Stern Greeted With Boos in Indiana
May 13, 9:06 PM (ET)
By MICHAEL MAROT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - NBA commissioner David Stern wanted to talk about the future Friday. Indiana Pacers fans wouldn't let him forget the past.
Stern was greeted by a chorus of boos in his first trip to Indianapolis since the Nov. 19 brawl in Detroit and the resulting season-long suspension of Pacers forward Ron Artest.
Stern did his best to look ahead - saying before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between Detroit and Indiana that he expected Artest to play next season. The commissioner also expressed disappointment that a new collective bargaining agreement is not yet in place.
"Both sides know what's at stake, and we'll see what happens from here," Stern said. "Obviously, I would have liked to be able to report that we had a deal, but we don't. I'm disappointed that we don't."
The two sides are expected to meet again Tuesday.
Many of the questions for Stern were about Artest, who was suspended for the rest of the season after charging into the stands and fighting with fans in Detroit.
Clearly, there was concern about fan reaction to Stern's appearance.
Sitting three rows from the playing floor and near midcourt, Stern was surrounded by security guards. He was never introduced over the public address system, nor was he shown on the big-screen televisions inside Conseco Fieldhouse.
Still, fans made their thoughts known. When he walked across the court at halftime, there was chorus of boos. When he returned about 15 minutes later, the boos grew even louder.
"I'm sure the crescendo will build, but I assume it will just be about the officiating," Stern joked before the game.
Stern said he never seriously considered reducing Artest's suspension. Instead, he said league officials have met regularly with the league's 2004 defensive player of the year.
In fact, Stern said Artest appeared to be a "very gentle person" in his most recent televised interview.
Artest has now missed 83 games, including the playoffs, and has lost about $5 million in salary.
"I did have to officially say no," Stern said. "The report is, and I believe it firmly, that he is doing everything that we have asked him to do and he's going to be back with us next year."
Stern did appear to agree with Pacers fans on one thing - whether 39-year-old Reggie Miller should return for a 19th season in Indiana. Miller has announced he will retire at the end of the season, although Stern thinks Miller should reconsider.
"He's had a great year, and I'm going to miss him greatly," Stern said. "In addition to everything he does on the court, off the court he's been kind of a role model for other players with respect to the way he carries himself, the way he practices, the way he's professional about the game, and that's very important for this league."