SAN ANTONIO — Eighteen days before the scheduled start of his lockout, Commissioner David Stern issued a plea over the head of union leader Billy Hunter to the players, warning them to avoid "a mistake of epic proportions."
"We read that somehow the owners, the labor relations committee and we want a lockout," said Stern at a news conference before Sunday's Game 2 of the NBA Finals. "I assure you that is not the case. We have worked too hard to want that.
"I am saying here today, the last thing we want is a lockout. We wanted to negotiate and the last thing we want is a lockout and we don't understand that rhetoric that's been coming out" from the NBA Players. Assn. and "that's been repeated" by reporters, Stern said.
"You know," he added, "I tell you what, we have seen the damage that a lockout can do across the board, the fans, sponsors, licensees, network partners and the like. Our fear, given who we are, given our life's experience in the NBA, that our business will slip away from us faster than even some other sports. And [if] that's the case, then I'm not in good conscience going to sit in front of owners trying to get in front of a train to say, you know, it's OK, we'll make the same deal that we were willing to make before all of this damage to your business occurred. I'm not going to do it ...