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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE


July 15, 2014


Adam Silver


ADAM SILVER:  We're pleased to be back in Las Vegas for our Summer League as well as our Board of Governors meeting and team meetings.  We have 22 teams participating in our Summer League this summer and so far attendance is up approximately 25 percent.  We love being part of the summer calendar in Las Vegas.  It supplies tremendous programming for NBA TV.  ESPN SportsCenter is operating from the Thomas and Mack Pavilion as part of their coverage, and it centers the entire basketball world on Las Vegas for the month of July and keeps our league in front of our great fans.  It's also an opportunity to showcase the great rookies who just came in through this draft.
In addition, we use the opportunity here in Las Vegas to have meetings not only with our Board of Governors, our owners, but with our team executives, as well.  In fact, when you include the people who are here participating in the Summer League, we have over 1,500 people from the NBA and its teams in Las Vegas for this week period.  In fact, we have 15 tracks of meetings here at the Wynn Hotel among all our various team executives, our broadcasters, our PR executives, our marketers and everyone else, so it's really a great time in the NBA.
We just concluded a little over four‑hour meeting with our Board of Governors.¬† We discussed a number of topics, among those, of course, were an update on what's happening with the Los Angeles Clippers, the ongoing litigation between Donald and Shelly Sterling.¬† Our advisory finance committee interviewed Steve Ballmer who is the putative owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.¬† He is not right for approval before the Board of Governors because that transaction is not ready to close yet.¬† We need to wait on the proceedings between Donald and Shelly but we had an excellent session with him and he talked to us about his passion for NBA basketball and his desire and interest in owning the team.
In addition, we had a report on the competition committee, which met for 10 hours over the course of Sunday evening and Monday.  The competition committee reviewed a number of issues, including the draft lottery, the current playoff system, and conference and division system.  We discussed the new replay center.  Kiki Vandeweghe gave a presentation on that along with Rod Thorn.  That is going to be in operation beginning in September.  We're going to experiment with the WNBA and then use it in the preseason, but in essence it'll give our officials the assistance of a replay center in Secaucus, New Jersey, where they will be able to queue up the plays for the officials who will then review them, the best angle on the court.  The decision will still lie with the officials at the game on the court.  They will have the ultimate decision on every call.
We also discussed the game generally, and I think the sense from the competition committee was that the NBA Playoffs this year and Finals were basketball played at its highest level, and they were very happy with the current game.  I mean, of course we can always tinker with it and we're always looking for improvements, but the sense was real satisfaction with the game as it's now being played.
In addition there was a report on officiating.  We're reviewing all our processes in place for everything from how we recruit officials to how we treat them to how they perform and how they're reviewed by our team executives, including by our coaches and GMs, and again, we also did a survey among all the various constituents of our officials, and we reviewed those results.  We're working closely with the officials and their union, as well, and once again, we're satisfied but always an opportunity for improvement, and something I've talked about before, I'm very focused on the public perception of our officiating, and we want to make sure that the public has complete confidence in the integrity of our game and the integrity of our officiating, and that's something we continue to talk about and look for ways frankly to improve that.
In addition, at our Board of Governors meeting today, we gave a report on our television negotiations.¬† Ted Leonsis, the owner of the Washington Wizards, is the chair of our media committee.¬† He led the discussion along with Bill Koenig from the league office, and we talked about the status of those discussions, and I've said before, we are still hopeful that we're going to renew our deals with our current partners, Time‑Warner and Turner, and Disney and ESPN and ABC.¬† We love those relationships.¬† We think they do a terrific job, but we have some negotiating still to do.
In addition, we had a report of the newly formed planning committee.  The planning committee is what oversees our revenue sharing program.  Josh Harris of the Philadelphia 76ers is the newly appointed chair of the planning committee.  He gave a report along with Joel Litvin from the league office, sort of early days in that committee's work.  They're in the process of reviewing the plan that's been in place now for the past three years, so we're going to look to see whether we need to make any changes there, but I think there was a general sense that it is working as it was designed.
We also had a discussion on the collective bargaining agreement that was led by Dan Rube of the league office.  Again, it was more just a sense of how it's operating.  There were no real judgments expressed one way or the other in terms of the overall impact.  Clearly there's been some high profile player movement in the last week, so there was some discussion around that, as well.
We also had updates on arena construction and development from the owner of the Golden State Warriors, Joe Lacob, from Wes Edens, the new owner of the Milwaukee Bucks on their plan to build a new arena in Milwaukee, and from Vivek Ranadivé to construct a new arena in Sacramento.
Lastly, the board approved a slate of new minority owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, and lastly, we talked about the status of the Summer League, and again, I think most of our owners in town have had a chance to go out and see their teams and other teams play and just a general sense of satisfaction with the quality of the game.
With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.

