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September 28, 2017

Adam Silver

New York, New York

ADAM SILVER: I appreciate all of you being here today. We just concluded two days of productive meetings with our Board of Governors. The Board approved new rules regarding the resting of healthy players. Changes to the draft lottery, which reduce the odds of the teams with the worst records from getting the top picks. And we elected Toronto owner Larry Tanenbaum as our new Chairman of the Board. I want to thank, again, Glen Taylor, our outgoing Chairman of the Board, who has served for roughly seven years and did a fantastic job.

Finally, we had what I thought was a very constructive discussion about current events and their impact on our league and our players. Let me say, I'm extraordinarily proud of our players. They've always found ways to make meaningful change in their communities and to work toward social justice. There's been a long tradition of that in the NBA.

We continue to work with our teams, with our Players Association and with individual players to develop programs to work directly in our communities. We did that last year. We conducted a series of meetings, for example, with police chiefs and youth organizations and communities throughout the league. And we'll continue to do that this year. With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.

Q. Going off that last part, there will be games soon. Have you guys had any discussion about any expectation of what your players may or may not be allowed to do, may want to do? Just for a general sense, you guys, the league and a lot of players have a great relationship with the White House and the last President. How do you feel about what's happened now? Do you guys feel like you can still have that again or is it written off for the next few years?
ADAM SILVER: I'm not sure. It's disheartening to me to see so much disunity in our society. I think that sports historically, and in the NBA in particular, has been a unifying force. While there's always been disagreements in society, sports arenas have been places where people from all walks of life have come together and for a common experience.

When it comes to political disagreements, I would hope that we, the league, together with our players, can play a constructive role in bringing people together. As Coach [Gregg] Popovich said the other day, people need to engage and have these discussions, and they're not always easy discussions to have. Sometimes they are painful discussions, but they need to be had.

I'm hoping once again that this league can play a constructive role there.

On the anthem specifically, we have a rule that requires our players to stand for the anthem. It's been a rule as long as I've been involved with the league, and my expectation is that our players will continue to stand for the anthem.

Again, to me, it's a unique issue in this league because 25 percent of our players are not American. But it's always been an opportunity in our arenas for both teams to come together and have a moment of reflection. Clearly for the non-American players, it's not necessarily a moment of patriotism for the United States, but it's about respect. It's about respect for the country they play in. It's about respect for the principles that underlie this country. It doesn't necessarily mean that everyone agrees at any given point with what's happening in their country.

Again, as I said, it's my hope that our players will continue to use that as a moment of unity. For example, last year many of our teams locked arms during the anthem, which I felt was a respectful show of unity. Many of our players have spoken out already about their plan to stand for the anthem. And I think they understand how divisive an issue it is in our society right now.

But let me say these are highly complex and nuanced issues. One of the core principles of this country is freedom of expression as well. It is my hope, though, that with NBA players, that given the platform that they have, whether it's the regular engagement they have with the media, whether it's social media, whether it's other opportunities they have to work in the communities, that they have those opportunities for their voices to be heard. Then to act on those voices, meaning to engage in constructive activity in their communities, as they always have.

Q. If a player or a team decides not to stand for the anthem, will there be a penalty? And if so, what will that be?
ADAM SILVER: All I can say is if that were to happen, we'll deal with it when it happens.

Q. Why was lottery reform right for the league right now?
ADAM SILVER: I felt lottery reform was important because there was a perception in many of our communities that the best path to rebuilding their teams was to race to the bottom. I don't necessarily agree that that's the optimal strategy to create a great team, but it became currency in this league. So much so that there were situations in many of our team communities where the team felt under pressure to engage in that strategy, even when they didn't think that was the best strategy to build their team.

In addition, there is no question that the analytics were suggesting that a plausible strategy was to be bad. Not to suggest they were intentionally losing games, but to be bad. To trade away otherwise very serviceable players and embark on a strategy that requires them to, in essence, field poor teams, which they believed would give them the best chance to improve over the long term. I felt it was corrosive to this league.

What we did was a compromise, in effect. I think what we've put in place is far from perfect. I think what it does is it flattens the odds among the worst-performing teams going into the lottery. So there is no longer an incentive to try to calibrate between the worst record and the second-worst record, and the second-worst record and the third-worst record. But at the same time it recognizes that poor-performing teams do need to get high draft picks as a legitimate way to rebuild their team.

So I think it's a combination of perception, but substance too. That there was too great an incentive for teams to embark on that strategy under the current odds.

Q. You started off by talking about how the lottery odds will be lessened for the teams with the worst records, and the whole philosophy of a draft is that the neediest teams get help. I'm wondering, was there any discussion of somehow monitoring or addressing this in real time as the season plays out as opposed to taking away the brass ring at the back end of the season?
ADAM SILVER: We do monitor it as the season plays out. But I think you know we're talking about seasonlong strategies in certain cases toward rebuilding teams. So I think clearly the league would step in if we thought there was something untoward happening. But, again, I think we were looking holistically to sort of change incentives, rather than just look particularly at a given game, if that's what you're suggesting.

Q. Just to follow up on the question about the anthem and things. This week you had a top player who said that people who voted for the current President made a mistake or were not educated at the time they voted. You have a coach who suggested that a large percentage of what has to be your fan base has an inherent bias based on their race. I'm just wondering, given that 16 of the 30 teams operate in states that were carried by the current President, do you have business concerns in terms of alienating customers because of what is such a big gap, it seems, culturally in society?
ADAM SILVER: I have a general concern as a citizen that there's a huge gap, call it a gulf, in our society right now, and it's incredibly divisive. And I believe this league can play a role in attempting to unify people.

