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January 14, 2017

Adam Silver

ADAM SILVER: This is the 25th anniversary of the first game that we ever played here in Mexico, and the game tonight will be the 24th game that we will have played in Mexico. That's more games than we've played in any country with the exception of the United States and Canada. So we clearly have a huge commitment to this market and especially to Mexico City.

Let me begin with a few thank-yous. First of all, to our host, Guillermo Salinas. Thank you. This is truly a state-of-the-art arena. I think if you haven't had an opportunity, for the media here, make sure you get the gold-plated tour. The suites are beautiful, the facilities, the restaurants. It's as good as any arena I've been to anywhere in the world. It has a capacity of over 20,000 people, and we expect to sell out tonight and will be looking forward to making that announcement as well.

Let me also thank the NBA teams that are participating in these two games. First of all, to Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns, and his team. They have played the host for these two games. In addition to being the host of the games, they've spent several days here in the community. I was with Robert Sarver and others from the Suns' organization today, where they dedicated four basketball courts in the community here, state-of-the-art basketball courts, a beautiful facility, which will be a legacy that they leave behind.

To the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban was here for his game. I read the media reports; he clearly, as he always does, embraced the experience and had a lot to say when he was here. He, of course, is a wonderful owner and enthusiastic participant. So I want to thank the Mavericks as well.

And the San Antonio Spurs, who got here last night. I just spoke to some of the members of the team. They had a team dinner here in Mexico City last night, and they got an opportunity to get out a little bit in the community today. Thank you to the Spurs as well.

Lastly, just to talk a little bit about this season so far and our global efforts. We hit a milestone this year, and that is 25 percent of the players in the NBA are born outside of the United States. Quite remarkable. And we're seeing basketball experience explosive growth virtually on every corner of the planet, to the point now where we are the fastest-growing sport in the world.

It's wonderful to see. Governments are embracing this sport. People are embracing it. We increasingly have dense urban populations where it makes sense to play basketball. Governments are encouraging their youth to be physically active. So whether it's here in Mexico or other cities in Latin America or in Europe, where I just came from, China, where we do an enormous amount of business, increasingly in India and in Africa, we're seeing terrific growth of basketball throughout the world.

And part of that reason is technology. It's remarkable the advancements we've seen just in the last few years, the quality of streaming video. I see a lot of media members holding up smartphones here. It's quite incredible what you can do with just a small phone in terms of the quality of the streaming video. And that's enabling fans everywhere in the world to watch NBA games, to the point where this past season one billion people viewed some part of an NBA game. That's one in seven people in the world watched an NBA game.

And we have an even greater following on social media. The estimates are this year we have 1.3 billion followers. That includes followers of our teams, the league office, individual players and partners who provide NBA content. So it's an extraordinary number.

Roll all those things together, it's a golden age for basketball, and there's a huge opportunity ahead of us.

With that, I'm happy to answer any questions you have.

Q. My first question is Thursday we had record attendance here at the arena and today they expect more people. What do you think the future holds for the relationship between the NBA and Mexico? Another question is what about an All-Star Game here in Mexico? It's been a question that's been going for about a year now.
ADAM SILVER: Well, thank you for that question. So, yes, we had record attendance on Thursday night. We were just a thousand fans, maybe, short of a sellout. We already know there's a sellout tonight, so we're going to have an all-time attendance record. So we're thrilled by the enthusiasm of the fans here in Mexico City. The expectation is, as I said, this is the 24th game we've played in Mexico, more than any country other than the U.S. and Canada, and we expect to play many more.

One of the changes in our new collective bargaining agreement, which we just recently announced, is we added an additional week to the regular season, yet we still have the same number of regular-season games. That extra week will allow for some additional travel during the season, some extra rest when teams are traveling, so we hope to use those additional days to produce more games outside the U.S. And, as I said, there is no market more important to us than Mexico.

So we've already begun discussions. We had some earlier today with Guillermo Salinas and his colleagues here about bringing other games here. And as for an All-Star Game, again, that's something we'll look at as well. Again, we need to take a fresh look at the entire format and see what makes the most sense for a midseason break.

Again, I was just in London, where the Nuggets and the Pacers played. It ultimately may make sense to bring more teams rather than just have two teams play each other for a single event, to maybe bring multiple teams and have some sort of midseason tournament, for example, some sort of round-robin tournament. I mean, that's some of the things -- Mark Tatum, our Deputy Commissioner, is here. That's one of the things he has been looking at, together with his colleagues, to see whether there's something new and different we should be doing with our format given the long regular season and given the enormous interest around the world.

So stay tuned.

