Silver Discusses Jersey Sponsors, Expansion In First Address As NBA Commissioner
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave his first news conference during All-Star Weekend, and "kept his focus on the game but hinted at some changes to the business" of the league, according to Brian Mahoney of the AP. From the "look of the draft to the look of the uniforms, Silver touched on a number of topics," standing at a podium on Saturday "instead of sitting at a table." Silver: "This is a fabulous league that has its best years still ahead of it." Among his ways to improve the league include the "length of the season." Silver "likes the current 82 games, but will look at the idea of longer break at midseason." He added of adidas' sleeved jerseys, "From a fan standpoint, the greatest indicator is how are they selling, and I'll say we're having trouble keeping them in stores." Silver also said the league is "not close at the moment" on jersey ads but he believes "ultimately it will happen in the NBA" (AP, 2/15). Silver said that he plans to "revisit implementing a 20-year-old minimum age requirement to improve the quality of basketball in the NBA and in college." Silver: “It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league" (L.A. TIMES, 2/16). Silver also addressed the idea of teams tanking to improve draft position and said, "There's absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game, or certainly in any time that I've been in the league, on purpose. ... I think what we're seeing in the league right now is there's no question that several teams are building towards the future. And I think their fans understand that as well. If there was any indication whatsoever that players or coaches somehow were not doing their absolute most to win a game, we would be all over that. But I don't believe for a second that's what's going on" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/16).
PERSONAL TOUCH: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote Silver added a "personal touch" to the news conference. Silver "spoke from the heart about how he grew up with the game, and how it helped him bond with his father after his parents were divorced." He spoke about "being a student at Duke, and having his relationship with basketball grow from there." When asked what innovations he plans to bring to the league, Silver "mentioned two key words: technology and transparency." Silver: "Transparency in how decisions are made at the league office, transparency in how we deal with our players and the players' association. That's one of my guiding principles coming in." Asked about int'l expansion, Silver said, "It's not on the top of my list right now, and I tell you that goes for domestic expansion as well -- largely because I want to ensure that we have a healthy 30-team league. As powerful as the gains were that we made in the last collective bargaining agreement, we still don't have a league that has 30 teams that are financially viable" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/15). Silver added of the sleeved jerseys, "I happen to like them. ... The idea behind them was that presuming there was a large segment of our fan base, especially older males like myself, who weren’t going to be comfortable wearing tank‑top jerseys but would feel comfortable wearing a sleeved jersey to work out or play basketball in" (SI.com, 2/16).
NEED FOR SPEED: BLEACHER REPORT's Howard Beck cited sources as saying that Silver's priorities "include speeding up the game and improving officiating." He also is "particularly focused on streamlining the final minutes, which too often become a grinding series of fouls and timeouts." Another possibility is "cutting overtime periods to two or three minutes from the current five." Meanwhile, a team exec said Silver “cares about our jobs in a way that David Stern didn’t. He actually cares that, if they make a rule change here, it’s going to make people’s lives miserable there.” The exec said if Silver makes a change, “He’ll also explain why he’s doing it. David had his reasons; he never felt we were worth his time to tell us" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 2/14). In Chicago, Mark Potash writes Silver's "mandate as David Stern’s successor is pretty clear: Just don’t screw it up." Silver said, "My priority right now is the game ... from the youth level through college to the pros" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/17).
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: Silver said that next year's All-Star Weekend in N.Y. "likely won’t have the traditional Jam Session for fans." He added that the league "intends to holds clinics for students at schools in all five boroughs leading up to the weekend." In N.Y., Frank Isola noted Silver also called the NBPA's lack of a full-time Exec Dir a "'hindrance to a certain extent' in trying to settle several 'B-list' issues that were parked as the two sides hammered out the current" CBA in '11. Among the issues Silver "wants to take up with the new union head is the league’s desire to have the minimum age for players raised from 19 to 20." He also said that the league was "considering a change in its replay system wherein a command center would handle all replays, similar to the NHL" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/16). Silver: "Several members of the Knicks and Nets are in town studying everything that they're doing here in New Orleans. One of the ideas we have talked about, and it's consistent with a focus on the game, is to expand the All-Star experience to all five boroughs through programs for kids, a series of clinics throughout the New York area. As opposed to one focused Jam Session, taking the game to the schools and having a program involving coaches and kids leading up to All-Star Weekend, that's one of my primary focuses" (NEWSDAY, 2/16).
OPEN TO IDEAS: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said of Silver, “I think Adam’s more consensus right now and learning, so he’s wide open to suggestions. You know me and the referees, I think in the past David’s attitude was, ‘One team wins, one team loses, doesn’t matter how they get there.’ And he doesn’t care. Adam recognizes if fans don’t perceive the officiating as being transparent or fair, then some fans turn off to the game, and I think it will have a positive impact when he starts increasing the transparency" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/16). SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote Silver on Saturday introduced himself to a "global fan base that had grown used to their commissioner of the previous 30 years, for better and for worse." He "presented himself and his views with the energy of a fresh perspective, as if he were seeing the game and its league for the first time and taking none of its strengths and ideals for granted." His perspective "may be surprising, because he is new, and also because his constituency of owners and players is expecting him to show more respect than they claimed to receive from Stern as he and they grew accustomed to each other over the decades." Silver is going to be "under pressure to grow the league commercially without expansion ... and especially without doing harm to the game." This was the "main point that he was seeking to make, and by making it he held himself to the highest standard: That he shall make money without doing harm" (SI.com, 2/15).
STAYING THE COURSE: In Toronto, Mike Ganter wrote Silver's address was "equal parts plans for the future and to stay the course" (TORONTO SUN, 2/16). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott wrote, "A couple of weeks into the Silver Age ... what's emerging is that there's a lot more to the new commissioner than the mere fact that he's not the old commissioner." The early "evidence is that he'll be making his mark profoundly and quickly." There is "almost no chance the NBA will look in five years like it does now" (ESPN.com, 2/15). SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell wrote Silver "in many ways is a Stern clone, with the exception being Silver appears less egotistical and confrontational." When it is "all quiet on the NBA front, the commissioner is invisible, and that’s the appropriate word to describe Silver right now" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/16).
CHRISTMAS PRESENT? Silver appeared on TNT's "NBA Tip-Off" prior to last night's All-Star Game, and responded to a question from the net's Charles Barkley about possibly moving the start of the season to Christmas Day. Silver said, "I'm not sure if we could go that far before starting. ... But we've looked at it and looked at it with your bosses at Turner about what's the optimal time to play the schedule. So we'll continue to look at it. It may not be, for national television, the best property in November and December, but in terms of local television, in terms of attendance in the arena, we're still very popular." Silver added of changing the minimum age requirements for players, "I think it is in the interest of the current players. I've never quite understood why they don't think it is in their interest. It's a zero-sum game. For every young player coming in, obviously another player goes out. ... I also think it would help the college game. And a better college game is going to be a better NBA game" ("NBA Tip-Off," TNT, 2/16).
LOOKING BACK ONE MORE TIME: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins bid farewell to the Stern era under the header, "The Error And Terror Of David Stern's Reign" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/16).