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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 12, 2016
New York, New York
ADAM SILVER: Thank you all for being here. Sorry to keep you waiting. Let me just begin by saying we're having another fantastic Summer League here in Las Vegas. We have 24 teams and have 25 games on ESPN this year, 30 games on NBA TV. We're projected to set a new attendance record here in Las Vegas with 100,000 people attending. We had a 16,000-person game the other night. And we've been enthusiastic about being here in Vegas. It's our 12th year with this Summer League, and it's become a fixture on the sports calendar, both for the NBA and for the city of Las Vegas.
I would also say we just came off two successful summer leagues, in Orlando and in Utah. Orlando, we had nine teams. We had four teams in Utah. I'm actually very pleased to see the Utah Summer League back. It's something that Greg Miller, who's now the governor of the team, his father, Larry Miller, started years ago. There was somewhat of a hiatus from Salt Lake City; now we're back there. I think we love our teams having options to go to various cities across the United States. As I said, in addition to being an important training ground for our young players, it's a great summer program for the league as well. So thank you to the city of Las Vegas, and I really appreciate the hospitality, and especially here at the Wynn Hotel.
As well, we had a productive day of meetings today in addition to the full Board of Governors meeting this afternoon. We had various committees that met this morning, our labor relations committee, our advisory finance committee, our audit committee. Those committees are comprised of various owners throughout the league. We had a broad range of subjects.
Of course we discussed the activities from the last two weeks for free agency. I would say we had a robust discussion in the room of various views of player movement that we've seen. We had a discussion about so-called Hack-a-Shaq, and I know we sent a release out already. We adopted a new rule there. I would say it's not everything that some people were looking for us to do, and it was a compromise. In essence, the rule is now that the last two-minute rule that's been in effect for almost 40 years is now in effect for the last two minutes of every quarter. In addition, we wanted to ensure that players would not be jumping on other players' backs as we've seen during free throws. So we made it clear that that would be presumptively a flagrant foul if that were to happen. We also clarified the rule for fouling when the ball is not in play, that that would also fall under the so-called special last two-minute provisions, where it would be a free throw and the team would retain possession.
So again, that release was sent out. Kiki VanDeWeghe is here, our head of basketball operations, and I'm happy to discuss it, but Kiki will be around for a while, too, and he can discuss it.
We also discussed the situation in Charlotte, North Carolina, again, as to whether we will, in fact, be conducting the 2017 All-Star Game there. This is an issue that has been going on for several months now. In essence, Rick Buchanan, our general counsel, gave an update to the board on what happened in the most recent legislative session down in North Carolina, and the Hornets, of course, spoke to the issue as well. I'd only say we're not prepared to make a decision today, but we recognize that the calendar is not our friend here and that February is quickly approaching, and especially in terms of big events like All-Star Games. If we are going to make alternative plans, we are going to need to do that relatively soon.
We had a long discussion, I think, in the room, a presentation from Rick, and we got the views of many different owners. We certainly were not asking them for a vote, and no vote was taken. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of the league office to make decisions like that, but of course it was very important for me to get input and feedback from the owners in the room.
With that, I would just add that I'm really encouraged by where the league is today. I think we have a fantastic group of owners. There's a whole new generation of owners that have come into this league over the last several years. I find these meetings are very productive. People are encouraged to speak up in these meetings and do. Various points of view have been expressed on the whole range of issues I just discussed. I think the attendance is fantastic for our owners here, and same with the committees that met earlier today.
I'd only say that to me, this is a great league, and we have an opportunity to make it even that much better, and those were the kinds of things we are talking about today.
With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Q. The last two weeks we've seen kind of the perfect storm from the new TV deal. Do you see next year kind of getting back to where we saw post-2011?
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, that's a good question, and I think that was part of the discussion today was how much of what happened this summer was an anomaly in terms of the system. As I've made clear before, we did not model for such a large spike in the cap, which is what we saw this summer, and so it enabled teams to make moves that they would not otherwise have been able to make.
And then the question becomes what corrections should we make in the system. As I've said before, from the very beginning, we had two priorities when we went into the last collective bargaining agreement. One was to correct the finances of the league and put every team in a position where if they were well-managed they had the opportunity to be profitable.
The other issue was we wanted every team, regardless of market size, regardless of how deep the pockets were of the owner, to be in a position to compete for championships.
I will say in terms of so-called competitive balance, we've had five years of now this collective bargaining agreement, going into the sixth year, and we've had four different teams win over the last five years, so I view that very positive from a competitive balance standpoint. I don't necessarily want to overreact to a particular situation.
But having said that, as I said at the end of my earlier remarks, I think we can make the system even better, and I think it is critically important that fans in every market have that belief that if their team is well-managed that they can compete.
