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January 14, 2016

Adam Silver

New York, New York

ADAM SILVER: Thank you all for being here tonight. This is the sixth consecutive regular season game we're playing here at The O2 Arena in London. A few thank yous just to begin with to the Orlando Magic and the Toronto Raptors. They've been fantastic. The teams have had an opportunity to get out in the city and the community. That's part of the experience for them, the opportunity to see another city, be in another country, and we emphasize for them that this is more than just a game, that it's an opportunity to have a shared experience. So they've embraced it, and we appreciate that.

In addition, from the Toronto Raptors, the owners Larry and Judy Tanenbaum made the trip, as did Guy Laurence, who is the CEO of Rogers Media, so we thank them for coming over. And with Orlando, Dan DeVos, who is the governor of the DeVos family, who owns the team.

From a league standpoint, it means a lot to us when the owners take the time to make the trip and support their teams, as well, so we're very thankful.

In addition, AEG, of course the operator of The O2, has been a fantastic partner over the years, not just here in London but all around the world. And we're very appreciative of the Marriott Corporation, which through their Marriott Rewards program has been a supporter and sponsor of this game, so we thank them, as well.

I'd say in terms of being here in London, one of my colleagues said to me a little while ago that this has become almost like a European All Star Game in that it’s similar to All Star where it's a gathering place for the larger NBA family and for sports executives from throughout the industry. That's what this game has become in London. In essence, it's become a fixture on the sports calendar, especially here in Europe, and it's an opportune time for us to see friendly faces, business partners, people who have been around the game of basketball for a long time will all gather for this game. In addition, if you look courtside tonight, you'll see a bevy of celebrities, footballers, others, who come to share in the NBA experience.

This is a true NBA showcase here in London, and as I said, although it's a regular season game for us, and at the end of the day, that's what these teams are here for, to compete and to try to win, it creates a larger platform for us to grow throughout Europe and ultimately the rest of the world.

With that, just once again, thank you to the members of the media for being here this evening, and I'm happy to answer any questions.

Q. Why always London? You just mentioned it's the sixth time you've played a regular-season game here. What makes London so special for the NBA?
ADAM SILVER: I think London is special, number one, because of the relationship we've had with AEG. We've been in business with them for a long time. We know each other well. We have a strong understanding with them of what it takes to produce NBA basketball. This arena is unique in terms of its ability to meet all the NBA specifications that are required for a regular season game here. I will say London, in terms of logistically, in terms of the trip from the United States, it's a fairly convenient place to fly to. And I think lastly, culturally, certainly our teams embrace London, and to me it's a cultural sort of launching pad for ultimately additional games in Europe.

Q. Talking with Luis Scola yesterday, he said that this trip, it took a week just to play one game, and he mentioned the possibility of bringing three or four teams from the States and play three, four games around Europe. Is that something that you're maybe considering in the future?
ADAM SILVER: You know, I will talk to Luis about his views on the travel, because ultimately that's our desire, to be able to bring more teams and play more games. I will say that logistically in terms of our schedule, we have a fairly dense schedule throughout the season. We're playing roughly over 165 days, 82 games. So it's an average of roughly three and a half games a week.

So when we take the time out to travel, it creates a denser schedule in other parts of the season. And given what both our players are telling us and the best medical science that is available to us in terms of the need for rest, the impact of travel and crossing multiple time zones, it's our view that they need the rest on both sides of the matchup here.

Whether the players could do more, play more games when we're over here, that's something we'll continue to look at. Certainly in the preseason we've played more games during trips. Teams have traveled from one European city to another. In the preseason we've done more, but I think there are the competitive pressures, as well, to ensure that our teams get adequate rest.

