NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the equivalent of a State of the Union address before All-Star Saturday Night at Barclays Center, and he spoke about the festivities around town and what is on his agenda for the coming year.
Silver said of the All-Star Weekend, “We’re thrilled to be here in New York City for All‑Star and I want to give a special thanks to the Nets organization, the Knicks organization, Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Bratton and their organizations for the tremendous cooperation we have gotten throughout the season and in preparation for this All‑Star.
“In addition to being a great host, they’ve given us some of the data on the impact we’ve had in town here. We’re told by New York City that in essence these All‑Star activities have had a $200 million economic impact on New York, and as a New Yorker I’m thrilled to hear that.
“We’ve had 166,000 fans attending our various events throughout All‑Star that includes the NBA Houses, these interactive festivals we’ve conducted in both New York and Brooklyn and all the arena events as well.
“As you can see in this room, we have an enormous number of credentialed media, 1,800 credentials were issued by the NBA, including a record 534 international media credentials. So welcome to all my international friends who are here today,” said Silver.
On the NBA legends in New York City for the weekend, Silver said, “In addition to our All Stars, we’ve had a number of active players and former players who are here in town. We have 70 active players in town, 154 legends. And when I say “legends”, I’m not just talking about the big‑name players but all kinds of former players are here in town, working with us in the community, working on clinics and fan events for the people in New York. And included among those over 150 legends are 41 Hall of Famers. As I always say in our sport, our Babe Ruths are still around. Those Hall of Famers include Bill Russell, who will be here tonight and has been very actively engaged in activities throughout the community. Oscar Robertson is here, a personal favorite of mine. Dr. J (Julius Erving) is here. Kareem Abdul‑Jabbar, of course Michael Jordan has been in town. A great range of legends are here with us.”
On community events during All-Star Weekend, Silver said, “And maybe the most important impact we’ve had on New York City through this All‑Star experience is we’ve reached, we estimate, a million kids throughout the five boroughs of New York City over the course of this season. That’s been in partnership with Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Education. That includes hands‑on clinics. In fact, just this past Friday we’ve conducted 100 clinics in all five boroughs. 20 clinics in each borough, where we directly impacted hundreds of thousands of kids just on Friday alone. We have had community programs, we’ve served meals to hungry families in New York. That’s really the essence of the All‑Star experience. And we’re enormously proud of that.
“In addition, just over the course of this past week, we’ve had 3,000 volunteers, members of the NBA family, who have been out in the communities here, again all five boroughs, working directly with kids mainly, focused on the game of basketball, focused on fitness, focused on the values of the game ‑ all important things to this league,” said Silver.
Silver then turned to his agenda for the coming year, and he said, “My focus is on the game. It’s a fantastic game, it’s a great game. But that’s an aspect I believe we can improve. Let me begin with scheduling. It’s been a discussion long before I was involved in the League office, and that is the wear and tear on the players of a long season: The issue of back‑to‑back games, the issue of four games out of five nights. One of the things we’re hoping to address, even for next season, is to come close as we can to eliminating the four games out of five nights. It’s a math formula at the end of the day in terms of the number of days in the season and the number of games we play, but we think we can make a dramatic reduction there. And while I don’t think we can completely eliminate four out of five nights, we hope to make tremendous progress.”
On how television can help alleviate the problem of four-games-in-five-nights, Silver said, “We’re also very focused on the back‑to‑backs. There once again it’s a function of numbers of days in the schedule and numbers of games we want to play. But I think we can make a dramatic impact there. That may take more than one season. We’ll have a reduction next year based on some additional television windows. We’ve talked to our partners at Turner and Disney about maybe opening up a little bit more flexibility on Thursday nights and Sunday. That will help with the scheduling. We’ve also talked to our teams and their arenas about creating more windows, more opportunities to schedule games. I think that it’s a give and take in terms of the other events in the building. We hear everyone loud and clearly. Certainly our players and our teams, that there’s nothing more important than the health and welfare of our players. And ultimately we want to see players getting appropriate rest and playing at the highest level. That’s something we’re very focused on.”
Silver also addressed an issue that has become rather common in the NBA, and that is the idea that teams like the Knicks and 76ers are tanking the season to get a good draft pick. Silver said, “We’ve talked about the Draft Lottery. We’ve addressed that at the last Board of Governors meeting. There was a proposal on the table. Ultimately a majority of the teams supported that proposal for tweaking in essence the Draft Lottery, but it was not approved by three‑quarters of the teams. We’re going to come back to the Board of Governors at our April meeting for an additional discussion. We’ve already begun with the Competition Committee talking about how we can readdress the issue. I personally believe we do need to make some changes in the Draft Lottery, which I believe is largely a perception issue. We want to ensure that our fans know that our teams do not have an incentive to lose games. That it may not be in any given season that you can ultimately have a winning and playoff‑bound team, and it’s a multi‑year task, but we want to ensure our fans that our teams are always undergoing a process to try to field the best possible team on the floor. And so we believe we’re going to need to take a fresh look at the Draft Lottery. I don’t think the system isn’t as broken as some may suggest, but it’s going to require a tweak.”
Another hot-button issue in the NBA is the idea that two Eastern Conference teams will make the Playoffs with a sub-.500 record while Western Conference teams with a winning record will stay home come Playoff time. Silver said of this, “Playoffs, that’s an issue that I’ve gotten a lot of feedback on. Once again, if there was a simple solution we would have made it long ago. I understand the notion that we should have the absolute 16 best teams competing in the playoffs seemingly regardless of conferences and divisions. I am a believer, though, in the conference and the division system. It’s a tradeoff from the earlier issue I talked about. To the extent that you have a balanced schedule, meaning every team roughly played each other the same amount of times, it would require a lot more travel. That goes against the notion of ensuring that our teams are rested when they play.
“So I believe in the conference system. Although I think there may be some tweaks. There’s been some proposals about maybe division winners are ensured playoff spots. Maybe it’s the top two teams in each division and maybe there’s some teams that, therefore, get seeded based on their record.
“I’m also focused on the parade of horribles; you keep hearing it. That somehow we’ll end up with Miami playing Portland in the first round. I don’t mean to suggest that’s not a real issue. We have to look at that as well and see statistically what’s the likelihood of that happening. But it’s a balance. There will be no perfect solution here. But it is something that the Competition Committee needs to focus on and the owners need to focus on as well.”
A reporter asked Silver about playing an exhibition game in South Africa, and Silver said, “We haven’t announced that game yet you just mentioned. But we’re getting very close to an official announcement where we’re planning, under the direction of Amadou Gallo Fall, who runs our Africa office in Johannesburg, South Africa, our plan is to conduct an exhibition game comprised of NBA players. We’re not bringing over NBA teams in the summer, but comprised of players who want to be part of this game.
“It would be the first NBA game on African soil ever. And our intention is for that game to take place approximately August 1st of this coming summer.”