Certainly it's important to me that markets in this league, those that are perceived as small, as those that are larger, all feel like they have an equal chance.
My sense is that some of the player movement we just saw is not necessarily a function of market size. It's clearly, in the case of one particular player, a desire to be in a situation with a group of players who have already proven that they can win. And by the way, I don't mean to be so cryptic; in the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision, once he becomes a free agent, to make a choice that's available to him. In this case he operated 100 percent within the way of the system, and same with Golden State.
Having said that, I do think to maintain those principles that I discussed in terms of creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I think we do need to re-examine some of the elements of our system so that I'm not here next year or the year after again talking about anomalies. There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system. Of course we're not going to negotiate here with the union; it requires two parties to make those changes. I think we've had very productive discussions with the union so far, and we will continue to do so.
Q. You addressed this kind of conceptually, hypothetically, in February about the idea that a team with three stars would be able to add a fourth, and now it's actually happened. How much concern was there in the room over just that? It may be anomalous, but it's also something that wasn't intended to happen, I would assume, based on what you guys did in 2011. How much concern in the room today, and how much of that discussion is now going to move toward or into your discussions with Michele Roberts as to whether this is amending the CBA or opting out or whatever? Is this feeding into what you guys were already discussing in terms of solutions, for lack of a better term?
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, so good question. I begin by saying you have a unique situation with the Warriors. In that case, you have three All-Stars who were all drafted by the team -- Steph [Curry] at 7, Klay [Thompson] at 11 and Draymond [Green] at 35. So then you add one free agent joining a team whose highest draft pick in terms of All-Stars was 7. So that is a bit anomalous in terms of the success of that team.
But to your point, these were all issues we were already discussing. The two critical issues when you sit across from the union in bargaining are economics and then the system elements. There are other things we talk about as well, but those are the primary issues.
I would say the events, although we all knew all this money was going to come into the system and many of these things could have happened, the fact that it's now in front of us and we're looking at where the money, how the money is being paid out, and we see a particular player move, I think, yes, without suggesting I'm negotiating, there's no question that those are things that will be discussed in future meetings with the Players' Association.
Q. Given your discussions today about the North Carolina law and the Charlotte All-Star Game, would cities that are within states that have similar laws be excluded from consideration for future All-Star Games?
ADAM SILVER: It's a great question, and it's one of the reasons we've been struggling with this issue in North Carolina. It seems that we have a unique situation in North Carolina where we made a decision to award the game to Charlotte at a time when House Bill 2, the law in question, was not in place, and although these laws have all been shorthanded as so-called "bathroom bills," the fact is there are unique attributes of the law in North Carolina as compared to other states. And so all I can say in response to your question is we would have to deal with every situation on its own merits.
From the very beginning, I've been reluctant to draw bright lines. But we also deal with the practicality of what we're seeing in North Carolina. What the league announced, together with the Hornets, when this bill first passed was, putting aside what our core principles are and our belief, which we've made very public that we feel this law is inconsistent with the core values of this league, the primary test for us is whether under this law we can successfully host our All-Star week. As you know, it's really more than just a game; it's really a week full of activities in North Carolina. The question for us becomes in this situation, given the controversy, given the amount of discussion, given how hardened the views are there, is this the place we should be in February 2017 as the epicenter of global basketball where we can go and celebrate our game and our values.
That is the immediate issue without trying to make comparisons to other cities.
Q. Just to follow up, because of the differences you've cited between different cities' and states' laws, has there been any examination of Houston or the other NBA cities that have such laws to see whether the issues that you have in Charlotte might apply?
ADAM SILVER: Yes. We have been looking closely at the laws in all of the jurisdictions in which we play.
Q. What's preventing you from making a decision on Charlotte at this point, or what further information do you need before you make that decision?
ADAM SILVER: It's a process, and I'd only say, one, we were waiting for the legislative session, and we were frankly hoping that they would make some steps toward modifying the legislation, and frankly I was disappointed that they didn't. And then coming out of that legislative session, we wanted the opportunity to talk directly to our teams. As I said, we had committee meetings today in addition to full Board of Governors, so we wanted to have the discussion with them. I think this is a very difficult issue for us, and we're trying to be extremely cautious and deliberate in how we go about making the decision.
But having said that, I recognize that we're not trying to keep everyone in suspense. We recognize this decision needs to be made fairly quickly.
Q. The league approached the Players' Association with the concept of smoothing in the broadcast revenue, and I'm wondering, was there ever thought given theoretically to negotiating the deal so that it would be basically smoothed in at the front end, stepped up and backloaded, and based on what you've seen the last two weeks, was that a viable option?
