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‘He thought big’: David Stern ushered in the modern NBA – Sportsnet.ca

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The NBA All-Star Game is an annual gathering of some of the most gifted people on the planet — where some of the biggest and brightest among us shine.

But so often in years past at All-Star Weekend, the event that carried the most weight — that was most anticipated by insiders — was the annual “state of the league” address delivered to a rapt gathering of journalists by long-time league commissioner David Stern.

Stern grew up in New Jersey, the son of a Manhattan delicatessen owner and New York Knicks fan, and stood perhaps five-foot-seven inches tall.

But he commanded the room and the sport, became one of basketball’s biggest stars, and was eventually recognized as perhaps the greatest commissioner in all of North American sports.

Stern’s addresses at All-Star Weekend consistently provided a framework for the future of the league he ran with a broad imagination and fierce discipline. The same was true of sessions he held at the NBA Finals or the NBA draft or Summer League.

When Stern spoke, people listened.

And there was a lot to talk about.

Over Stern’s unprecedented 30-year run leading the NBA, he presided over an enterprise that expanded from 23 teams to 30; that went from having NBA Finals games broadcast on a tape-delayed basis to eventually becoming a broadcast property worth $24 billion. He saw the NBA go from being a league followed mainly in the United States and featuring almost exclusively American players to a global sport with 108 international players drawn from 38 countries to start the 2019–20 season.

His relationship with the NBA began when he was hired by the powerhouse New York law firm Proskauer Rose – the league’s outside counsel – following law school in 1966. The NBA in its current form as an international cultural and taste-making force was unrecognizable.

“The league was in survival mode most of my early years in the NBA,” said Wayne Embry, the Toronto Raptors senior basketball advisor, whose association with the NBA began in 1958 as a player and continued as an executive from 1972 until today. “Attendance wasn’t great and a lot of owners weren’t doing very well.”

Stern joined the NBA as general counsel in 1978 and was promoted to executive vice president with a large role in league operations in 1980 before taking over from Larry O’Brien as commissioner in 1984.

The league’s trajectory has been almost exclusively upwards ever since, bolstered by the arrival of superstar talent such as Michael Jordan and a growing platform that help them turn into crossover icons.

“He was an innovator. He thought ahead. He thought big,” said Embry. “Marketing was very key to him. The league office brought more people in with that concept and each team did, too. He took the product and made it what it is today.

“He was just a terrific commissioner.”

Among his first major policy initiatives — even before taking the top job — were implementing drug testing for players after a number of early-1980s scandals had tarnished the league’s image and helping draft the first Collective Bargaining Agreement that included a cap on overall player salaries, bringing some cost certainty to a then-fragile league economy.

Most importantly, he helped develop a partnership between the players and owners based on a revenue-sharing model that set the standard for other leagues to eventually follow.

“He learned how to bring the players association and the owners together for a common cause. That was big,” says Embry. “The owners were very protective [of their revenues], but it can’t be one way. The players play the game.”

Stern poses with Kyrie Irving at the NBA draft on June 23, 2011. (Mel Evans/AP)

With a structure in place, Stern set out to make the NBA the most telegenic league possible. He recognized the power of stardom — that the immediacy of the NBA game was unparalleled in sports, and that targeting a younger audience with better in-arena presentation, lighting and music could be a point of differentiation.

For decades, sports had been about selling tickets and opening the doors, expecting that would be enough. Under Stern, the NBA became about using the league’s stars and the quality of its competition to build brands and create an entertainment option that reached outside of the average sports fan and into Hollywood, music and fashion.

He also was early to recognize the potential of growing the NBA brand outside of the U.S. In the mid-1980s Stern himself would get on the phone to negotiate international television deals. When FIBA wanted to throw the Olympics open to U.S. professionals, Stern in turn threw his weight behind it, ushering in the Dream Team era for the 1992 Games in Barcelona. He was the commissioner who oversaw the league’s expansion into Canada, opened league offices overseas, and made NBA tours throughout Europe and Asia an annual occurrence.

And as cable, video and digital became ubiquitous under Stern’s watch, he recognized the benefits of having the league be seen by more eyes in more formats. The NBA was at the forefront of having games and highlights available on phones and tablets. The league has enjoyed a massive social-media presence because from the beginning the NBA allowed highlights from their games to be shared freely.

“David Stern is the No. 1 force, the No. 1 reason why this league is where it is today,” Miami Heat President Pat Riley told USA Today when Stern retired in February 2014. “That’s not disrespectful to any one great player in any one era or any owner. This has to do with the leadership of one man.