Q. My first question is what is the possibility to have an NBA team in Mexico? And the second question, as you know, Donald Trump is going to be the President in six days. Does this affect the goals of the NBA in Mexico?
ADAM SILVER: First of all, in terms of a franchise in Mexico, most likely Mexico City, it's something that we're going to look at. This is an incredible market, well over 20 million people, the largest market in North America. While we have no immediate plans to expand in the NBA, one of the things that we look at is whether expanding would be additive to the league as a whole. Clearly coming to Mexico City, not just because of the huge population here in Mexico but in essence as a gateway to the rest of Latin America, could potentially be very important to the league.

We clearly have a beautiful, state-of-the-art arena here, and we can tell by the ticket sales we have the interest. So that's something that we will continue to look at.

In terms of the presidential election, I'd only say there that the short answer is no, I don't expect the transition to a new President to have any impact on our business. If anything, President-elect Trump I know is a big basketball fan. He's been to many NBA games, particularly Knicks games over the years in New York. I'm a fellow New Yorker. I don't know him well, but I know him a little bit. I know his family. I know they are sports enthusiasts. And I will say about the NBA and sports, we are a unifier. Sports is a form of entertainment that bring people together with a common rooting interest. Maybe it's to root for your team or to root for the sport.

You know, I think we'll only see our business continue to grow in this current administration. And, by the way, today earlier at the court dedication, the Governor of Arizona was with us, the current U.S. Ambassador to Mexico was with us, and everyone is very optimistic about increasing trade relations and growing relations over time between the U.S. and Mexico.

Q. Do you think are there chances to bring here to Mexico City the Cavaliers or Golden State Warriors soon?
ADAM SILVER: Good question. The issue is, of course, those are the two teams that were in The Finals last year, so there's the most demand for them. In some ways, it makes it that much more difficult for them under our current format to give up a home game because the appeal is so great in their communities. And also from a competitive standpoint, it's a little bit more difficult for them to have a disruption in their schedule.

Having said that, I know that both Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Joe Lacob, the principal owner of the Golden State Warriors, are enthusiastic about growing this sport on a global basis, enthusiastic about building their teams' brands and bringing their players around the world. So I'm sure it's something we'll be looking at. I don't want to promise any particular teams will be traveling today, but again, all of our teams over time will travel internationally.

Q. The millionaire TV contracts will affect the NBA quality, paying higher salaries to players that are not still consolidated?
ADAM SILVER: I see, consolidating the teams, yes. We have a salary cap with each team. It's not a hard salary cap; it's a soft salary cap. But still, it acts as a mechanism to prevent too much consolidation at any particular team. And on top of that, we made some changes in the recent collective bargaining agreement, which gives the current team, the incumbent team, greater ability to keep their players by being able to pay them more money than any other team.

So it won't guarantee that we won't continue to see super teams. And super teams may be inevitable in this league when you have certain players who are so skilled. Even though this is a team sport, an individual player, it's no secret, like LeBron James, can have such an impact on the performance of his team, I think you're going to continue to see a league where certain teams are better than others.

Having said that, there's great competition throughout the league. You know, people don't generally talk about the San Antonio Spurs as a super team, but they are clearly a team that is super, and you will see them playing tonight.

And so it's why they play the game. I mean, again, I respect players' rights to become free agents and then to have decisions to join teams and not just lock them in to one situation. So we always look to find the right balance of competition and player freedom.

Q. Commissioner, with these two games and 40,000 people at the two games, what's the next step for the NBA? Is it maybe make a package of three, four, five games in the same regular season?
ADAM SILVER: Yeah, good question. I think the next step, before we start talking about a franchise in Mexico City, is to bring more games here. And so, of course, we have these two regular-season games, and whether we bring additional regular-season games, even next season, or do some sort of tournament where you bring over a group of teams and then all play each other in some format, that's something that we're looking at.

One other factor that we're looking at is in order to ultimately grow basketball in Mexico, we realize we need to ensure that NBA-caliber players are coming from this market. And so just as we've looked at other markets throughout the world, we're going to look to open an academy here in Mexico, because there is a lot of great basketball being played at a young level. You have some fantastic 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-olds, great young boys who play and some great young girls. We have the WNBA President, Lisa Borders, here as well.

But what happens is when the players get to be 15, 16 years old, unless they play against other top players, unless they play in top-notch competition, they don't advance to NBA-caliber players. We're looking at situations around the world. We realize that in certain cases there's more we the NBA can do by coming into markets like Mexico and helping to bring together the very best players, have them play against each other, and then maybe travel them when they're not in school in the summer so they have an opportunity to play against other great players around the world.

Q. Today in the morning Mr. Guillermo Salinas Pliego talked about the possibility of having six games from the Phoenix Suns here at Mexico City. Can you elaborate on that? And as well, in the game against the Mavericks, there was a fan that took a selfie with a player when he fell on the court. Can you elaborate on that, about the passion of the Mexican fans that they even tried to take a selfie during the game?
ADAM SILVER: First of all, when the Mayor announced the six games for next season, as you saw, I was on the podium with him, and it was the first time I had heard six games for next season. So I'm sure we'll be having additional discussions.

