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The short season still strong, Yao irreplaceable, said NBA chief

02-10-2012 11:10 BJT Special Report:The Fever of Jeremy Lin |

BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The 2011-2012 NBA season, which was cut short because of the lockout, was still strong and competitive enough to attract fans, according to NBA commissioner David Stern during a TV interview from Chinese media on Thursday.

The 66-game schedule had cause a higher rate of injuries and lower shooting percentages. but Stern still had high expectations of the season.

"Whether our players are shooting at a 46% level or a 44% level, they're still the best basketball players in the world," said Stern. "It still is NBA basketball. On that basis I say we're having a very good season."

"To me all of the story lines are there. The quality is very high. The numbers may be down from last year. But I think by the time we get to the playoffs, you're going to see the great NBA that you have become accustomed to know.

There were more young teams booming up in this season, led by Oklahoma City and Indiana, but Stern refuse to describe superpowers Boston and Los Angles Lakes as "old" teams. In his eyes, those traditional teams still had a chance to chase for the title, because things will get totally different in the playoffs.

"Is Boston too old? I don't think so, but we'll see. That's why we play the game. Is L.A. too old? I don't think Kobe would agree with that assessment, but we'll see," said Stern.

NBA had been keeping trying to balance the 30 teams in the league, and Stern thought the new contract could be a great help for the attempt.

"If you want to sign another team's free agent now, you may only sign him for four years under the new great many," said Stern. "Years ago we used to have 10 year agreements, eight years, seven years, six years. Now to sign another team's free agent, you must limit it to four years. When that contract is over, the players who have performed well will get new contracts and more money, and those who haven't will not do as well. That will make the league more competitive."

"So we're seeing some pretty interesting short term developments. But I'm confident this new agreement will make our league more competitive."

New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin was playing very good games during the last four days, leading his team to three straight wins, but Stern didn't think Lin was strong enough to be compared with Yao Ming, an all-star Chinese center who announced retirement last year.

"I don't think that anybody in the NBA who is of Chinese descent will ever become a bigger star than Yao. Yao was the first. Yao was the biggest. Yao was I think the most successful. He will always have a special place in the hearts of the NBA and Chinese fans," said Stern.

"Lin was cut by Golden State, he was cut by Houston, and he was sent by New York to our NBA development league. Then he comes up and he's a star. That's what's wonderful about our league. But we'll have to wait and see how well he does. I don't want to overburden him with expectation," Stern added.

Editor:Zhang Rui |Source: Xinhua

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