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NBA MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 11, 2018
New York, New York
ADAM SILVER: Welcome, everyone. I'm pleased to be here. This is the 25th anniversary of when we first played games in London. It's about the same length of time that I've been working at the NBA, so I was here 25 years ago for that game. Of course, it wasn't at The O2 Arena. We've been playing games here for roughly eight years, and we've been playing regular-season games. So we're thrilled to be bringing two teams for, of course, a regular season match tonight.
A few thank-yous are in order. First of all, to the Celtics' organization, to Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, their managing partners, who were able to make the trip, along with their coaches and their staff. It means a lot to us that the entire organization was able to come over for the trip.
From the 76ers, Josh Harris, David Blitzer. Both of them are regularly in London for business, but they're here as well with their organizations. And again, from the NBA standpoint, the fact that these organizations have both embraced this trip means a lot.
Both teams have been in the market for approximately three full days. It's given them the opportunity to participate in clinics and NBA Cares events. Most of the players had the opportunity to take in the Chelsea-Arsenal match last night, and in addition do some shopping and get around town. I have had an opportunity to interact with several of the players, many of whom had not been to London before, and I can tell you they're all having a great time but also realize that tonight's game, of course, is an important regular-season game for both teams. We're looking forward to terrific competition.
I also want to thank our longtime partner AEG for hosting tonight's game, of course with The O2. This is a fantastic arena. It's the equivalent of an NBA arena back home. I think once the game starts the players feel it's very much the usual conditions in which they play games. Also, Nike is our presenting sponsor, so thank you very much to Nike as well.
Lastly, I just want to say that I had the opportunity to participate in a Jr. NBA clinic with John Amaechi, an NBA legend and one of our few British players, together with Dikembe Mutombo and Andre Miller. It was great to see them out on the floor, and I can say for the young boys and girls, it meant the world to them to be out there with these former NBA players.
And our partners in Basketball England, we announced that we are expanding our Jr. NBA program with them. We're reaching thousands of young boys and girls now, and we hope to reach additionally thousands more young boys and girls. We realize that the ability to introduce them to a game at a young age makes all the difference in terms of the values of our sport and a team game like basketball, talking about fitness, talking about discipline, talking about leadership, all the great qualities that come with playing sports. So that's part of why we're here as well, and as I said, we're looking forward to doing a lot more with Basketball England over the years.
With that, I'm happy to answer any questions that you have.
Q. Have you any concerns about this fractious relationship that FIBA has with your league and other areas in the game at the moment, and is there anything that you guys have done to keep that line of players continuing to play for national teams in international competitions?
ADAM SILVER: I do have concerns about that fractious relationship. We are in touch with both camps, so to speak, in terms of the EuroLeague, and we are a member in good standing of FIBA. It's not something that we like to see. We're somewhat on the sidelines in terms of that controversy, and we recognize that there's an awkwardness to the extent that the NBA seems to live under a different set of rules, and it seems to be just the reality of our league and the situation that we find ourselves in in terms of our players frankly not leaving for midseason breaks.
All I can say is it's our hope that they work those issues out. From a larger basketball standpoint, we recognize in order for the sport to continue to grow in Europe, you need more than a strong NBA. You need strong country leagues. You need strong pan-regional operations, similar to the EuroLeague. And you need strong national teams. All of those things are important. But I also feel we're very much outsiders to that dispute. As big a footprint as we have as the NBA, the politics are beyond complicated from my standpoint, even though, as I said, I've been with the NBA for 25 years. I've been an observer of it for a long time.
One of the members who's actively engaged in that dispute happened to say to me today, The two World Wars were started in Europe. I smiled, but I only said, Let's find a way to bring peace in the land and find a way to resolve these disputes, because ultimately just in the same way we're working with Basketball England and working with our junior programs here, it's important for the youth in the markets that they see strong national teams, it's important that they see strong club play just like we see with football here. If there's more of a role we can play, we're happy to do that. Mark Tatum, our deputy commissioner of the NBA, is here. He's a board member of FIBA. We know all the people involved, and we'd like to see the dispute worked out.
But I will also say we believe in national team competition. We know that's important as well. I can tell you from many of the international players who participate in the NBA, they have told me but for strong national team programs, they might never have gotten involved in the sport when they were younger. That's where things stand.
Q. There's been a couple of months now so that people can settle in with the idea of the sponsorships on uniforms. Do you consider it at this point to be a success, and do you see any further developments?
