Stern takes issue with method, not movement

David Stern, the NBA commissioner, congratulated LeBron James on his decision but would have preferred that he tell the Cavaliers first.

David Stern, the NBA commissioner, congratulated LeBron James on his decision. He just wishes it came without The Decision. Stern said he would have advised James to tell the Cleveland Cavaliers of his choice to leave for the Miami Heat earlier than he did, and that James's public announcement should not have come in a made-for-television special that attracted nearly 10 million viewers.

"The advice that he received on this was poor," Stern said after the NBA owners met in Las Vegas on Monday. "The performance was fine. His honesty and his integrity, I think, shined through. But this decision was ill-conceived." The commissioner said James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh violated no league rules in discussing free agency among themselves, and that the league is not investigating how the Heat managed to land all three.

Meanwhile, Stern also took action against Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavaliers, fining him $100,000 (Dh367,280) for words the commissioner described as "a little bit extreme". Gilbert released a stinging statement shortly after James's announcement last Thursday, calling it "narcissistic" and "cowardly behaviour". Later, Gilbert told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he felt James quit on the Cavaliers during the play-offs the last two years.

Even the Rev Jesse Jackson, a civil rights leader, received a rebuke of sorts from Stern. Jackson responded to Gilbert's remarks by saying the Cavaliers owner saw James as a "runaway slave" and that Gilbert's comments put the player in danger. "He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," Jackson said in a release from his Chicago-based organisation. Stern said Jackson is a friend and ally to the league, but he felt that his reaction to Gilbert missed the mark.

"However well-meaning Jesse may be in the premise on this one, he is, as he rarely is, mistaken," Stern said. "And I would have told him so had he called me before he issued his statement, rather than this morning. But he is a good friend of the NBA and our players. He has worked arduously on many good causes and we work together in many matters." In a statement released by the team, Gilbert tried to put an end to the issue.

"I strongly disagree with Rev Jesse Jackson's recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it," Gilbert said. "Going forwards, we're very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region." James, Wade and Bosh announced last week that they would play for the Heat, working out six-year deals after talking with each other at times throughout the free-agent process.

Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks owner, said he wanted the NBA to examine how all three joined the same team. But in a meeting of the league's Board of Governors, no formal complaints were levied, Stern said. "Our players, having negotiated for the right to be free agents at some point in their career, are totally within their rights to seek employment with any other team," Stern said. "That's something we agreed to. That's something we embrace. That's our system."

Further, Stern said James was "entitled" to make his move to south Florida. He also congratulated Miami for its free-agent approach. "Miami did a pretty good job of clearing out cap space and putting together a plan," he said. * AP