Q.  (Inaudible) for Donald Sterling; is it accurate you guys had a conversation along those lines, and if not, would you consider something along those lines to facilitate a sale?
ADAM SILVER:  It's accurate that we had the conversation.  Shelly and I had several conversations over the course of the last few months in which Shelly proposed all kinds of things to me, and frankly it's never been quite clear whether she's able to speak for Donald, but what I had said to Shelly was that if Donald was interested in agreeing to sell the team as opposed to going through litigation, and this was back before we had scheduled a hearing to terminate his franchise, I said I would listen to anything he wanted to say, and in fact, I think Shelly testified that I had asked her to have Donald or his representatives put in writing any proposals they wanted to make.  I never received any proposals from them, whether orally or in writing, so it became a moot point.

Q.  My question regards those minority owners for the Bucks.  Was Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers one of them, and if you can just speak to how that can help the new owners of the Bucks.
ADAM SILVER:¬† Aaron Rodgers was not discussed today.¬† I know that‑‑ I know Wes has told me that he's had discussions with Aaron Rodgers.¬† I don't know exactly what the state is of those discussions with Aaron, but I know that Wes Edens and his partner Marc Lasry are very focused on local ownership.¬† Of course they are both from New York, plan on spending a significant amount of time in Milwaukee, but recognized the benefit of local ownership, frankly celebrities and non‑celebrities, so there was a general sense from the board that they were doing the right things.
Again, Wes talked about the progress of his discussions towards a new arena, particular sites he's looking at, but I think the sense was he was very up beat about the prospects of getting a new arena done, and he shared his optimism and enthusiasm with the other owners.

Q.  The board did approve the slate of minority owners, and do you know how many there were?
ADAM SILVER:  There were a group, I don't know precisely how many there were.  I'm not frankly sure whether Aaron Rodgers is part of that group because there was no discussion of Aaron Rodgers.  Maybe one of my colleagues can find that out.

Q.  Seeing as how the Sterling situation is going back to court next week, are you confident that the ownership transfer will happen in August or even before then?
ADAM SILVER:  You know, I'm not sure, only because we're not actually a party to those proceedings, and while I'm following the litigation and we have a lawyer in the courtroom who's giving us regular reports on it, they're in recess right now.  At least based on my understanding of how it has proceeded, certainly Shelly, it appears that she's done all the right things as set out in their trust agreement.  I'll only say that if for whatever reason the judge ultimately doesn't decide in favor of Shelly, we'll reactivate our proceedings to terminate the franchise.  I think there was never a question about that.  We had scheduled a date, Shelly Sterling came forward and said you don't need to terminate the franchise, I'm going to sell it, and she sold it, and now we're in essence on hold since that sale is being challenged by her husband as to whether she has the right, and if the court finds in her favor the sale will move forward, and if not, we will move forward with our own proceedings.
As to the precise timing, my sense from listening to what the judge and reading what the judge has said is that once he reconvenes the hearing he will decide relatively quickly.  Sounds like he's being very complete.  He's allowing in a lot of testimony.  He's allowing all the lawyers to say their piece, and I think then he'll be prepared to rule.

Q.  We're seeing business in the league conducted with the anticipation of the new television contracts, player contracts and such.  Is that appropriate at this stage, and what sort of impact do you anticipate those contracts would have on the salary cap and other issues pertaining to the players?
ADAM SILVER:  Well, I think it's appropriate in that the players are our partners.  We have a system in place in which the players receive roughly 50 percent of the revenue, and we've been very transparent with you, the media, obviously our owners know what's going on, but we've also included the Players Association directly in those updates on those discussions.  In fact, we met, Bill Koenig and I, two weeks ago with Ron Klempner, who's the interim director of the union, along with Roger Mason, who's on the executive board, and told them where our television negotiations stood.
So the current deals expire in two years, so whether or not they were party to these discussions, the marketplace seems to be suggesting that we're going to get a substantial increase in our next television deals, and of course the way the cap is set, in essence it's based off 30 teams‑‑ you take 50 percent of our total revenue and divide it by 30, and that's roughly how our cap is competed.¬† So the basic math is such that if we get a large increase in our television deals, the players are going to get half and the cap will go up.
I think it's sensible, but if I were representing a player, there's also risk.¬† There's a reason that players want to do longer contracts.¬† The money for the most part is almost all guaranteed in the NBA, so to the extent a player goes shorter, I assume they can buy insurance and they also have their endorsements and also other streams of income, but there's some amount of risk in deciding to do short‑term deals.
But to your question, I don't think it's any secret why a player might decide to do a shorter deal that corresponds with the ending of the current television deal.

Q.  Can you talk about the viability of Las Vegas as a potential future NBA franchise market, and in the interim, what opportunities do you see for the city and the league to maybe grow the relationship?
ADAM SILVER:  Well, in terms of a future NBA franchise, I mean, no new news; we have no plans to expand at the current time, and there don't seem to be any teams available to relocate.
Having said that, I was presented with the plan yesterday‑‑ I received a presentation of the MGM AEG Arena, which as you know broke ground a month ago.¬† It's a very exciting project, state‑of‑the‑art, 19,000 or 20,000 person arena, and I think that's been a limitation in this market in the past.¬† We love where we're playing the summer league at Thomas and Mack, but no secret, that's not a state‑of‑the‑art arena.
Having said that, that doesn't seem to be a real limitation.  I mean, the one benefit of Thomas and Mack and the Cox Pavilion is there are two courts so we can play two games simultaneously.  It's a great event for those of you who haven't been over there because you can go back and forth from two different games.
In addition, it's great to see, frankly, Vegas on its way back.  It's a great destination for us and our teams.  There aren't many cities in America that have the kind of room nights that Las Vegas has, obviously the kind of entertainment.  I know our owners enjoy coming here.  Our executives do, as well.  It's why I said earlier that we've gathered 1,500 people here this week for meetings.
So I think there are additional things we could do here.¬† I know Peter Guber, who's a co‑owner of the Golden State Warriors, has talked a lot to me and the league about producing an awards show, something we've talked about for years, rather than giving out our awards on sort of a happenstance basis throughout the Playoffs, Defensive Player of the Year here and MVP on another occasion, maybe bringing all those players together.¬† It's something I've talked directly to the Players Association and a lot of players about, as well.¬† They seemed very excited.¬† They enjoy coming to Las Vegas.¬† I think doing some type of awards show here along with entertainment could be a big event, so I could see adding that to the Las Vegas calendar.
There is some room for growth in our summer league.¬† We have 22 teams now plus a Development League team here.¬† That's 23 teams. ¬†I mean, presumably we could conduct a 30‑team summer league here, as well.
Our teams, just so it's clear, Warren Legarie is our co‑operator of the summer league along with Albert Hall.¬† This in essence solicit the interest of teams.¬† There's no obligation that they come to Las Vegas for that summer league.¬† They come here because they want to be here.¬† Orlando also conducts a summer league which had 10 teams.¬† Some teams overlap.
I would just say things seem to be going very well here in Las Vegas.  We enjoy being here.  I personally enjoy being here, as well, although I don't gamble as the commissioner of the NBA for the record, not because there's anything wrong with it, I just don't think I should be gambling as the commissioner.
So we'll see.  Maybe there will be other opportunities in the future.

Q.  With the potential neutral site regular season games once that new arena is built, is that something that could go into the conversation in two, three, four years?
ADAM SILVER:¬† You know, it's interesting, I'm not sure about regular season games.¬† One of the things that I didn't mention before that the competition committee talked about and seemed excited about is potentially some sort of mid‑season tournament.¬† Very early days in the discussion of that, but we're looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement.¬† As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there's very few things that you can win in the NBA.¬† I mean, when you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup and they have other tournaments throughout the season, so I could imagine if we were to look at some sort of mid‑season tournament I would imagine doing something in Vegas.¬† This would be a terrific neutral site location.

Q.¬† Last time you were in Charlotte, you talked a little bit about the potential for an All‑Star Game being there.¬† I just wondered if there had been any traction on that since then and just in general if anything is new in terms of All‑Star bids.
ADAM SILVER:¬† Nothing is new.¬† What I said last time I was in Charlotte, and as you know, I'm very enthusiastic about the new name, the return to Charlotte Hornets.¬† What I said is there needed to be some improvements to the building, and I don't know exactly where that stands, but I know there have been some discussions about some upgrades to the facility, to the suites, to the concourse, to the back‑of‑house room.¬† I think some of those things would be required to bring an All‑Star Game back to Charlotte.
But I've told Michael directly, Michael Jordan and Fred Whitfield, that we would be very excited about coming back to Charlotte for an All‑Star Game, but there have been no additional discussions since I was in market.

Q.  Can you say with certainty, given the delay in the hearing, that regardless of what the judge decides or when he decides it, at the start of next season, neither Shelly Sterling nor Donald Sterling will own the Los Angeles Clippers?
ADAM SILVER:  No, I cannot say with certainty, and I can't say with certainty because it's in the hands of the probate court right now, and Donald is in the process of suing us for lots of money, and we're defending ourselves against those lawsuits.  The only thing I'll say, and I appreciate that Kevin Johnson, who's been representing in essence the players in this matter and direct discussions with the players and the Players Association understand it's very difficult to say anything with certainty in a situation like this.  I can say with certainty we are doing everything in our power to move Donald out as an owner in the NBA, and as I said, if the probate ruling doesn't go in our favor, we'll recommence our procedures under termination.
The only reason I say I can't say it with certainty, it's possible some court would step in and stop us.  I think it's highly, highly unlikely because we are absolutely acting within our rights, and I think what's transpired in probate court so far has made it even clearer that we are acting not only within our rights but doing what is right and appropriate in this situation.

Q.  When did you first learn about LeBron James's decision?  And what are your thoughts on it?
ADAM SILVER:¬† I first learned about LeBron's decision when I think virtually everyone else learned about it.¬† I was sitting next to someone who was looking at Twitter, and I guess the link to the SI piece was tweeted right at the time it came out.¬† That's when I first learned‑‑ I, of course, had heard, call it speculation leading up to that decision and I knew it was a consideration, but I didn't know it was absolutely the decision he had made until I saw that article.

Q.  And what are your thoughts?
ADAM SILVER:¬† My thoughts are‑‑

Q.¬† How does that affect‑‑
ADAM SILVER:  My thoughts are that LeBron is obviously a very special player in this league.  He and his union negotiated for the right to become a free agent, and he made a decision which he believes is in his best interest.
Obviously I don't take sides among our teams.¬† I think Miami as I've said before is an incredibly well‑run franchise.¬† I respect everything they've done over the past four years.¬† They've had tremendous success with him, obviously The Finals for four years and two championships.¬† But ultimately that's his right to make that decision.
I also have to say, I was moved by his statement when I did read his first‑person account on Sports Illustrated.¬† I really was moved by it.¬† I thought it says a lot about who he is, who he's become over the last four years.¬† I think his statement about northeast Ohio, about hard work, about this being about something larger than basketball and the NBA, I've gotten to know LeBron pretty well over the years, and so I think from that standpoint, I'm really more like a fan.¬† This seemed to be a great moment for the league.
Again, I understand it's Miami's loss, but I think that's always going to be the issue when you have such a transcendent player like LeBron.  What I heard from a lot of owners in the league is I wish my city were his hometown so he could come home to our market, but that's just the nature of it.

Q.  Kind of building off of that a little bit, just looking at the events of the last week or so from afar, it seems like the CBA does kind of promote player movement as you saw both the LeBron James situation play out and then the dominos fall after that.  Do you think that's good for the league to have that kind of activity and that much player movement going on right now?
ADAM SILVER:¬† You know, the collective bargaining agreement is designed to give the incumbent team an advantage.¬† The incumbent team can sign a longer contract and pay more money.¬† Having said that, again, I support a player's right to become a free agent.¬† I think from a macro standpoint, I think all the movement was very positive for the league.¬† The coverage has been fantastic.¬† Again, I think seeing LeBron go home ‑‑ maybe I would have had a different feeling if he was just shopping his services to wherever he thought he could have the greatest chance of winning a championship.¬† Not that that wouldn't have been within his right, but I thought the fact that he did choose to go back to northeast Ohio was an exciting moment for him personally.¬† I think for the league, all the speculation, all the chatter around Carmelo and what other players would do, Pau Gasol, I thought ultimately as a fan were very exciting, and I think you want to strike the right balance.
I think a certain amount of free agent movement is positive.  It creates a sense of renewal in a lot of markets because the draft, you're only going to get a top pick every so often, and even with a top pick, as all our general managers are learning, it's very difficult to predict the future, and so if there's more of a sure thing, it's a free agent, so that's part of developing and rebuilding a team, as well.
I think we're getting close to the right amount of movement.¬† I mean, certainly for the league the fact that teams that are in cities that aren't the big markets, so to speak, or the so‑called glamour markets that are competing for championships, as I've said before, watching The Finals, seeing San Antonio compete the way they have and Oklahoma City and the Pacers, and just a reminder that Miami is not even in the top 15 markets in terms of size in the league.
What we tried to design was a collective bargaining agreement together with our revenue sharing program that would allow the teams that were the best managed to compete for championships on a regular basis and to give fans hope in those markets and to believe in great general managers like Pat Riley and to believe that someone like Phil Jackson coming to New York can make a difference.
It's far from perfect.  Ideally, as we said going into the last collective bargaining agreement, we'd have something closer to a hard cap where teams ultimately had roughly the same number of chips.  It gets skewed a little bit because of the tax system, but there's other restrictions on player movement.  On balance it's not perfect, but I think it's pretty good right now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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