ADAM SILVER: I do consider these jersey sponsorships to be a success. It's interesting, when we first announced it, there were some predicting dire consequences for the league. I think, frankly, most people hardly notice it at this point, certainly when they're in the arenas, because unless you see the close-up television shot of the jerseys, it's not something that's even all that noticeable.
I will say it's had the desired impact in that roughly two-thirds of our teams now have partnerships with their jerseys, and we have over a dozen companies that had no prior relationship with the NBA now engaged with our teams. And in addition to the revenue opportunities that it creates for the NBA and the opportunity for us to invest more in growing the sport, it means that those companies that weren't previously invested in the NBA are also invested in partnering with us and marketing the sport.
So we think it's been successful, and we'll see where it goes. I think my sense is that roughly the third of NBA teams that don't have those partnerships now are also in various states of conversations with companies about potentially also doing similar deals.
Q. I'd like to ask about some of the tensions going on between players and refs lately, a two-part question. One is do you think that the current fines in place for players criticizing refs are enough of a deterrent for them? And two, are you listening to the players' complaints? Are you evaluating the refs? Are you considering changing anything going on with the refs?
ADAM SILVER: I'd say I'm listening to the players' complaints, but I'm also listening to the referees' complaints. And I'd say that although it seems to be getting a fair amount of attention at the moment, we've looked back at the data that we have from over the years. There haven't been a greater number of ejections or a greater number of technicals. There's nothing aberrational happening in terms of the calls being made on the floor.
But it's something that people are talking about. I recognize that. We have a small enough league where I think it's about building relationships. I know that it's been reported that a group of players are planning to get together with a group of officials at the All-Star break. I hope that really does happen, and I think the notion there is these are all important constituent groups in the league. They're all stakeholders, and to the extent that a few members of the players' executive board can meet with a few members of the officials' executive board and try to understand each other's perspective, I think that will be helpful.
I don't think it's a function of raising fines. I think we recognize that the fines -- while nobody likes to lose the money, in many ways they're almost more symbolic than anything when you have players as wealthy as they are. I wouldn't want people to be making that calculus that it's worth it this much to say something about the referee and to bring additional gamesmanship into it. I think ultimately it's more important that through relationships we convince players that it's not the best way to proceed. There's an element of sportsmanship, too, in how you treat other members of the NBA family. And by the way, the referees have to have the same understanding.
We're dealing with human beings, and people lose their cool under pressure at times. We have doubled down on our training of our officials. We have several new people in place. Monty McCutchen, who is our No. 1-rated official, just came off the floor to lead referee development, and part of it is to work on additional training for our officials so they can deal with those difficult circumstances.
I'll say nothing has really changed in terms of that dynamic other than there's just so much more scrutiny than there used to be. Every bit of audio is captured now. Every single moment that happens on the floor is captured in high-definition video. And it's amplified in ways we didn't see historically. There really aren't any private moments.
But I think it's something that's fixable, and we can improve. But it's not about amping up the fines; it's about improving the relationships and improving everybody's understanding for people who are just trying to do their jobs.
Q. Given the huge number of Australians playing in the NBA and the increasing number of students participating in the NCAA competitions, would there be any plans to perhaps bring an NBA game over to Australia?
ADAM SILVER: We've thought about bringing a game to Australia. It's amazing what your country is doing in terms of developing NBA players. As you said, what are we, roughly a dozen Australians playing in the NBA right now. The issue is that the resources involved in bringing teams across the world are so great that it's not -- I wish it were a little bit larger market from a scale standpoint it terms of bringing a game. I'm not ruling it out, and there may be alternatives to bringing a game that make more sense. For example, our players are increasingly traveling in the summers, doing camps, doing clinics, doing appearances. It may be that we look to maybe create some other types of events.
So I don't want to over-promise and suggest that we're going to get to Australia all that soon with a game. I would love to do it, and in a way I would love to reward the system you have in Australia for producing so many great players. I'm not ruling it out, but it's probably not going to happen in the near future.
Q. Could we expect to see an NBA Global Game in Africa since we already have the NBA Africa Game?
ADAM SILVER: Well, the distinction you're making between the games we've been doing in Africa -- we've had two games in the summer with a collection of players and top coaches as opposed to I think a Global Game, which is really the moniker we've been using for our preseason and regular-season games. Of course with Africa, if you look at it as the continent and close to a billion people, there may be some opportunity that exists across Africa that maybe is bigger over time than in Australia.
