Q&A: Adam Silver

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Sunday, February 15, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of NBA TV

Q. Adam, on playoffs and possible changes, when you read the room with your owners, what's the feedback? What kind of split might you have when it comes to the idea of change? And then do you think this postseason coming up will have any more of a ripple effect than maybe years past in terms of which teams get in? 

SILVER:  Obviously, Sam, just to be clear we're not talking about any changes for this year. 
In terms of our owners, I haven't polled them necessarily on this issue yet.  And this process should work its way through the Competition Committee.  As you might imagine, there are certain Eastern Conference owners who like the status quo and certain Western Conference owners who are saying change is due. 

But on the other hand, I think we have a group of owners who are willing to take a long‑term view ultimately.  They understand over time that we're in a highly competitive marketplace.  That we want to put our best foot forward.  That we want the best product on the court.  That's been the way they've approached all our issues. 
So as I said, I think it's a difficult issue, because there are no perfect solutions.  And on one hand to the extent you increase the amount of travel, it goes directly against my first issue on reducing wear and tear on our players, and ensuring that on any given night our players are playing at the optimum level.
It's early days but we're going to take a very hard look at it. 

Q. Adam, as far as your scheduling concerns, what role could a concentrated preseason play in helping with that issue? And how likely will we see some changes there soon? 

SILVER:  Actually in response to Sam's question, I have talked to a lot of our basketball people about the preseason.  And my sense is, that while they still feel a training camp and a fairly long training camp is still critically important, especially because we have a lot of young players in this league and there isn't a lot of practice time once the season starts, I think they don't think the preseason games are as valuable as they once were, in terms of the conditioning of their players, in terms of getting a chance to truly observe players in game conditions. 

So I could see a scenario where while we'll continue to have a fairly lengthy preseason, we may be able to shorten it a little bit, and that will help with some of our scheduling issues, and we may be able to reduce the number of preseason games. 

Q. Commissioner, Portland has put in a bid to host the 2017 or '18 All‑Star Game. What's the likelihood that they could get one of those dates and the challenges that they may have to go through? 

SILVER:  Too early to say.  What we've talked to Portland about and other interested cities for beyond Toronto, which is next year's All‑Star Game, is one of the issues historically for communities like Portland is frankly the number of hotel rooms. As I said, we have 1,800 credentialed members of the media alone in need of hotel rooms. Then we have thousands of guests who come to town as well. 

So I would love to end up having an All‑Star Game in Portland.  It's really just a function of ensuring that we can fit in town. 

Q. Adam, one of your clear objectives during collective bargaining was to competitively rebalance the league, give everyone a well‑managed and fair chance. But if the TV money all comes in all at once in two years, you could have a situation where the Lakers would have as much as $80 million of cap room. The Knicks could have 50.  Miami, although you don't consider that a large city, but still a free agent destination, could have 60 million in cap room. Did you anticipate this potential consequence of what's otherwise a good problem to have a lot of money coming in, but to also have an undoing of the progress made on competitive balance? And what is, in your opinion, a realistic, negotiated solution to the problem? 

SILVER: Well, when you say did we anticipate it, it's what our system is.  The players receive on a sliding scale roughly‑‑ it ranges from 49 to 51 percent, as we negotiated the deal.  And because of the revenue targets we hit, the players will receive 51 percent of the new television money. 

And so, no, at the time we negotiated the deal, we weren't projecting that our television increases would be as large as they are‑‑