ADAM SILVER: Well, first of all, if you're asking could we have in essence manipulated the television agreement so the money came in in a way to work better for our salary cap, the answer is no. One, our television partners wouldn't have gone along with that, and the union wouldn't have gone along with that. Our obligation to the Players' Association, is to maximize revenue, part of this business. And as I said, accounting laws and business practices from the companies we're in business with. You go out and you negotiate the best deals you can for the league, and that's how that deal was structured.
So it could not have unilaterally been our responsibility to smooth that money in.
Having said that, as you said, we did approach the union with a proposal to smooth the money in, and they rejected it.
Q. Just so I understand, you could not structure it such that instead of equal payments over the life of the contracts, you started lower and got higher later?
ADAM SILVER: Well, that's how the deal does work. The payments do come lower and get higher. I think what you were suggesting is could we have artificially structured them even lower when they first came in to a point where they got even higher. The way the deal is structured is what made economic sense for the parties negotiating it.
In sitting across from the Time-Warner Company or the Disney Company, they also have their own accounting rules that they follow, but also they're following the marketplace in terms of the value of the product that they're acquiring.
So yes, the way the deal is structured, it starts at a certain level and goes up every year, but I think what you're really suggesting is could you have artificially made it much lower in the earlier years and higher in the later years, which would de facto have taken care of the smoothing. But we did not feel that was appropriate to do.
Q. Two Vegas questions if I could: One, with the NHL's decision to put a franchise here in this city, does it change the NBA's view of Las Vegas as it pertains to future expansion? And two, if what you told me the last couple years is still the status quo, that the NBA is not going to expand anytime soon, is maybe the time right to try an NBA Vegas weekend much like the NBA does in Europe where you have two regular-season games on a weekend and that becomes, along with the Summer League, Las Vegas's NBA franchise?
ADAM SILVER: In terms of the NHL's decision to expand into Vegas, that doesn't change our thinking at all, only because we've always been positive about Las Vegas as a market. As I said, our Summer League has been here for 12 years. We played an All-Star Game here in Vegas.
The impediment to us expanding is that that's not on our agenda right now from a league standpoint. We're happy with our 30 clubs. Maybe at some point down the road we'll take a look at expansion. Over time all organizations grow, at least those that continue to thrive, so at some point we'll look at it. But right now, we're just not in expansion mode.
As to doing other things in Vegas, the only thing I can say is to me, far beyond two games in a weekend here, as I said, we're playing our Summer League here in Vegas, 67 games over a two-week period in essence for our Summer League. So that far exceeds in my mind coming for two games in a weekend, but we're not against it. As you know, we've had teams over the years who played preseason games here. To me, there's no issue for us about the attractiveness of the city of Las Vegas. It's a summer home for us now with the Summer League, and we're very pleased with the reception that we get here.
Q. In every season there are usually a handful of teams prior to the year that they say, okay, the champion will come out of this group. We're in Vegas so I guess we can discuss odds. The prohibitive favorites are that the same two teams will meet again in The Finals this year. Looking at what that means for the other 28 clubs or maybe 26 clubs, depending on how you look at it, is that something that's healthy? There's a lot of talk about whether that's a good thing to be that acutely top-heavy.
ADAM SILVER: I'll say, and I've read several stories suggesting that that's something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it's a huge television attraction. I don't think it's good for the league, just to be really clear. I will say whoever is the prohibitive favorite, try telling that to the 430 other players who aren't on those two teams. I mean, we have the greatest collection of basketball players in the world in our league, and so I'm not making any predictions, but there's no question, when you aggregate a group of great players, they have a better chance of winning than many other teams. On the other hand, there are lots of things that have to happen.
We'll see what happens in Golden State. You had a great, great chemistry among a group of players and you're adding another superstar to the mix, so it'll be interesting to see what happens. But just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that's ideal from a league standpoint.
I mean, for me as I discussed earlier, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league.
On the other hand, I absolutely respect a player's right to become a free agent, and in this case for Kevin Durant to make a decision that he feels is best for him, and I have no idea what is in his mind or heart in terms of how he went about making that decision. But we'll see. As I said, in a way the good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity, owners and the union, to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it.
My belief is we can make it better.
Q. A couple nights ago four members of the Minnesota Lynx wore tee shirts to kind of protest the killings, and then the Dallas officers and security walked out, off-duty police officers. Just want to get your thoughts on that. And secondly, will the league have any reaction or response to that? And thirdly, what do you think of players such as Carmelo Anthony making statements on his own about these issues?
