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January 15, 2015

Adam Silver

ADAM SILVER:  Thank you very much.  I want to especially thank the New York and Milwaukee media for making the trip here to London.  I also want to thank the media here in London and the people of London for the fantastic reception that the Bucks and Knicks and the league office has received so far.  We've had a wonderful few days here in town, a combination of clinics, sightseeing and the players I've talked to, many of them, and they're enjoying a little bit of a break from their normal routines.  So thank you for the hospitality.
I also want to thank Jim Dolan, Phil Jackson, Steve Mills, Coach Fisher for agreeing to come, for sort of welcoming the experience, and for the Bucks, Wes Edens and Marc Lasry.  Seems like virtually their entire ownership group made the trip over to London.  We had a function with them last night.  Again, they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Also to GM John Hammond and Jason Kidd, thank you, as well.
Here in London, we have two terrific partners that I'd like to thank:¬† BT Sport, who is our broadcaster, and in fact today we announced a three‑year extension with them.¬† They carry our games locally.¬† Sport Lobster, our presenting sponsor, they are a sports social media platform.¬† I highly recommend it.¬† And also our facility here, the O2, is managed by AEG, a fantastic partner who we do business with around the world, and they run an absolute first‑class facility here.¬† It feels like we're at home when we play games here.
Just a brief comment on the season overall.  We've been off to a great first half of the season.  We're seeing real parity throughout the league.  I think both the combination of the new collective bargaining agreement together with revenue sharing, I think we're seeing every time in the NBA with a true opportunity to compete on and off the court, so we're thrilled about that.
And here in the United Kingdom, basketball continues to grow.  I've been coming here for over two decades now with the NBA, and we're seeing every year, it requires boots on the ground.  We have an office with over 60 people here in London who are marketing the sport around the clock.  We work together with our partners at FIBA, the Euroleague, Basketball England on promoting the game, on bringing clinics to schools, doing things in communities, and our goal is to be the No.2 sport.  We realize that global football, as we call soccer, is going to continue to be the preeminent sport here in Europe, but we think there's enormous opportunity for basketball.
This year we have a record 101 international players, players born outside of the United States, in the league, and 60 percent of those 101 players are from Europe.¬† Here in London we launched our first junior NBA program.¬† We had a tournament involving 30 schools with roughly 11‑ and 12‑year‑old boys and girls.¬† It's been highly successful.¬† We're running three on three tournaments throughout Europe.¬† In fact, we had the European Finals here in the O2 Arena earlier today.¬† And lastly, I just want to mention our partnership with the Royal Foundation.¬† You all recall back in December we had the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who we hosted at the Barclays Arena in Brooklyn, and it was wonderful to have them there, and today Carmelo Anthony conducted an event with Prince Harry here in London, which was also really well received.¬† I'll just say, again, we're thrilled to be here.¬† We're excited about the game tonight, and thank you all for your hospitality, and happy to answer any questions you have.

Q.  Picking up on the new Sport Lobster partnership, I was wondering if you could tell me about how that fits into your social media plans and how important social media is generally speaking for you, especially in terms of promoting your growth outside the United States.
ADAM SILVER:  Social media is very important to our league, especially in markets like in Europe where the time zone differences make following our games live difficult for many of our fans because, of course, the majority of our games are on in the middle of the night.  So social media platforms like Sport Lobster that in essence aggregates sports fans who are all following particular sports like basketball enables fans to have in essence a place to go to talk to other fans.  In some ways it's not that unlike fans coming together in an arena.  It's just the virtual equivalent.  So if you want to cheer for your favorite team or boo for your team that is disappointing you, you can do that in an aggregated way with fans from around the world.
Social media now, it's provided an opportunity for us really to reach hundreds of millions of fans on a global basis who might not otherwise have an opportunity to experience the NBA in person or even to see a live game.

Q.  There's been a lot of speculation regarding alternative ways of seeding teams for the Playoffs.  What do you consider to be the best option going forward?
ADAM SILVER:  The best option currently is the way we're seeding teams now.  I've said before, we're open to looking at other ways to seed teams, but it seems that all the alternatives raise different issues in terms of the schedule, currently the way the conference competition and division competition and the amount of travel.  Just, for example, for a lot of focus on back to backs and four games in five nights.  To the extent that we change the current conference and division structure, it would potentially require even more travel.
I'm open‑minded on the issue, but I can't say standing here today that I believe there's a better way of doing it than we currently do it.

Q.¬† With the All‑Star Weekend coming up in Brooklyn and Manhattan, how ironic or what's your reaction to the fact that the Knicks and Nets are both going through very tough seasons, and the second question, can you update us on Prokhorov and what his intentions are right now with the sale of the Nets?
ADAM SILVER:¬† You know, in terms of All‑Star being in New York involving both teams, it's the ebb and flow of the schedule and the season.¬† It's unpredictable.¬† I think I know that as a New Yorker, I don't think interest in people's favorite teams wanes necessarily because the team isn't successful in a particular year.¬† So I expect tremendous excitement around the game and the festivities in New York, certainly based on the number of requests I'm getting for tickets.¬† There's no lack of interest in New York.
In terms of Prokhorov, he's told us same as what his spokesperson has said publicly, that there's nothing imminent.  He hasn't determined that he's absolutely going to sell, but he's listening to offers, and that's an ongoing process right now.