But the plus in coming in the summer is that when we've done those games, two out of the last three summers in conjunction with Basketball without Borders, it's been a week of activities. We've done those games, of course, in Johannesburg. We've had clinics with young boys and girls in the morning. We've done NBA Cares activities in the afternoon. The players have had an opportunity to go sightseeing and engage in other ways in the community. It seems that while it's not the equivalent of a game with two NBA teams playing each other, we actually think we're bringing more value by doing all those different activities over a week than just coming for a discrete game.
The issue becomes whether it's the preseason or the regular season, our schedules become so compressed that it's difficult to do a lot more than come practice, play and leave. In the foreseeable future, I still think it makes the most sense to come over and play those games in the summer, where we can build in a lot more activity than just doing more of a typical game.
Q. Is organizing such events in Paris something that you would consider, and if the answer is yes, do you think that it can happen soon?
ADAM SILVER: In Paris, of course, we've played preseason games before, and you have a state-of-the-art arena in Bercy that is also operated by AEG, our host here. So in fact, prior to this press conference, when we met with the folks from AEG, we talked a little bit about Paris and the opportunity to go there.
I know that in terms of logistics and travel, especially from the East Coast, it's not that much different than coming to London. Paris is something we would look at. We have, of course, a very strong fan base in France and throughout Europe. What we've seen when we play a game like we are here in London, especially when we do one during the season, we've even come internally to refer to it sometimes as our Europe All-Star Game because, while it's wonderful to have the Celtics and 76ers, two teams that are rivals, my sense is many people mark their calendar for this game regardless of the teams that are playing. And it's an opportunity, just as it is with the media that covers us, for the greater NBA family to all to come together at an event in Europe. I think we could do something similar in Paris to what we're doing here in London.
Q. I'm afraid I have to ask a similar question here. Are there any plans --
ADAM SILVER: Yes, yes, yes.
Q. -- to bring the NBA back to Berlin?
ADAM SILVER: So again, you happen to have in Berlin another AEG-operated facility and another state-of-the-art arena. And I've had the good fortune, also, in my years at the NBA to be in Berlin several times and also to accompany NBA teams who have played in the O2 facility there as well.
Berlin is a city, again, that we are focused on. Germany, as well, is a great NBA market. I don't have a specific calendar to offer in terms of when we would be coming back, but it's a city that we will continue to look at.
Q. What are your thoughts on LaVar Ball's two sons coming to play in Lithuania and that as a route to the NBA as opposed to the traditional route?
ADAM SILVER: I'm not sure, is my answer. Other than some media coverage, I can't say I understand the situation all that well, where they are in their development as players.
I know that it's something that we as the NBA are continuing to look at, and that is what is the best way to develop top-tier players to potentially play in the NBA or other professional leagues. I know that when we look at the development of American players, especially compared to even our international players that play in the NBA, many of those players, our international players, began playing professionally at a much younger age than they do in the NBA. It seems that in the NBA, the dispute is largely about whether we should be at 19 or 20 or 19 or 18, yet so many of our international players that I talk to in essence left home at 14, became part of academy systems, made it professionally at 16.
In terms of the Ball family, that's an individual family decision presumably they made with their parents and decided what was most appropriate for them. But I think the larger issue in terms of player development is something that we're very focused on as a league and looking at what is the optimal way to develop top-tier players over time. It's why we're increasing our Jr. NBA programs and our Academy programs all around the world.
Q. We've seen changes to the All-Star Game. We've seen changes for the draft, for free agency. What's your take about the playoffs and maybe some other formats? We've seen maybe not some complaints about last year because we're not going to change every year, obviously, but what's your take on the NBA about maybe new formats about the Playoffs?
ADAM SILVER: My take on the format for the playoffs, so to your point, we've gotten a lot of questions and comments over the past few years as to whether the way we currently do our seeding -- top eight in the East, top eight in the West -- makes the most sense.
It's interesting, the focus has usually been on a team that potentially doesn't make the playoffs who let's say was the ninth-best team in the West in the sense that they would have been better than the eighth team in the East. When we look at the numbers, while there may be a bit of unfairness there to a team, the issue is not as pronounced as you might think it is. To me, the bigger issue is once you have the top 16 teams, does it make sense to seed them West versus East, or should you be doing 1 through 16, so truly the two best teams meet each other in The Finals.
