Among the distinguished guests attending the Euroleague awards dinner at the presidential palace in Prague on Saturday was David J. Stern, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Mr. Stern was seated with such basketball dignitaries as FIBA World general secretary Patrick Baumann and ULEB president Eduardo Portela throughout the ceremonies. One of the extra prizes of Final Four weekend came on Friday when CSKA Moscow and Maccabi Elite Tel Aviv won semifinals that not only sent them in Sunday's Euroleague title game, but guaranteed their places in the two-day tournament that caps NBA Europe Live presented by EA SPORTS next fall. That tournament, in Cologne, Germany on October 10 and 11, will also feature the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA. At the gala dinner, Mr. Stern spoke with Euroleague.net.
About the Euroleague Final Four:
"I think this is really becoming one of the important events on the world sports scene. The Euroleague does a great job with it. It's always fun to see the Final Four, and this is a good building here in Prague, and we saw a very good couple of games, so I am glad I was able to make it. My congratulations to Jordi Bertomeu and the job he's doing here. It's just terrific and Prague's a great city."
About CSKA and Maccabi going to Cologne:
"We think that Maccabi has certainly established itself as one of the premier teams in the world. I was in Toronto when they beat the Raptors during the last exhibition season and CSKA is a perennial powerhouse. I think this Final will be great and it's great that we have those teams (for NBA Europe Live) next fall. Maccabi will play in Paris, as well, against the Spurs. And CSKA will play in Moscow beforehand, against the Clippers. Both of these teams are very much involved, so I am glad for the outcome."
On the competitiveness level of European basketball:
"I think that the quality of Euroleague basketball has improved every year. I think the opportunity that players got to participate in world championships, Olympics and the heightened Euroleague competition, as well as exhibitions against NBA teams, all have helped raise the level of basketball, both in the NBA and the Euroleague. So I think that what Boris Stankovic had in mind when we agreed to open competition has been, if not entirely achieved, has begun to be a great deal achieved."