By the way, I should add I have a concern as an American how divided our country is. We don't live in isolation. We're a country that faces extraordinarily difficult, complex global issues, and the fact that we're so divided puts us at a huge disadvantage on the global stage.

So in terms of our players and coaches, they have the same rights as all American citizens, and there is freedom of expression in this country. Ultimately, I believe our fans respect that. I don't think our fans would ultimately want to be part of a system where there were consequences for what you're describing as, in essence, core political speech. If you look at the origins of the First Amendment, there is probably no more pure speech than that which is political.

Again, if they choose to express it, I think what's important is they do it in a way that is respectful to our fans, respectful to people. As I was saying earlier, they have these alternative platforms in which they can express their point of view.

As I said, I still believe, even though players and others will make comments occasionally that might be difficult for people to hear -- again, just to go back to Coach Popovich, I think he said there is no easy way around it. There are difficult conversations that need to be had in our society. To the extent that we can provide that platform for those difficult conversations, I truly believe that's positive for the league and society.

Q. Wading into who plays who when has to be an authority issue, and clearly with the lottery reform and going after teams on nationally televised games, but I'm wondering if a situation like Phoenix unfolded again this year, would you do anything different than last year, which was just sort of, I mean, really nothing? Would you police a team that did that any further in this coming year?
ADAM SILVER: Well, I'd say we now have a set of rules/guidelines in place that were not in place last year. So without commenting specifically on Phoenix, because every situation is different, I think you can look at our guidelines now on resting. I think to the extent players are rested, to the extent players are rested for long periods of time, I think we'll be looking to our guidelines and assessing whether those teams are acting in compliance with our rules.

The first part of your question in terms of the league office getting involved with minutes, it's an uncomfortable area for us to be in. It's not a position we want the league to be in. It ultimately is my hope that the rules go in the drawer and that teams step up here and see that there is a larger obligation to our fans, to the basketball community. It's connected to the lottery reform as well, to put their best product on the floor and create great competition.

I recognize that there are legitimate reasons for sitting down players at certain periods of time. Sometimes especially late in the season, as you guys know, there are times when they're looking at young players, they're trying to make decisions about young players going forward, they're trying to give minutes to young players when teams are no longer in a playoff race. That's why this is a very complicated area for the league to be in. So we have these new rules.

I think the owners all understood when we were discussing them that sort of the devil is in the details here in terms of how it is we will enforce them, and we're going to do our best. But my hunch is that once we see them in operation, we'll be back having additional discussions as to just the right way to calibrate it.

But at the end of the day, it comes down to our teams. It comes down to a sense of obligation our teams have toward the league that they're a part of.

Q. As such an important figure in the basketball universe, I'm curious of your reaction when you see something like this federal investigation into NCAA recruiting and do you feel, as NBA Commissioner, that something needs to change here?
ADAM SILVER: I have to say in terms of the investigation, we've been in these meetings for the last two days straight, so I know no more than what I've read in the media about those investigations. But I would say both as a fan of college basketball and of course from my capacity as Commissioner of the NBA, it's disconcerting to say the least, when you see those kind of charges being made.

I think as I step back and look more at the larger basketball community, there are things that we've been doing over the last several years to become more involved in youth basketball. I'd say at the youngest level, if you look at our Jr. NBA programs, we're trying to intersect at an earlier point in both young boys' and young girls' lives, teaching the values of the game and basic skills of the game. As these young folks are getting a little older, we've increased our participation with USA Basketball in some of these youth programs internationally. We're looking at academies. We have our Basketball without Borders programs around the world. And our development league, now known as our G League, where we allow 18-year-olds to go directly into our G League. We're going to have two-way contracts in the league this year.

I would say I've watched sort of what's been happening in college basketball, and maybe at the end of the day, it's not so surprising that the incentives become skewed. The amount of money is astronomical in terms of what's being generated by these programs, what's at stake for these young players coming into the NBA.

So, where historically it's been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations are just a reminder that we're part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball.

Q. There's been some reporting by Zach [Lowe] and others about the financial health of teams in the NBA. My question, do you feel comfortable with how healthy teams are in their markets, each market of all your teams right now?
ADAM SILVER: Yes, we're comfortable with every team and its market right now. I think I should say those financials that got leaked are just a snapshot at a moment in time. I believe those numbers that were leaked relate directly to revenue sharing, and I think mischaracterize, I would say, sort of the financial situation of some of our teams.

I would say from the league standpoint, revenue sharing, for example, looking at the financial health of a team pre-revenue sharing, to me makes no more sense than looking at the health of a team pre their national television payment. We have one holistic system in place. It's something, by the way, we spent a lot of time talking about yesterday, in terms of how revenue sharing should work and what the incentives are.

But I believe under the current system, and that includes both the salary cap and revenue sharing, that every team has an opportunity to compete at a high level. If managed appropriately, to at least break even or make a little bit of money.

Ultimately, the country changes. Populations move. So one of the things we talked about as a league is is it something we should constantly be looking at where populations are going, and always revisiting whether teams are in the right cities. But I’m very comfortable where our teams are located right now.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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