I'm not sure if six games is realistic for one team next season. Again, they have commitments to their fans in their markets as well, so we have to strike the right balance.

In terms of the selfie that was taken during the game, it's wonderful to see. You're right, there are incredibly passionate fans here in Mexico City. It's wonderful to see. Tell all the fans who are watching, please be careful, though, about interfering with the competition if you're looking to take a selfie. But we love the enthusiasm.

Q. I wanted to ask you, there was a certain let's say uneasiness at the beginning of the season regarding super teams and how that was going to play out through the season. Still, now that we're at the halfway point of the season, what do you think about the competitiveness that in the West the eighth seed is still wide open and any team still has a chance to get into the playoffs?
ADAM SILVER: I think the season has been fantastic so far. We're seeing great competition every night throughout the league. Again, while there's no doubt that particular teams, and in this case you have the returning champion [Cavaliers] and the Golden State Warriors, who added Kevin Durant, everyone knew they were going to be super this year, whether you categorize them as super teams. As I said earlier, we're going to see a team tonight in the San Antonio Spurs who are right up there competing with the other top teams in the league. We're seeing great competition all around the league.

You know, I'll say, I was thinking about it a little bit: In tennis, when you have Andy Murray and [Novak] Djokovic, you have super players. And everybody understands when you have super players, they're more likely to win than some other players. It doesn't mean you don't have great competition in tennis. It doesn't mean that other players won't emerge. While it's different, of course, in the NBA because we're a team sport, it's a rare team sport where an individual player can have such an incredible impact on the outcome of the game.

Again, I'm thrilled with the way the season is playing out so far. As I always say, I'm a heavy user of what we call our LEAGUE PASS Broadband, where on your phone or your tablet you can watch every one of our games. And on any given night -- all of a sudden the Philadelphia 76ers are seeing an exciting run. I saw the Denver Nuggets played a great game in London the other night; the Minnesota Timberwolves are playing really well; the Los Angeles Clippers. I mean, I could go on and on.

What's so great, if you follow the league, realistically people may recognize that a team they're rooting for may not be likely to win the championship that year, but it doesn't mean they don't have outstanding young players and great stories on any given night.

Q. Have you thought about bringing the NBA to other Mexican cities -- for example, Guadalajara, Monterrey?
ADAM SILVER: We have talked about other Mexican cities. Monterrey, for example, has a state-of-the-art arena, so we've had some discussions about potentially even putting a Development League team in Monterrey. We're exploring. We realize this is a very big country, and as large as Mexico City is, there are roughly 150 million people, so it's an enormous market and there are people everywhere.

A lot of it is dependent on the quality of the arena. To bring the NBA on the road, it just requires a certain kind of facility, one to assure we can accommodate the hundreds of members of the media who are there, the broadcasting facilities that transmit our games to over 200 countries around the world, appropriate locker rooms, medical facilities, et cetera. So there's just sort of that practical issue of making sure that we have the right kind of arenas to play in, but we will be looking to do additional games throughout Mexico.

Q. The Dallas Mavericks already said that they want to play again here, and the Phoenix Suns. But are there any other teams that already raise their hands to play in Mexico?
ADAM SILVER: There are other teams. I think it's not an accident that the teams located in Texas and the team located in Arizona on the border I think have a particular affinity for Mexico, and I think that they end up having more fans in the Mexican market.

Having said that, absolutely. When we have discussions among our owners, it's very different than the old days. This is my 25th year at the NBA, the same anniversary as when we started playing in Mexico. In my earlier days at the league, it was like being in class when we would ask for volunteers to travel overseas; people would put their heads down. David Stern would call on somebody who was looking down.

I think now it's very different. When we ask for volunteers to travel, whether it's to Mexico or it's to China or I've had teams now ask about going to the Middle East, and we have an owner from India, Vivek Ranadivé, who would like to take his team to Mumbai. So now the owners like to travel. I spoke to some of the players who were warming up before this press conference, and they enjoy traveling as well.

As I said, when I was in London for the game two days ago, the Denver Nuggets, five of their players are from Europe. It was like a homecoming for them. Part of it will be developing additional NBA-caliber players from Mexico. But the owners like to travel, and again, teams are interested in coming to Mexico, not just those that are located on the border. And the players love to travel.

It's really more of a challenge for the league office, to figure out logistically with an 82-game regular-season schedule, plus playoffs and a set number of days, how we can do it while maintaining a level of competition and just as importantly ensuring the health of our players, because we know travel can lead to fatigue and fatigue can lead to injuries.

So we just need to put all those things into the stew and then go back to the home office and think about how we can do a better job presenting our game on a global basis.

But thank you for the question.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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