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Published: Friday, 6/8/2007

Stern happy with '03 class

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

SAN ANTONIO - Another young star has propelled his team to the NBA finals, and David Stern couldn't be happier.

Speaking yesterday before Game 1 between the Cavaliers and Spurs at the AT&T Center, the NBA commissioner said he is excited about the impact the draft class of 2003 has made in the league, starting with Dwyane Wade last season and continuing with LeBron James this year.

"Just as Tim [Duncan] is representative of the future certain Hall of Famers, when you look at LeBron, you just think of him representative of the future of this league," Stern said. "Whether it's his own class of D-Wade or Carmelo or Chris Bosh or the other young players that have excelled in these playoffs, we couldn't be in better shape."

Although the Cavs were sometimes inconsistent in getting to 50 wins in the regular season, Stern praised the team for its improvement during the postseason.

"The Cavaliers have demonstrated an enormous amount of growth to the world in the course of these playoffs," Stern said.

THE DUNK: The last time the Cavaliers played in the AT&T Center, James dunked over Duncan in a moment that would be remembered all season. It was committed to memory because a few days later, someone put up a picture of the dunk in the Cavs' locker room near James' locker.

"[It meant] nothing, honestly," James said. "We were very aggressive in that game. But it was just two points."

WIN IT FOR FINLEY: Most of the Spurs have championship rings, but one player who doesn't is veteran Michael Finley. Finley, the Spurs' starter at shooting guard, has played for three teams in 12 years trying to win one, and this is his first NBA finals. He joined the Spurs last season and is averaging 13 points in the playoffs.

"You know, you can never redo your first, and I'm trying to enjoy all the hoopla that surrounds it, but at the same time keeping my focus on the task at hand, and that's Cleveland," Finley said. "But overall I'm enjoying it."

RED OR WHITE: Gregg Popovich didn't just try to teach Mike Brown about basketball. During Brown's three years in San Antonio, the Spurs coach tried to teach his assistant about the finer things in life. Emphasis on tried.

"When I was here, he tried his behind off to teach me how to be one of the proper young men that can sit at the dinner table that can decide which wine to eat with [what] food, and what year, and all that," Brown said. "Even though I was here with him three years, I still don't know anything about wine. I know there's red wine and white wine. Beyond that, I couldn't tell you what happens."

DRIBBLES: Larry Hughes didn't practice in between Game 6 on Saturday and last night, but he started at point guard for the Cavs last night. The Spurs are the fifth team in the history of the NBA to make four finals appearances in nine years.



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