From once pining for a Lakers/Lakers Finals to last year’s “substantial sanctions” saga, outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern hasn’t always been particularly well-liked in San Antonio.

There have also been persistent notions of a chilly relationship between Stern and team president and head coach Gregg Popovich, stemming from what ESPN.com’s Marc Stein once described as Pop’s “long-perceived reluctance to be more of a partner with the league office.”

I.E., not sabotaging showcase matchups with the defending champion Heat by sending a batch of key players home, which Popovich did last season to draw Stern’s wrath and a $250,000 fine. Nor has Popovich ever been shy about sharing his opinion about where the league office if falling short, most recently his complaint about crowded NBA baselines after Boris Diaw suffered a minor injury in a collision with camera equipment.

None of that was on Stern’s mind yesterday during his appearance on the Steven A. Smith Show, when he described the Spurs as the model for NBA management. (The entire interview is worth listening to, but Stern’s Spurs-specific comments begin at about the 3:45 mark.)

“It is always a treasure to look at a well-managed team, to see how they do at the gate, as a matter of business and on the court. I think San Antonio, everyone can agree, is a model of how a team, you would hope if you owned it, would be run. They’ve been competitive for a long time.