Q.¬† You seem to stress the importance of marketing and promoting the sport here, talking about the NBA's UK office, but you seem to equate that in importance with the grass‑roots efforts, the tournaments and the clinics.¬† Why is that?
ADAM SILVER:¬† It requires both.¬† I mean, in terms of building a basketball infrastructure here in England or throughout Europe, it requires more than marketing, than social media, more than any form of advertising.¬† I mean, we find the best way ultimately to convert children or sports fans into basketball fans is to get a basketball in their hands.¬† We know from all the research that we have that if a boy or girl bounces a basketball, they're highly likely‑‑ bounces a basketball and then plays the game, they're highly likely to be a fan when they grow up, and it takes a lot of time.
It's an ongoing process that requires a lot of investment on the part of the league.¬† It requires partnerships here in market together with, as I said before, not just the Federation but the local sports authorities, with the school system, and we have a very long‑term view in terms of growing the game.

Q. ¬†You said‑‑ I read something from you earlier today.¬† You said the NFL was a bit ahead of you guys in terms of creating a London franchise.¬† Do you look at what the NFL are doing here with more games, different time zones, as being something for you guys to look at going forward, and secondly, we saw you 12 months ago alongside David Stern saying farewell.¬† How have you felt about the transition with everything that's happened in the NBA?
ADAM SILVER:  The second question, I miss David at times like this, these press conferences.
To your first question, we study what the NFL is doing very closely and what all leagues are doing.¬† I would say because they're very different sport, very different schedule, obviously they play once a week, there's bye weeks built into the season, it's a very different proposition in terms of them putting a team here, which in my view they are ahead of us, and they seem determined to put a team in London and they seem to be doing a terrific job, and even just being here the last few days I've found over the years in traveling to England there's increased interest in the NFL and people are talking about it.¬† That's why I believe they're ahead of us.¬† As I was saying earlier, people are already talking about the density of our schedule, the number of back‑to‑backs, etcetera, so for the NBA, for teams to travel over to Europe to play, to get the appropriate rest, it requires that the remainder of the schedule be that much more compact.¬† So it's a complex issue for us.
I think one of the other things I said for scheduling reasons, if we were to put franchises or a franchise, consider doing that in Europe, what I've said is, and I think David Stern had the same view, that we would need to have multiple franchises here for scheduling purposes.¬† I don't think it's realistic that you could put one team here.¬† I think what would need to happen is probably we'd need‑‑ if we were to come to Europe we'd need to do it with a division as opposed to a single team.

Q.¬† You've already referenced about a lot of back to back games and travel.¬† Obviously the idea of a mid‑season tournament where you maybe shorten the regular season, you've referenced before the FIA Cup in this country and that's really something teams enjoy playing for if they're not in competition to win the league.¬† Just wondering if you have any update on that and if the NBA have discussed that further this season.
ADAM SILVER:  No update at the time.  Again, it's something that we're studying.  As I've said before, I think the model here for the football clubs, the combination of those cups, the national competitions, the particular days of the week, it fascinates me.  I think it's amazing to see how passionate the support is for those clubs and for the national teams, and I think in the NBA, as I've heard general managers say before, in our league there's only one thing you can win, and that's the Larry O'Brien Trophy, the championship trophy in the NBA.  So I think there is an opportunity to have other competitions, to have other tournaments that are of high significance within our season.
Again, by studying models for other sports around the world, it generates new ideas in the NBA.

Q.  The Lakers and the Knicks are the two richest and most recognizable NBA franchises globally.  How much of a concern is it for you that they're in decline right now?
ADAM SILVER:  Not a concern at all.  And I would say, it goes to my comment earlier about the impact of our most recent collective bargaining agreement and revenue sharing.  What we want to have is a league of 30 teams that can all compete on the floor for championships and be economically sustainable.  We're not looking for a league where particular markets, because they have the ability to generate more revenue in those markets, have a competitive advantage.  In our system, of course, it does not have promotion and relegation because of the draft, because of free agency, there is the opportunity to turn around a team relatively quickly.  Take, for example, the Milwaukee Bucks.  Milwaukee, I believe, had the worst record in the NBA last year.  They're now above .500 in terms of their record right now.  They're fifth in the east, and they're competitive.
So with strong management, and I believe that's what the Knicks have, they have a brand new general manager in Phil Jackson and a brand new coach in Derek Fisher.¬† It takes time, though.¬† It's very difficult to win in this league, and there's no magic formula for doing it, and that includes spending money, and I think that's something the Nets have learned, as well, and Mr.Prokhorov learned as a new owner, that because of our system we have the ability to spend beyond our cap, in our so‑called soft cap system, you're limited in terms of the players you can spend that money on.¬† So you have to build your franchise over time.¬† That's what the Knicks are in the process of doing right now, and that's what the Lakers are doing, as well.
But their fans are loyal.  I think, and I'm sure as you'll see in the arena tonight, there will be a lot of Knicks jerseys on those fans.

Q.  How much does the increase in value or the exponential increase in value of the U.S. TV rights impact on the viability of expanding into Europe or perhaps how welcome are the owners to that?
ADAM SILVER: ¬†Well, I think the increased television revenue, one, it allows us to reinvest a portion of that revenue into growing the game internationally.¬† That's in essence, it is an investment and requires a long‑term view to build interest in these markets.¬† I also think that it demonstrates the value of premium live sports, not just in the United States but around the world.¬† Certainly we see that here in terms of football rights, and we're seeing it in certain markets for the NBA outside the United States.

Q.  This is the second game outside the U.S. we've seen this season.  Can we expect a league game, for example, in Spain or in Latin America in the near future?
ADAM SILVER:  So this is the final international game that we're playing this season.  Six of them were preseason games.  So it's seven international games in essence for this season.
In terms of playing regular season games in Spain, I'm not sure.  A lot of it is dependent on the facility.  Here we're fortunate with the O2 that we have a partnership with AEG.  They in essence act as the promoter of this game, and they have so much experience doing that and working with the NBA.
We're open to doing it in Spain.  I think it's also a function of the economy, as well, and the particular situation.  Obviously there's enormous interest in the NBA in Spain.  In terms of interest from the fan base, it's one of our best markets in the world, so it's something we'll continue to look at.

Q.  A while ago there seemed to be a debate about sponsorship on jerseys, about building the commercialization of the brand.  Is that something we'll ever see?
ADAM SILVER:  I think yes, we will see it in the NBA.  I mean, again, I think it's similar to my answers to some of these other questions.  I'm sort of a student of other leagues, and we watch how the industry has developed around the world, and certainly kit sponsorships is something that is very prevalent outside the United States, and I think ultimately it will make sense for the NBA, as well.

Q.¬† LeBron James signed a two‑year deal this summer because of the new salary cap system.¬† According to sources, Kevin Love signed a one‑year deal.¬† Who will make the next step, the NBA or the Players Association, about how this process will go, because on one hand it's good for All‑Stars to change every year for jersey sales, but on the other hand you need certainty.¬† When will this next time come, and from who?
ADAM SILVER:¬† I would say the primary reason for players changing teams in terms of the league has nothing to do with jersey sales.¬† I think it goes to my earlier point about ability for teams to rebuild for renewal of franchises, and it's also a player's right.¬† It's something they've earned from years of collective bargaining, that right to be a free agent and make that choice to go to another team.¬† The technical answer to your question is we have what we would consider a reopener in our collective bargaining agreement.¬† We entered into a 10‑year deal with our union.¬† We're in the fourth season now, so at the end of the sixth year, actually the trigger comes before the end of the sixth year, but either the union or the league has the right to reopen the deal.¬† So that's yet to be determined.
But I think we have struck close to the right balance now.  I think, again, most free agents choose to stay in their markets, but again, just like we saw with LeBron James, he elected to leave Miami and go to Cleveland.  That's his right.

Q.¬† Earlier in the season you talked about the possibility of working with the gaming industry in America.¬† Also Europe has ‑‑ gambling on sports is huge in Europe.¬† Have you spoken about it?¬† Are there any developments there?
ADAM SILVER:  I have spoken out on it since I was here last year.  I actually wrote a piece that was published in the New York Times in which I was advocating federal legislation in the United States legalizing sports betting.  Briefly the reason I said that is not because necessarily I'm looking to promote more sports betting but because it's an enormous underground industry in the United States both in terms of bookies and in terms of offshore online sites.  So I would like to see Congress address that issue and create a regulatory framework where then States could opt in if they chose to allow legalized sports betting in their jurisdiction, they would have a right to do that.  In fact, some of my colleagues who are over here for this game have been meeting with some of the local betting companies, learning more about how it works here.  Something we've been studying for years.  I'm not sure what the next steps will be.  I'm not looking to actively lobby Congress to make changes.  I think, though, as states and governors in the United States are going to continue to look at the issue as a potential revenue source in their jurisdictions, I think ultimately they will turn to Congress and look for a change in our federal law.

Q.¬† You mentioned the BT Sport expansion.¬† Have there been any discussions for the NBA to be shown on free‑to‑air TV in the UK?
ADAM SILVER:¬† It's something we'd love to see.¬† It's something that we're going to continue to talk to BT Sport about.¬† I think it's a little bit chicken and egg.¬† We know if we're on free‑to‑air, we're going to have more viewers.¬† On the other hand, I don't think we've demonstrated yet that we can generate at least today, the kind of viewership we need to sustain broad free‑to‑air coverage.¬† We love BT Sport as a partner.¬† We're going to work hand in hand with them in not just our broadcasts but grass‑roots marketing of the game, and I hope we can continue to build the sport here to the point where there will be more free‑to‑air coverage.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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