Stern defends Hardaway ban

MIKE GANTER

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

LAS VEGAS -- NBA commissioner David Stern had to know it was coming.

Stern said he was just reacting to the moment when he sent Hardaway packing. Hardaway was here to make a series of appearances on behalf of the league.

"I applaud the First Amendment, anyone can say what they want to say," Stern began. "But they can't work for whoever they want to work for if that is inconsistent with what is going on or what that view is ... We just thought, given what we heard, the hateful speech, that we thought there was only one thing to do and that was to disassociate ourselves from it as quickly as we possibly could. And to send the message that it's not us."

BARKLEY BACKS IT UP

In what has been one of the more anticipated events of all-star weekend, Charles Barkley, the round mound of rebound himself, backed up everything he said.

Barkley, who turns 44 this week, defeated Dick Bavetta, the 67-year-old longtime referee in a race that covered 31/2 lengths of the court. Barkley wasn't getting much love from the present-day NBA players in the pre-race predictions.

None was funnier than Allen Iverson's refusal to pick a winner before adding "If there is a medic on hand, Charles is the one who will need him."

Not only did Barkley not need the medic, he finished in a backward jog.

Chauncey Billups picked Bavetta based solely on the fact that the referee is still in shape, Charles, not so much.

The Raptors' Chris Bosh refused to get pulled into the debate.

"It's a lose-lose for me," Bosh said. "I'm not picking anyone."

Earlier this season, Barkley mocked Bavetta's ability to get up and down the court in a game for TNT.


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