And for example, to Mr. Scola's point, both teams will not play again until Monday back in the States after the game here, of course on Thursday evening, and so we feel we're building in the necessary rest. Whether we could squeeze the schedule a little bit more is something we'll look at.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about where you see the state of the Nets right now? I know you've reached out to Mikhail Prokhorov about where the club is. What are your chief concerns and what are you looking for from him?
ADAM SILVER: Well, ultimately it's Mr. Prokhorov's team to operate. I'm not particularly concerned. You know, as I always say, there is the ebb and flow of the operation of every team, and there's no doubt a fairly steep learning curve for owners coming into this league. I think in the case of Mr. Prokhorov, he had had experience with another club, CSKA Moscow, operating in the Euroleague, a league that doesn't have a similar salary-cap-type system that the NBA has, and while he demonstrated a willingness to pay way up above our salary cap into our tax, what comes with that are also restrictions on what free agents you can sign. And also he went for it, so to speak, in terms of bringing in some high profile veterans and he traded away some future assets in order to try to win early in his tenure.

I think, as he has acknowledged, lesson learned on his part in terms of just how difficult it is to win in this league. But I find him to be an extraordinarily bright individual. I think sometimes his glibness at his press conference is mistaken for a lack of understanding of the league.

I think he has a deep understanding of this league, and like what happens in other businesses, it comes time to reset. And I think he would be the first to acknowledge that, although he's replaced a key executive in Billy King, that he was part of that process along with Billy. But there comes a time in the life of a general manager where they need to change directions, and that's what he's now doing.

I think he's told me that he will be very involved in the transition, as he searches for both a new general manager and coach, and will remain involved in the operation of the team. I will say, I've been asked, I think the lack of success on the court so far during his tenure of ownership of the Nets has nothing to do with the fact that he is an international owner, certainly, or that he is a Russian owner. I've seen that same learning curve for other owners coming into the league and for other owners who have tried a sort of quick scheme to success. I think in a positive way, there are no shortcuts to building winning franchises in the NBA. It's step by step, and I think that's a process he's prepared to go through now.

Q. I'm wondering how important in your view has Kobe Bryant been to the league this season, particularly given the attention he's gotten in every city he visits for the final time, and to what extent do you think next month's All Star Game will be a celebration of his career?
ADAM SILVER: I'll begin by saying that Kobe will invariably go down as one of the greatest ever to play this game. I think by his announcing that this is his last season in the league, there's no doubt that's created enormous interest in every one of his games for the remainder of the season. Several of those games are in cities where the Lakers only appear once or they had already appeared, so they will be making their final trip, so I think that's created a lot of excitement for fans. I'm sure there are a lot of families where there is a parent bringing a child and saying, come see Kobe Bryant, because you'll be seeing one of the greatest ever play. He means an enormous amount to the league.

In terms of All Star, assuming the fan ballots remain on track, and he, of course, is leading right now in terms of balloting, I think it will be a showcase for him. I think it will be an exciting moment in his career where he'll be starting his final All Star Game. I think it'll be a big thrill for the fans, not just in Toronto but around the league to watch that experience and how the fans in arena react to him, and I think it's an opportunity for the larger NBA family to say thank you for his service over the last 20 years.

Q. Is that something that the league collectively will sort of take on, do something special?
ADAM SILVER: You know, we'll see. We want to talk to Kobe and see how he feels about that, but I'm sure there will be some sort of special recognition for him in Toronto.

Q. After the success of the Celtics-Real Madrid game some weeks ago, any chance to come back to Spain, Barcelona even maybe?
ADAM SILVER: Absolutely. I'm sure I can't tell you exactly when, but we will be back to Barcelona. It's a wonderful city. It's a great basketball market. We have terrific fans in Spain. So we will definitely be back.

Q. You spoke about London six years, and in Paris we have a new arena. The logistics are the same as London. Is it possible to have a regular season game in Paris in one, two or three years?
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, interesting that you should ask. Of course, the refurbished arena in Paris is also operated by AEG, the same operators of The O2 here, and right before this press conference I met with the executives of AEG Europe, and they, in fact, proposed just that, that we look at playing a regular season game in Paris, and I'm sure it's something that we will look at closely. France has also been a fantastic basketball market, and Paris in particular, and it's also a city that our teams enjoy visiting. It's certainly something that we'll be looking at closely.