The logistics to us so far are that we're not convinced it makes sense to make that change, given that in the U.S. it could potentially mean you have teams crisscrossing the country in the first round of the playoffs. That's largely the reason we haven't done it yet. In fact, in the last few years in particular, we've spent more time trying to build in additional rest in the schedule, reducing the number of back-to-backs, the four games out of five nights, and trying to optimize our schedule so there's not as much travel.
Having said that, it's something we continue to look at. To me, like the imbalance of the West and East, it seems to be working itself out now; you have the East stronger now this season than maybe even some would have predicted.
But ultimately, the league is about the competition. We play a long regular season building up to the playoffs, and I think from a fan standpoint, you want to see the very best teams meeting at the end of the season. For that reason, it's something we're going to continue to look at.
I'm not convinced yet we're ready to make the change, but as we experiment with changes in the schedule -- we added the week this year, and we're seeing what the results are from that. It may mean it's worth adding a few more days in the playoffs potentially if that would allow for additional travel. There's the worst-case scenario of a team traveling from Portland to Miami for the first round, but that's also statistically not all that likely to happen all the time.
So we are focused on it.
Q. Going back to Berlin, Paris, are you considering bringing an additional regular-season game to Europe, similar to what the NFL is doing with London where they play three games?
ADAM SILVER: We're considering bringing additional games to Europe. I will say that we're so different than the NFL in a sport that plays once a week. It's just the logistical challenges for us are so much greater. Just in bringing these two teams for this one game, both teams stopped playing in the States roughly five days before today. Both teams will have roughly three days off when they get back. The issue for those teams is, and this is why we're so appreciative of them coming, is there are a certain number of days in the schedule, and when you build some buffer around this game in the middle of the season, it requires compressing the schedule in other parts of the season. And the more teams we bring, the more scheduling difficulties we have.
We would love to do it. This game, as you all know, sold out in less than an hour, and the reason it even took 52 minutes was the limitation of technology in terms of how fast people could enter their credit cards and buy the tickets. We could easily sell out two games, three games, four games. The tickets, as I'm sure if you look, if you go online to the secondary market, the tickets are selling as high as our tickets are priced. We're not proud of this, but then when they go on to the secondary market, people are charging four and five times what they paid us for them.
The demand is there and the interest is there. It's really more a question of our schedule and whether we can make it work. Again, just as I said in response to the last question, it may mean that we should look at potentially adding some days to the season. Maybe we should be looking to do some different things with our preseason and shortening that and adding a few more days to the regular season. I would love to do it, but still, we have the same logistical challenges. We will continue to look at it.
Q. What can you say about the new All-Star format and the comments about not broadcasting the draft of the teams? And to follow up on those city questions, what about Istanbul?
ADAM SILVER: The answer to your second question is I love Istanbul. I've been to many NBA games in Istanbul. I've been to the World Championships in Istanbul. And we hope to be back to Istanbul.
In terms of the new All-Star format, I'm very encouraged by it. I appreciate the fact that the players have embraced it. As I mentioned yesterday, it's surprising there's been so much focus on the draft because we thought, What an incredible accomplishment. We went to the Players Association, to Chris Paul, who is the president of the players' union, and they were the first to say we need to create more excitement around this All-Star Game, so let's instead of just having East play West, let's pick teams, let's mix the players up a little bit. We're sure there will be an explosion of interest on social media not just by the fans but by the players who will be excited by these new combinations of players playing each other. It never even really was a focus as to whether the so-called draft of those players should be televised.
That, of course, has become an issue. I understand the sensitivity of the players. When you're drafting teams, you're drafting for the long term. When you're choosing a team, you're putting together a combination of players that make the most sense for that game. And so the order in which you pick those players isn't necessarily representative of who the best players are in order, and we can understand how, though, then fans could look at that selection and there could be a sense of, Oh, I can't believe that guy was picked fifth instead of first or second or whatever else.
I like the fact that people are talking about it and talking about the draft. I won't be surprised that if all the media in this room, once those teams are selected, that you spend a lot of your time trying to get from the captains exactly who they picked in what order. Maybe there will be some fun around that. And maybe over time we can build on this concept and there will be a televised draft. But we're pretty pleased with the starting point that we're approaching it in a new way, and we'll let the captains pick the teams and then we'll go from there.
But most importantly, I'm really excited about this new format.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports