"We've got to satisfy our fans that they can understand what our rules are," Stern said. "And we have to re-evaluate what human beings can do. Basically you wind up having a standard that says it isn't humanly possible to do things in less than 0.7 seconds."

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Yes, Dale Davis heard about the Lakers imitating his shirtless walk off the court after he was ejected for kicking the ball in Game 2.

"That's cool," he said before Game 3. "If they're going to write a check, I hope they're big enough to cash it."

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