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I think that Stern and the owners want an age limit to protect themselves from themselves. If the owners can't draft these young guys then it relieves them of the responsibility of taking the heat for the ones that do not pan out. It also allows them to take advantage of the free farm system called college basketball. It has nothing to do with the "good of the players."
The union looks at it from the prospective that this is America and if an 18 year old wants to try to make it in the NBA then he should have that opportunity, just like 18 year olds get to in baseball, tennis, golf, and any other walk of life. It doesn't take a college degree or experience to play in the NBA if you are talented enough. To limit players' options because of age isn't fair or just.
Personally, I don't have a problem with the current setup the way it pertains to the NBA. I do wish that high schoolers that have not hired an agent and go undrafted or low in the draft could still attend college like baseball players do. I'm not sure why there is a difference between the two sports when it comes to that, but that is another subject.
Despite Stern's considerable influence, he has been a voice crying in the wilderness. The players' association is against the concept, as are many other powerful figures at the NBA's ownership and managerial levels.
"The reason I'm in favour of an age limit is not because young players can't play," Stern said last week. "In fact, we could put an all-star team together with our young players. But I just feel a little diminished focusing on kids who are 10 or 11 years old, and who are thinking they're going to be the next Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. I think it's better for them to stay in school."
Part of the problem American-based pro leagues face is that their rules essentially were written for Americans only, as the concepts are based on the U.S. high school and college systems. The regulations were conceived at a time when an influx of foreigners seemed unthinkable.
Had there been a cutoff point of age 20 in the NBA last spring, Bosh still would be at Georgia Tech.
"One more year of college wouldn't have been bad," Bosh said. "It wouldn't have killed me. I don't think it would kill many people. College is great. It's just an extra year of experience and you have no choice but to get better.
"The only way an age limit possibly could work is if it's the same in every pro sport, across the board. Some sports are more physical than others, so that can affect how appropriate it is for a young guy to be involved.
"But even with that, whenever somebody comes along who is good enough to play at the next level, no matter what their age is, they're going to challenge it."
ESPN.com: We are always hearing that an age limit of 20 is something that's very important to you. Is it?
STERN: I think it would be a good idea. It isn't an article of intense faith. I think it's an intelligent business discussion that leads you to conclude that from a societal perspective and from a business perspective, it would be better if the kids came to us older, better rounded, more mature and more marketable. But I recognize that those societal and business imperatives could be viewed as deprivation to a particular individual.
By placing the age limit that we currently have, at 18 or high school graduation, we have set a line. You could argue that you should be better off having no age limit, or place it at 14. There's a 13-year-old young woman who's playing golf this week. There have been 14-year-old tennis players and there are 12-year-old skaters and 11-year-old gymnasts. Who are we to draw the line at high school? But we do (in the NBA) because we're allowed to. And once you're in that line-drawing business, I think it would make more sense to draw it at age 20. But we'll see.
ESPN.com: You have said that reports suggesting the league and Players Association have already agreed to an age limit of 20 in the next collective-bargaining agreement are premature.
STERN: It's worse than premature. We've had no substantive discussions about it.
ESPN.com: If you did have an age limit, would the NBA's developmental league accommodate 18- and 19-year-olds who don't want to go to college or aren't eligible academically?
STERN: That's a good subject of discussion, and that's one of the reasons I think it's a good idea for us to have a minor league.
ESPN.com: Is the goal to negotiate an extension to the labor agreement with the union before next season? How realistic is that?
STERN: I think it's laudable, if not possible, and certainly something that we're going to try to get as much on the table as possible. Our goal is to pick a few dates and go off-site and have some discussions, and we expect that we'll be doing that in the next couple weeks.
ESPN.com: It's probably safe to assume the union would like to see the abolition of the luxury tax. Is the luxury tax working the way you intended it?
STERN: Not exactly. I think the luxury tax together with all the other elements (of the 1999 labor agreement) are tending to get us to the place that we want to get to. The greatest sense in which the deal is working is A) the economic situation is better than it was, although it's not great; and B) the system that we've designed together with the Players Association makes our teams competitive regardless of market size. So to see a San Antonio and a Sacramento vying with the Lakers is interesting. To see an Orlando and an Indianapolis vying with a Philadelphia and Detroit is also interesting. It has worked to make us into a more competitive league.
Owners of winning teams would spend, even Donald Sterling.
ESPN.com: But the luxury tax appears to have given teams like the Clippers and Cleveland and many others the incentive not to spend, because of the millions owners can make in rebates for staying under the tax threshold.
STERN: I disagree completely. If those teams were in a position to win, you would see them spending wildly. It's just not so. They'd rather be winning because they would take in more money from the extra attendance than they would spend on the tax. It makes good copy, but it's not true. If a team is close to being ready to challenge, you will find them more than willing at the margins to go the final amount.
But Detroit (recently had) the best record in the East and they're not a taxpayer. San Antonio has the second-best record in the West and they're not a taxpayer. Most of our fans like the idea that our teams have to manage their rosters and their draft choices and their cap. That's just what has to be done. Anyone can go out and spend. You can take the same players and double their salaries, but that doesn't do anything for you.