ADAM SILVER: Let me take them in reverse order because I think in a way the third part of your question is an answer to the first, which is I am absolutely in favor of players speaking out and speaking from the heart about whatever issues are important to them. It's how this country operates. I've had this direct conversation with many of our players, and I'm not one to say they have an obligation to do it, but I think those that feel comfortable doing it and want to speak out, they have this incredible forum to do it, whether it's through in a formal way through media members that are in this room or whether it's through social media.
I actually think it demonstrates that these are multidimensional people. They live in this society, and they have strong views about how things should be. So I'm very encouraging of that.
I think back to the first part of your question, my preference would be that players adhere to our uniform rules, both in the NBA and the WNBA. I think it's a very slippery slope. As to where you would draw the line when it's appropriate for a particular player to use that, use a game, pregame, as a political forum, I think it's a dangerous road for us to go down. So I would greatly prefer that the players use the platform they're given, social media, press conferences, media in locker rooms, however they want to do it, to make their political points of view be known.
Lastly, and I think it's the middle part of your question, I do think there is a role for the league to play. I think there's a great tradition in the NBA of players using the NBA as a platform to speak out on issues that are important to them, and often players look to the league for ways in which we can help structure a platform for them to have a voice. It's something that I've talked directly to Michele Roberts about.
We now this summer have a group of NBA players playing as part of USA Basketball. I think one of the things we've discussed with Jerry Colangelo and Coach K is whether there's an appropriate forum for them when they're still in the United States. They're playing several exhibition games in cities like Houston and Los Angeles and maybe potentially picking one of those cities and creating some sort of forum. Maybe it's an opportunity to sit down with police officers, with local folks, the youth of the community who are directly affected by these issues, to have a platform to talk about these things.
I think one of the great things about sports is it does bring people together. Without going too long on this, I think part of the fundamental issue is trust, and I think maybe using basketball, using this platform, we can get people having a very healthy dialogue on these issues.
In short, I think those are the platforms, whether they're created by the league or players on their own as opposed to using our uniforms for political expression. My preference would be the former.
Q. You've been pretty strident about how you wanted to change the Hack-a-Shaq rules the last few months. You said you hoped there would be a consensus for them to really change them. Frankly the changes today seem cosmetic at best, specifically the main one that they're only going to apply the last two-minute rule to the last two minutes of each quarter. If you could, could you walk us through how the decision came to make that change, and is it a lot less than what you had hoped?
ADAM SILVER: You know, honestly, I definitely do not accept your premise that it's cosmetic. I know we wouldn't have done it if it were only a cosmetic change. In fact, our projections are that with the rule changes we put in place, we'll reduce roughly 45 percent of the incidents of the away-from-the-play fouls right now. The process was one of trying to build consensus.
I mean, look, this is a rule that has been in effect since the beginning of the game, the last two-minute rule for the fourth quarter. It was instituted roughly 40 years ago, and there's a dramatic change in the league, and you all know from things I've said, even as recently as last summer after this same meeting, I said I'm on the fence in terms of whether the issue should be -- guys should make their free throws and if they can't, they should be taken out of games at strategic points.
I'm also a bit of an incrementalist, and I think especially when it comes time to change rules. Remember, to change a playing rule, it requires two-thirds of our teams. I will say the vote was not unanimous today, but obviously in order to make the change, we did get two-thirds of the teams. But I'm also being a realist in terms of how much we can get through.
I think there is a part of me that would have preferred to have done something that was more holistic and impacted the entire game, but I've also learned, I think to have made this change, again, if we can deal with roughly half the incidents and then full stop have the competition committee re-examine it and see where we are -- and that answers the last part of your question. This was discussed over a year and a half with our competition committee, and then we got to the point where the competition committee, it was unanimous in terms of the NBA team representatives on the competition committee. We brought it to our Board of Governors and we said we think this is a change that should be made and it will allow us to keep -- nobody suggested that we'll never have to discuss this again, but I think I've also realized that there's sometimes almost a faddish quality to how some of these techniques are used on the floor. We'll see. But I definitely do not think this is cosmetic.
Q. If you don't mind, real quick, could you explain how the data shows that it's going to decrease by that significant amount of the time?
ADAM SILVER: The data shows that based on our having full information on exactly when it is used in games. It's often used at the end of quarters to foul players who aren't even particularly bad free-throw shooters to try to gain another possession. That's part of what happens at the end of the clock.
I think incidentally, part of also these rule changes were to clarify some of those plays -- we wanted to make sure we were eliminating some of those plays that we viewed as more dangerous, for example, the jumping on players' backs. But we'll see. It's extraordinarily difficult to predict coaches' and players' behavior, and we've also realized that there are seemingly always unintended consequences every time you make a rule change. So again, this isn't a full step, but I think it's a serious half step that's far from cosmetic.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports