Stern Praises 'Underrated Champ' Mavs

NBA commissioner David Stern good-naturedly compared his relationship with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to that of a "dysfunctional family,'' just part of Stern's press conference before the Christmas Day Heat-at-Mavs season-opener that included praise for the 'underrated champions.'

The commissioner was booed by some Dallas Mavericks fans in the defending champion's pregame banner-raising ceremony at American Airlines Center – boos that turned to cheers when he congratulated the North Texas fans on their support of the 2010-11 NBA titlists.

Before his appearance before the crowd, he met the media to offer praise for Cuban's Mavs and praise for the SuperTeam assemblage of talent in Miami.

"It's ironic,'' Stern said of the Mavs, "that the most underrated team in the league is the NBA champions."

He then turned his attention to a club far from "underrated,'' the loaded Heat.

On the Heat's acquisition of LeBron and Bosh a year ago that teamed them with Wade and moved Miami to the Finals (where it lost to Dallas): "I think that players who are able to move from team to team because they are free agents, having played under their contracts, their rookie extension, whatever it is, and find a team that is managed well enough to be under the cap, so that it can acquire more than one player, I think that's fine," Stern said.

On the Heat as presently constructed: "The Heat are an interesting and fun team, so they engender a lot of enthusiasm and following."

On LeBron: "I see a level of acceptance and maturity, that it's fun to watch someone grow," Stern said.

Stern downplayed the fact that the owners of the two teams in this marquee game, Cuban and Miami's Micky Arison, voted against the ratification of the CBA proposal that passed and allowed for this shortened 66-game season. He also said the league has no issue with veteran stars like Paul and D-Howard attempting to dictate their trade-related futures.

"If a player has played a number of years in the league, seven, eight, and he says, 'I don't want to re-sign in this particular city. I have a different choice,' it doesn't concern us at all that he has that option," Stern said. "This league has embraced free agency and has for decades, and that's fine with us."

And then there is the matter of the assumption that Miami is superior to Dallas (and maybe everyone else) – a theory that certainly played out in Game 1 of the two defending conference champs' seasons as the Heat dominated Dallas through one half of Sunday's game, up 62-41.

"Everyone seems to be mailing the trophy again," Stern said before the game. "I said before last season, ‘I think we have to play the season. We're not mailing the trophy to Miami.' And it turned out we were mailing it to Dallas, and we'll see what happens this year, although Miami really seems formidable with those three superstars. But we'll see what happens. We're going to play the season and we'll see what happens."

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