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Stern to retire as NBA Commissioner in 2014

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Stern to retire as NBA Commissioner in 2014

NEW YORK (AP) David Stern took the NBA around the globe in nearly three decades as commissioner, turning what was a second-rate league into a projected $5-billion-a-year industry.

Now, confident a worthy successor is in place with a labor deal that will ensure the game's continued growth, Stern is ready to stay home.

Stern will retire as commissioner Feb. 1, 2014, 30 years to the day after taking charge of the league, ending one of the most successful and impactful careers in sports history. He will be replaced by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.

``I don't know what else to say other than to recite what I told the owners yesterday in executive session,'' Stern said Thursday during a press conference after the board of governors meetings. ``I told them that it's been a great run, it will continue for another 15 months, that the league is in, I think, terrific condition.''

Stern is the one who got it there, turning a league with little-to-no TV presence - the NBA Finals were on tape delay in the early 1980s - into one that's televised live in 215 countries and is pro sports' leader in digital and social media.

He has been perhaps the model sports commissioner.

Name an important policy in the NBA - drug testing, salary cap, even a dress code - and Stern had a hand in it. A lawyer by trade, he was a fearless negotiator against players and referees, but also their biggest defender any time he felt they were unfairly criticized.

``For all the things you've done for the NBA and for sports generally, I think there's no doubt that you'll be remembered as the best of all-time as commissioners go and you've set the standard, I think not even just for sports league commissioners, but for CEOs in any industry,'' Silver told Stern sitting to his left on a podium.

Stern told owners of his plans during their two days of meetings, and the board unanimously decided Silver would be his successor. Owners will begin negotiations with the 50-year-old Silver in hopes of having a contract completed by their next meeting in April.

Stern, who turned 70 last month, became commissioner on Feb. 1, 1984. He has been the NBA's longest-serving commissioner, establishing the league's brand around the world, presiding over team expansion and overseeing the establishment of the WNBA and the NBA Development League.

``There is no debate that David Stern has earned his spot in the pantheon of sports commissioners. Deservedly, his name and reputation will always be synonymous with the phenomenal growth and success of the NBA over the last three decades,'' union executive director Billy Hunter said in a statement. ``His absence will surely be felt by anyone connected to the NBA and the sport of basketball, although clearly the league will be left in very capable hands with the appointment of Adam Silver as the next commissioner.''

Seven franchises have been added under Stern and the league has seen a 30-fold increase in revenues. Stern insisted the NBA have a presence on social media, and the league and players have more than 270 million likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

``There are all kinds of other business metrics we could look at that would define David as one of the great business leaders of our time,'' Silver said.

Stern said he decided on his plans about six months ago, having guided the league through a lockout that ended last December. He didn't want to leave until the labor deal was completed or until he was confident there was a successor in place, and both are done. Silver has worked at the NBA for 20 years and been the league's No. 2 since 2006, and both Stern and league owners praise his abilities.

``A couple of things that stand out to me is that David has been, in my estimation, the type of commissioner that has set the standard not only for the NBA but for all of the sports,'' said Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, the outgoing chairman of the board of governors. ``We have done so many wonderful things in the organization. The marketing, leadership, the brand recognition, going international way before our times, and David has led that.''

Taylor said there's been a ``40-fold'' increase in revenues from the league's national TV contract, and that the average player salary will have had grown from $250,000 when Stern took over to $5 million by the end of the current collective bargaining agreement.

Stern was the league's outside counsel from 1966-78, then its general counsel before becoming executive vice president of business and legal affairs from 1980-84. He replaced Larry O'Brien to become the league's fourth commissioner, getting a boost in taking the game mainstream with the popularity of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, and soon Michael Jordan. The league began marketing its stars, and Stern found the desire for them was greatest in some far-away lands.

The real explosion came in 1992, when those three headed the Dream Team that led the U.S. to the Olympic basketball gold medal while winning fans around the world. The NBA has gone on to play games in 17 countries, staging 114 international games.

``He's done a remarkable job,'' Major League Baseball Commission Bud Selig said at the World Series. ``To think of what the NBA was when he came in and what it is today, most people judge him very, very highly.''

There were rough patches, particularly the brawl between Indiana Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in 2004, and the betting scandal involving former referee Tim Donaghy. Stern had already passed off most of the heavy lifting to Silver by last year, but he was the one absorbing the criticism during the lockout for the second shortened season in his tenure.

He sometimes appeared worn down during the negotiations, even missing one critical bargaining session while sick, but insists he's got plenty of energy to keep working now.

``I feel great,'' Stern said. ``I'm enjoying my job, but I'm looking forward to doing some other things. I'm stepping down, I'm not retiring.''

Stern just recently returned from China, Germany and Italy, and plans another overseas trip next season, and will remain an adviser to the league in retirement on international matters.

``We just think that his leadership will be important to our future,'' Taylor said.

It's meant everything to the league's past.

The league has reported huge increases in ticket and merchandise sales, and TV ratings are at an all-time high. Last season's lockout, the second time the league lost games to a work stoppage, hardly made a dent in the league's business or in fans' interest.

But even for Stern, business has always taken a back seat to basketball. He's sought changes to improve the product on the court, such as the elimination of isolation play that bored him, to implementing penalties that go into effect this season for flopping.

``For the most part it's been a series of extraordinary experiences and enormous putting together of pieces of a puzzle and it goes on forever,'' Stern said. ``And there will always be another piece of the puzzle and so the question is at what point do you decide that, let someone else do it? That's the point that I'm at now.''

Taylor and Spurs owner Peter Holt, who is replacing him as board chairman, said the owners will work to have a contract with Silver by April. Silver, who served a variety of positions before becoming deputy commissioner, was the lead negotiator during the lockout and Stern has relied more heavily on him in recent years, even turning to Silver to answer questions on tougher topics.