Q.  I'm sorry. I meant when you negotiated the television deal. 

SILVER:  No, when we negotiated the collective bargaining agreement we weren't then anticipating that this many years out that we would have this quick a jump in our television rights fees, but that's where the market has taken us.  As a result of those big increases that we know will now come in in the 2016‑'17 season, we approached the Union with a so‑called smoothing concept.  And just so it's clear, under that smoothing concept, the players would still receive 51 percent of the money that year.  But what we proposed is that we would lower the cap, artificially as the Union has characterized it to a lower level, then what would otherwise be 51 percent of the revenue.  The delta between where we lowered it and the 51 percent would be paid in a lump sum to the Union to be distributed to all the players.  And in that way‑ and this goes to the essence of your question‑ there would be a smoothing in of the increases, and you wouldn't see a one‑year spike in the salary cap.
That's something we presented to the Union.  Ultimately it's up to them to decide what is in the interest of the Players' Association.  I have a feeling there will be additional discussions.  I know they had a meeting last night and they made an announcement following their meeting.  I haven't had a chance to engage with the Union directly since they had that meeting last night.  My sense is there will be additional discussions.  But ultimately that is what our system is under the current collective bargaining agreement. 

And it's like a lot of things in business and in sports that you sort of you deal with this situation as it's presented to you.  And I don't want to act like it's a terrible problem to have, where we're thrilled that based on the interest in the NBA we're able to command these big increases in the television market.  And we will live with our deal.  It was structured in a way where 51 percent of that revenue, in essence, gets paid to our players. 

Q.  Adam, with the scheduling, the making of the schedule, is there any discussion or will there be or can there be about the calendar simply starting earlier, ending later than what you already do, or are you pretty much locked into a Halloween start and a June 20th end and that's got to be the way it is? 

SILVER: Sure, Brian. And I think that goes to the earlier question about the preseason. Training camp is critically important to our teams. Could we shorten it up a little bit if we didn't have quite the same number of preseason games, and then add those days in the regular season, so we would gain a little bit at the beginning?  And the question is towards the end of this season, can we push a little bit further in June closer to the Draft? I think there had been discussions‑‑ well, I wouldn't characterize them as discussions.  I've heard proposals about them moving The Finals past the Fourth of July. Generally the view has been ‑‑ in addition it just feels out of sync once you get into the summer ‑‑  historically those haven't been viewed as the best television nights, once you get into July, and just in terms of households watching TV. 

I will say maybe that's something we should look at, too. If we're truly going to take a fresh look at this, we have to examine what the appropriate time is to begin the season and when we should end it. 

But at least without a major overhaul in the way our season is now played, you're right, we can gain a little bit at the beginning of the season. We can gain a little bit at the end. When it comes to four games out of five nights and back‑to‑backs, literally every day matters. So that will be helpful to pick up a few more days on both sides of the schedule. 

Q.  Adam, you've come out and said that you think that the age limit should go up to 20. Michele Roberts from the Union came out pretty staunchly that she doesn't want to see that happen.  First of all, how much was it a priority to you to resolve this one way or another within the breadth of issues you have within the Union? You can't really compromise here; I guess not 19 1/2.  Where do you see this going? 

SILVER: When you say it has to be resolved, obviously it's 19 right now.  We had proposed 20 the last round of collective bargaining. And it remained at 19. I've been very clear, when you say how big a priority is it for me? I think consistent with my priority about youth basketball.   think it would be much better for the game if the minimum age were 20 instead of 19. 

Having said that, I do understand the other side of the issue. While the Union has stated its view that they want to keep it at 19, we haven't entered collective bargaining. We haven't sat across the table and discussed it with them. We haven't had an opportunity to present, in essence, our side of why we think it would be beneficial not just for the league, but for the players as well. 

So we'll see. When we get into bargaining, I'm sure we'll discuss it. 

Q. The last few years there has been a pretty significant decrease in home‑court advantage for teams. I think this year it's around 52 or 53 percent in terms of win percentage. Some of that has been attributed to the fact that there's a decrease in number of foul calls for the home team. Is that something the League has pushed for with its referees in terms of trying to eliminate home‑court advantage or how would you characterize why that is taking place? 

SILVER: Tim, I don't know the answer to that question. It's definitely not something we've pushed for. I think it's one of those things that's too early to say whether that's just a statistical blip or whether there's a trend there. That's just the nature of data. And so there's certainly no directive about home or away. It just may be that the teams as they've gotten more sophisticated in terms of analytics, they have a better understanding of defenses and offenses. There's more of a focus on every game now maybe than there was historically. 
But I don't know the answer to that.