“Over that span of time, things don’t change because they’re coincidences. They don’t. There’s somebody at the top who is going to eliminate what is bad and market what is good. He was a very forceful, very pragmatic visionary.”

Stern could be charming and witty in public, but was known for being almost tyrannical at times in private. He knew what he wanted and was unafraid to forgo compromise. Question him at a Board of Governors meeting and prepare to be challenged.

“His management style was anyone who questions him would get a chance to experience his wrath, and I did a few times,” said Embry, whose tenure as general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1986 to 1999 paralleled Stern’s rise. “I’d rather not say why because he and I mended our differences, but he was pretty headstrong in his beliefs.

“He had compassion for people, too, but if he believed something should be one way, he stepped to it and he wasn’t afraid to let you know it. I never questioned him [personally], but I would ask him generalized questions and I think I upset him a couple of times, but it was all for the common good of the league.”

Stern was able to run such a tight ship in part because he helped make so much money for everyone — players and owners alike. When Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Chicago Bulls in 1985, he paid $16 million. According to Forbes, the franchise is worth $2.9 billion today.

When Stern became commissioner in 1984, CBS was paying $22 million for the league’s broadcast rights. Shortly after Stern retired, the league’s new broadcast deal – which encompassed cable and digital rights – was worth $2.6-billion annually. Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will earn $36 million on the floor and several multiples of that off the floor this season while the average NBA salary 2019–20 this season has increased to $7.7 million.

“He knew what the league needed at the time it needed it, and he was not afraid to convince the owners about what he thought,” says Embry. “He was very adamant in the way he did it – and people didn’t always like it – but he gained a lot of respect because of what he accomplished.”

Stern died on Jan. 1, 2020 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. He is survived by his wife and two children.

He moved comfortably and confidently among giants and left the biggest mark of all.

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Tkachuk says Senators who tested positive for COVID 19 are ‘doing well’ – Sportsnet.ca

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Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.

“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”

Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.

The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.

Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.

Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.

The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.

Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.

COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.

As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.

“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.

“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.

“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”

Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.

Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?

The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”

Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.

“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.

“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”

On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.

“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.

“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”

Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.

“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.

“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”

Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”

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Tkachuk: Sens who tested positive for COVID-19 are 'doing well' – TSN

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Brady Tkachuk is hunkered down with family in St. Louis trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ottawa Senators winger has also been also keeping close tabs on a pair of teammates who tested positive for the disease.

“Those guys, they’re doing well,” Tkachuk said on one of the NHL’s video conference calls Monday. “We’re a tight group, so we’re always in contact with one another.”

Two of the league’s four players to test positive since the season was suspended March 12 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak are unnamed members of the Senators.

The team played in San Jose, Calif., against the Sharks on March 7 despite a warning from officials in Santa Clara County against holding large public gatherings. The Colorado Avalanche played at SAP Center the following night, and two members of that team have also since tested positive for COVID-19.

“All of us are concerned about (the Ottawa players) and everybody impacted by it,” Tkachuk added.

Reporters have been asked by the league to submit questions ahead of time for the video conferences calls.

Despite being on one of two teams to have players test positive, Tkachuk was only asked one question on the subject by a member of the NHL’s public relations staff during a 35-minute session that also included a trio of Atlantic Division rivals — Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Detroit Red Wings centre Dylan Larkin.

The Senators said March 17 the first player had tested positive before making the second announcement four days later.

Gord Wilson, the club’s veteran radio colour commentator, revealed Friday he also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Senators had two days off in California following their game in San Jose before meeting the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings on consecutive nights. Ottawa’s contest at the Staples Center on March 11 came 24 hours after the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets — who had four players test positive — played at the same arena against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Avalanche faced off against the Kings at Staples Center on March 9.

COVID-19 pandemic has killed thousands of people across the globe, devastated economies and brought about an era of social distancing and self-isolation.

As for the pause to the NHL season, Tkachuk said he and older brother Matthew, who plays for the Calgary Flames, have been doing their best to stay active.

“Been keeping busy with him and my younger sister,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve got the Peloton (bike) downstairs that we’ve been going on. We’ve been just keeping active with basketball and stuff like that. It gets fired up.

“It’s not stuff we’re not used to, but I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Tavares, who’s at home in Toronto with his wife and young son, said it took some time to process this new reality.

“First couple days just try to get an understanding of kind of where things are at and what’s hit us,” Tavares said. “Since then just try to develop some type of routine, some type of structure.”

