MILWAUKEE -- David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, said Friday that the league is committed to small-market teams such as Milwaukee, and added that he hoped a new collective bargaining agreement with the players would result in more "robust revenue sharing."
In a teleconference with reporters in advance of the season, Stern also raised the issue of contraction in the league.
"It's a sensitive subject for me," Stern said, who has been in the league for 27 years. "We are working hard to maintain all of our teams and add a few."
But, he said, any talk of contraction has to be discussed in the context of contract negotiations with the players association and whether there are markets that "cannot make it in the current environment."
"I would say we're committed to small-market teams," Stern said.
Stern did not single out any franchises. As for the Milwaukee Bucks, Stern said the team had been with the league for a long time.
"I know there are efforts to see how additional revenues can be generated by the building," he said of the Bradley Center. He added that U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, owner of the Bucks, was committed to keeping the team in Milwaukee.
Revenue sharing is of crucial importance to the Bucks. Kohl has lobbied in recent years for a better revenue-sharing system so the Bucks can compete better with larger markets. He has never discussed finances in detail, but has said for years that he loses money.
Stern said the issue of a new revenue-sharing model was being discussed internally and with the players association.
One possibility, he said, would be a model that establishes performance standards in terms of sales and sponsorships, and profitability.
The Bucks do not pay rent at the Bradley Center and keep a negotiated share of revenue from each game. The team has a year-to-year lease with the Bradley Center.
This season, the Bradley Center has a new and larger scoreboard. The new board was designed to maximize sponsorship opportunities.
The current collective bargaining agreement ends June 30, 2011.
Stern spoke as league negotiators and the players association have begun talking about a new agreement. On Thursday, Stern said the league is expected to lose $340 million to $350 million this season. He said league negotiators had proposed cutting $750 million to $800 million from the current $2.3 billion in player salary expenses.
Players receive 57 percent of basketball-related revenue under the existing agreement.