Stern said he wouldn't leave until he knew there was a successor ready, and he has repeatedly said Silver is ready for that role. Stern said he would always remain available to take a call and help the league.

``Life is a journey and it's been a spectacular journey,'' Stern said. ``Each step along the way there are things that you have to do, things that you maybe wish you hadn't done. But I don't keep that list, and so I'm totally pleased and I'm particularly pleased with the transition of which we're now embarking.''

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Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

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USA Today

Stephen Strasburg makes history at the plate against Atlanta

Stephen Strasburg had the best hitting performance of his career against the Braves Thursday night, going 3-3 at the plate with two singles and a 420-foot three-run bomb. 

He didn't just set personal records but reached rare air in baseball history. He's the second pitcher ever with at least three hits, a HR, and five RBI since the DH debuted in 1973 and the fifth pitcher in the last 50 seasons to get two hits in an inning including a home run. 

Strasburg set franchise firsts with his performance, dating all the way back to the Expos. 

An extraordinary milestone for the Nationals' ace, hopefully Strasburg's performance will inspire the team during a crucial four-game series with Atlanta. 

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

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‘The Redskins love Alabama guys’: Washington could run old draft playbook in 2020 to fill huge need

Perhaps no position group on the Redskins has more questions or uncertainty than the wide receivers.

Josh Doctson enters the final year of his rookie contract, and has yet to record over 550 yards in any of his three professional seasons. Washington signed Paul Richardson to a five-year deal in 2018, but he just played in just seven games for the Burgundy and Gold in 2018 before having season-ending shoulder surgery. Second-year receiver Trey Quinn is expected to fill the role in the slot after Jamison Crowder departed for the New York Jets this offseason but has yet to prove anything on the NFL level. 

The Redskins addressed the position during the 2019 NFL Draft, selecting Terry McLaurin in the third round and Kelvin Harmon in the sixth round. But it's unclear how much either one will contribute to the Washington offense in 2019.

So, it's likely the Redskins will need to address the position during the 2020 NFL Draft, and probably very early on it. Well, this works in Washington's favor, because the 2020 wide receiver class is loaded. 

On a recent episode of the Redskins Talk podcast, J.P. Finlay and Pete Hailey spoke with NFL Draft expert Jordan Reid (no, not the Redskins' tight end) about the top wide receiver prospects heading into next year's draft, and which players the Redskins could potentially target.

Before diving into the top 2020 prospects, Reid gave an initial assessment of the current Redskins' receivers.

"The Redskins just don't have that headliner, top go-to guy," Reid said. "They were expecting Josh Doctson to be that when they did draft him in the first round of 2016. But he's had some injuries, and he's already come out and said he's looking forward to free agency. That just not something you want to hear."

Reid was high on McLaurin, though, the first receiver the Redskins selected in 2019.

"They drafted Terry McLaurin in the third round, I liked him a lot even going back to the Senior Bowl," he said. "I think he's going to have a really good year, not just as a receiver but the special teams phase as well. He's going to flash in a lot of ways."

As far as the 2020 draft wide receiver class, one school stands on top, and it's a school the Redskins are very familiar with: Alabama. The Redskins used their first-round picks in 2017 and 2018 on 'Bama guys and signed another Crimson Tide alumni this offseason in safety Landon Collins.

"We know the Redskins love Alabama guys, and there's a lot of [wide receivers] coming out this year," Reid said. "It's not just Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs is another guy that's getting a lot of steam. They're going to have the chance to get the receiver they want. This is a very special wide receiver class."

Crimson Tide receiver Jerry Jeudy is the consensus top receiver in next year's class, but Reid believes his speedy teammate could challenge him for that spot by season's end.

"With Ruggs, I think he's a bit more as far as polished a route runner [than Jeudy]," he said. "I think his hands are a bit better, and I wouldn't be shocked if he runs below a 4.3 at the combine. He can absolutely fly."

If the pair of Alabama receivers currently hold the top two spots for best wide receiver prospect, there's another guy who's right on their heels: Oklahoma's Ceedee Lamb.

"He reminds me a lot of DeAndre Hopkins coming out," Reid said on Lamb. "He's not a thick guy, but he plays much stronger than what he indicates. Very reliable hands, and his body control is out of this world. He had a one-handed catch against UCLA, it didn't count, but it's truly amazing."

As a true sophomore, Lamb totaled 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2018. Sure, it may have helped to have Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray under center, but Lamb has proven he's an elite talent.

Two other prospects Reid is keeping an eye on are Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. and Texas' Collin Johnson.

"He's not as polished as some of these other guys, but he's more of a do-it-all type of receiver," Reid said on Shenault Jr. 

Where Shenault may be a do-it-all receiver, Johnson plays to his 6'6 size.

"He's a really good route runner," Reid said on Johnson. "It's just a matter of how consistently can he separate, and how fast he is. If he goes to the Senior Bowl, I think he can light it up."

While many of these guys seem like sure-fire guys, there's still a full season of football to be played before the draft. Players will rise, but just as many, if not more, will fall off.

"You just have to let this play out, that's what happens with the draft process," Reid said. "Guys fall off, and then you have guys that come out of nowhere. Quinton Williams from last year is a prime example. He was a 270-pound defensive end at this time last year; we had no idea who he was and he ends up being the No. 3 overall selection."

But if everything plays out close to how it's expected to, this wide receiver draft class will be one to remember. 

"This class is special man," Reid said. "I think it's going to rival 2014, with Odell Beckham Jr., Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans and all those guys, Jarvis Landry, Davante Adams too. It's going to be very similar to that. It's very special."

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