Q. We are less than a year away from the possibility of opting out of this CBA. How are the conversations with the Players Association going, and are you optimistic?
ADAM SILVER: I remain optimistic, yes. There is an opt out window in this current collective bargaining agreement, slightly less than a year from now. I am encouraged by the fact that we have already begun direct discussions with the Players Association, and where there's a will, there's a way. Both of us, both sides, both our ownership and the executives of the Players Association, have stressed a strong interest in working things out at the table behind closed doors and avoiding any possible loss of games. So I remain optimistic that we will do that.

Q. I was just wondering whether it was a coincidence, whether it seems to be mainly Eastern Conference teams that come because of the travel, or is there another reason?
ADAM SILVER: I think it's a little bit of both. It's somewhat of a coincidence that it's been largely Eastern Conference teams, but in addition, logistically, it's easier to travel Eastern Conference teams to play in London, especially when in terms of their rest going home, it's easier to take them back to the East Coast, have them rest in their home cities before they play again on Monday [after a Thursday game].

But this program is not exclusive to Eastern Conference teams. But you're right, there seems to be a tendency from a scheduling standpoint to lean on Eastern Conference teams.

Q. There's a lot of movement in international basketball right now. There's going to be a new FIBA calendar, also a new Euroleague, so I wanted to know and ask you how involved is the NBA in those evolutions and if you had any meetings with those in charge?
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, you know, yes. As I said before, we use this opportunity here with this game in London as a gathering place for NBA executives and basketball executives from throughout Europe. So I have taken advantage of that opportunity while I've been here to meet with both Patrick Baumann [of FIBA] and Jordi Bertomeu of the Euroleague, and while we have no direct involvement, certainly we are cheerleading for them to work out their differences and for the reorganized Euroleague to be successful.

I think it's important for basketball that we have a strong basketball platform in Europe. I've known Jordi Bertomeu for probably 20 years. I think he's an excellent executive. And there seems to be enormous interest from the clubs and from the larger sports industry to have a successful and strong Euroleague. While there are some differences to be worked out with FIBA, the NBA is strongly encouraging those two sides to work out their differences, but we are not weighing in. We think they are of Europe, and it's for them to work out their issues, and largely we are on the sidelines both just encouraging them to work strongly together and work to build the game of basketball here in Europe.

Q. We obviously know that you'd quite like to have a franchise in Europe. Are you actively taking steps to make that happen?
ADAM SILVER: We are not actively taking steps to bring a franchise to Europe or to expand to Europe. It's something that we've looked at over the years. It just doesn't feel like the time is ripe right now, especially given what's going on, in the prior question, with the Euroleague and FIBA. We think the best place for the NBA right now is to showcase an NBA game here in London, to play our preseason games here, and to work on a grassroots level to develop the game. But at the current time, we are not looking at franchises in Europe.

Q. There is no Austrian until now in the NBA, but as you have a prospect now in 7 foot Jakob Poeltl of the Utah Utes, what do you think about the first Austrian ever in NBA?
ADAM SILVER: We can't wait to have the first Austrian in the NBA. And your next question is will we be playing a regular season game in Austria. (Laughter.)

No, right now, this year, we had 100 players on our opening day rosters who were born outside of the United States, so I would love to add Austria to the roster of countries from which our players come from. And good luck to that player, and I hope I get an opportunity to greet him at the NBA Draft one day.

Q. A number of top strength coaches have said that the prevalence of injuries to young players coming into the league now is caused by the amount of games they play in AAU, high school and at a young level. Do you think that's a problem? Do you think players should cut down how many games they play when they're young?
ADAM SILVER: You know, I do think it's an issue, and my sense is, and the science supports it, that these young players, both boys and girls, are playing too many games in their junior programs. I mean, it's interesting, one of the points I've made back in the States, that for example, with American baseball, the equivalent of our junior leagues, the Little League Association, has actually set limits on, for example, the number of pitches young players can throw to try to preserve their arms, yet on the other hand in youth basketball in the United States, you often have these young players, 13, 14, 15 years old, playing eight games in a single weekend.