Select players from the Metropolitan Division and Pacific Division took part in video conference calls late last week, while the Central Division is scheduled to go Tuesday.

Chara provided the funniest moment of his session when he was asked — every player has been lobbed the same question — which teammate he’d least like to spend time with in quarantine?

The answer: Boston goalie Tuukka Rask.

“The way he farts … the smell is awful,” said Chara, who had the other players cracking up. “He likes his chicken wings.”

Turning serious, Chara, whose Bruins sat first in the overall standings when the league paused after falling in Game 7 of last spring’s Stanley Cup final, said it’s important to put everything in perspective.

“It’s one of those situations that you can’t really control,” said the 43-year-old defenceman. “Right now we all have to look after each other and look after our families. Hockey’s secondary.

“Hopefully we will play again and we’ll see when that’s gonna be.”

On a separate call with a representative from the remaining Atlantic Division teams later Monday, Montreal Canadiens captain Shea Weber touched on the public service announcement he did on the importance of listening to public health and government officials during the crisis.

“We’re in this together,” Weber said. “As soon as someone’s messing around or not taking it seriously, that’s when things can turn bad for everyone.

“It’s tough times, but we’ve just got to stick together and come through this together.”

Players were also asked their preference for how the league should proceed if it’s allowed to resume this spring or summer.

“It would be tough to jump straight into playoffs, there’s no question about it,” Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman said. “But this is uncharted waters for everyone.

“It’s tough to see where this is going to end.”

Added Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel: “We really don’t know what tomorrow holds, never mind a month from now.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

___

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Ottawa Race Weekend cancelled due to COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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Ottawa Race Weekend is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19.

Organizers announced Monday they’re calling off the annual race, scheduled this year to take place May 23-24, over fears it would be impossible to maintain a safe distance between runners of the marathon, half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K or children’s event.

It’s the first time the event has been cancelled since it began in 1975.

But before you hang up your Vaporflys and hit the couch, Run Ottawa, the organization behind Race Weekend, is offering an alternative that will allow runners to compete while still following the physical distancing guidelines set out by Ottawa Public Health.

Competitors will be offered a spot in a virtual race, where they’ll determine their own route and run or walk their chosen distance through their own neighbourhood. The virtual race will start as early as May 23, but will be spread out over the spring and summer months, until August 31. They’ll receive a race kit, including medal, T-shirt, and even a photograph of them crossing a virtual finishing line.

A runner holds a rubber chicken as he begins the half-marathon in Ottawa on Sunday, May 27, 2018. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press )

“Part of having a long runway to complete the event is that maybe things will be a little bit different further into the summer, and will allow people to run in groups of two or three,” said Ian Fraser, executive director of Run Ottawa.

Run Ottawa said it will partner with the international race timing company Sportstats to create a virtual finish line, using “e-bibs.” Participants will be able to share their results with friends and family, and compare their times with other runners once the final results are published.

The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.– Ian Fraser, Run Ottawa

Registration, which was halted two weeks ago with around 18,000 runners signed up, will be reopened to allow for more people to join up for the virtual races. 

“There’s a great spirit in the running community that I think is going to see this as something they can celebrate, to push something positive forward in difficult times,” Fraser said.

Run Ottawa had been expecting some 33,000 runners this year.  

The virtual race won’t be a sanctioned event, and the results will not qualify runners for major marathons elsewhere, such as Boston. 

No refunds

There will be no refunds, according to Fraser.

“Pretty much all of the registration money that we take in is spent quite a ways before you actually get to the start line,” he said. “The reality is that a full refund for all participants would bankrupt us, and there wouldn’t be a race weekend in 2021.”

Instead, people who have already registered will be given a 50 per cent discount on next year’s race, which is scheduled for May 28-29.

Run Ottawa considered postponing the event until fall, but worried about the crowded running calendar, and the possibility of ongoing mitigation efforts over COVID-19.

“We’re also not certain that the world’s going to be in a better place by then, and we were really mindful to not double disappoint our participants,” Fraser said.

The decision to proceed with a virtual event is meant to encourage runners to keep going with their fundraising efforts for local charities. In years past, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities including The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. 

Fraser said he understands people will be disappointed.

“I’ve been a runner since I was eight years old,” Fraser said. “I understand the hard work that goes into preparing for one of our events. But the journey to get to the finish line is every bit as important as the actual event itself…. I think using running as a way of coping with what we’re going through is really important. I think there are more people running now than I’ve ever seen before.”

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