NEW YORK—According to friends and associates, NBA commissioner David Stern gets suddenly quiet, visibly uncomfortable, and awkwardly on edge whenever he comes into the presence of NBA basketball players. "I don't know what it is—he's usually a very outgoing and funny guy, but he just all of the sudden stiffens up whenever they're around," said NBA vice president of basketball operations Michael Curry. "It's like he can't act natural around them. Whenever we see Allen Iverson and his friends at NBA events, he'll just excuse himself, go sit in the corner, and start playing with his watch. The few times that he actually comes anywhere near them, he'll usually just stand there staring at the floor, trying to look inconspicuous." According to colleagues, however, Stern is on very friendly terms with most NBA owners, coaches, and Steve Nash.