Increasingly, we've come to understand from our medical teams that when these players come into the league and they're examined through our combine, through our camp before they even enter into the draft, we're now seeing some of the wear and tear injuries that we used to see in players after they've played in the league for several years.

So it's something that we're very focused on, and we think that all of the various interests should come together and work out a set of guidelines so these players are not overextending themselves. And I think equally important, in addition to the fact that they're potentially playing too many games, I think that also takes away from their work on the necessary fundamentals to become great players, as well.

We and the NCAA, college basketball in the States, we've had discussions jointly about how we can come together with USA Basketball led by Jerry Colangelo and set a protocol for these young players. I know Jerry Colangelo has told me it's something that through USA Basketball he's very focused on. We ultimately, I think, as stewards of the game, have to take responsibility for helping to fix that problem.

Q. Are we going to watch an All Star Game in Europe in the near future?
ADAM SILVER: Other than this sort of All Star Game I talked about earlier? Again, we would love to figure out a way to do it, but it's also logistically very difficult because of the travel to Europe and the travel home from Europe. I should note that this year we're going to be in Toronto next month for the NBA All Star Game, which is the first time we've played an All Star Game outside of the United States. While we don't have to cross an ocean for that All Star Game, it's a start to be outside the United States.

Again, there's no question it's something that we'd like to figure out a way to do at some point. I think it would be a fantastic experience for everyone, and I have no doubt the players would welcome it, so long as we can build into the schedule adequate rest coming over and then adequate rest before they return to the regular season back at home.

Q. We've seen games on Sunday earlier. Now this year more games on Saturday. We know there is an attraction obviously to the Asian market as you've stated in the past. Are there going to be changes like those in the future schedule maybe to change games even earlier?
ADAM SILVER: Well, a good question. One of the things we've worked on doing this season is in order to have a regular slate of games in primetime on Saturday nights here in Europe with five or six hour time difference, we've set a regular schedule of games on Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon back in the States on the East Coast. And so by having those games in prime time here, hopefully we can increase viewership, and the regularity is important, as well.

To your question about Asia, I think one of the things we've considered over the years, in order then to reach prime time in Asia, China in particular, would we play games early morning, for example, on the East Coast.

It's something we're looking at. It's related to the travel issues. I'd only say that we're becoming more sophisticated about the impact of fatigue on our players and the direct correlation between fatigue and injuries. We want to talk to the Players Association about it in terms of how you would schedule those players so that they wouldn't end up playing sleepless games. I think and part of it, as we all know, when you change time zones, it almost has the same impact. It's not just about going to sleep early but it's often difficult to sleep when you've had quick changes in time zone, and in the same way the players are on a schedule where they play at night, they eat late, and by the time they go to sleep it's late night, and then they sleep later generally. So getting them up early in the morning and doing all the preparation that goes into a game, we'd need to study how that would impact their bodies. Several NBA teams have volunteered to be part of that study and have said, why don't you experiment with us and we'll play on a weekday morning.

It's something that we're looking at, but I want to talk to the Players Association about it, and I think it's something we have to approach together.

Q. Like you said, six consecutive games in London, this one sold out in an hour. What's the next step to really progress this event?
ADAM SILVER: The next step is to continue to work on a grassroots basis here in Europe. Again, what's important for us, while selling out a game in an hour and bringing in a tremendous media interest and the telecast on BT Sport, that's all fantastic for us, but it's got to be part of a larger program. These games just can't be viewed as one off experiences.

So for us and working closely with Ben Morel, who runs our London office, we want to make sure we're part of a larger platform to grow the game. So while we're going to continue to play these regular season games, I think we're working closely with FIBA, closely with the Euroleague, to continue building the game of basketball here, and as I said, we want to make sure that it's just not a spectacle to come in with two teams and then have interest drop off tremendously once we leave. We want to make sure we have an ongoing impact, and some of the things we do to build on the impact to the game is to have clinics in schools while the teams are over here and to support other grassroots opportunities.

So I'd say that there's no so called silver bullet here, it's just step by step, growing the game, working with youth, working in the schools and working in the community to develop the game.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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