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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 10, 2018
New York, New York
ADAM SILVER: I really appreciate all of you being here. We're in the middle of what is a very successful Summer League here in Las Vegas. This was a league that started 14 years ago, but now has 30 teams for the very first time. I've been over several times at the Thomas & Mack arena. A very engaged crowd there. Lots of team folks there as well.
We have roughly 3,000 people in town for the Summer League. Combination of league folks, team, media members and others who put on a tech fair around the Summer League as well. I was sitting with Jim Murren on Sunday -- who is the CEO of the MGM, and of course, it's the MGM Las Vegas Summer League now -- and we were saying we were accounting for 27,000 room nights now in Las Vegas in the month of July. So I feel like we have a franchise in Las Vegas right now. It's the MGM NBA Summer League, and we're thrilled with it.
We also had earlier this month two other Summer Leagues. For the first time, in Sacramento they had what they're calling the California Classic. They had four teams there over three days, and they exceeded all expectations. They had 50,000 fans there in Sacramento for that league. So hats off to Vivek RanadivĂ© and his organization. We've already begun talking to them about how we can build that into a larger event in the future. And Utah, which brought back their Summer League, had a four-team, three-day league as well, and they had roughly 35,000 people at their Summer League.
It's been fantastic from a programming standpoint. Here in Las Vegas, we're going to have 82 games in the arena, and also which will be televised on ESPN and NBA TV, and to all our global partners as well. For basketball junkies, it's been a lot of fun. We've had virtually all of our top draft picks here and many returning players as well. Of course, you see just how difficult it is to make this league when you see how much talent there is out on the floor.
I just came this afternoon from our NBA Board of Governors meeting here at the Wynn hotel. We had very productive meetings. Happy to answer questions about what was discussed. We talked about competition, largely. We talked about the Supreme Court decision on gaming and what that means for the league. We talked about our Basketball Operations department. Byron Spruell talked about development on the officiating side. As you might imagine, the owners were very focused on the competitive landscape as well, so I'd say we had a very robust discussion on that.
Lastly, I'll just say before I answer questions, that I couldn't be more encouraged about where we are as a league. We came off a fantastic season. Two seven-game Conference Finals for the first time in almost 40 years. A hard-fought Finals. Again, congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on their championship, the Cleveland Cavaliers for being in The Finals and, of course, LeBron for being in eight consecutive Finals. It's a remarkable accomplishment.
Having said that, there is work to be done. I think there is even more we can do to improve the competitive landscape in this league. It's something that we will continue to talk about, together with our Labor Relations committee, which is chaired by Michael Jordan. We had a meeting this morning discussing some of the competitive issues. I'd say we've been very engaged with the Players Association, and I think we have a particularly productive relationship with them.
And I believe at the end of the day, they have the same interest we do in creating the best competition possible. 450 of the best basketball players in the world, and they all want to compete for championships too.
I don't have anything precise in mind, other than engaging with the Players Association, talking about how we can improve things. There is always the next collective bargaining agreement. But I think in addition we've developed a certain rapport with the Players Association where I feel we can talk about anything at any time.
Again, there's a lot of goodwill on both sides of the table, and I think that's what leads to strong relationships. With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Q. I wondered if you could talk about what Michael brings to that job, chairing the Labor Relations Committee. Also, I was curious if there was anything particularly new with the preparations for All-Star weekend in Charlotte?
ADAM SILVER: It's so unique to have Michael Jordan as the chair of your Labor Relations Committee. I think first of all, it says so much about this league that Michael Jordan is a principal governor/owner in this league. I think that there's no doubt that so many players look up to him.
I think many of our current class of superstars look across the table and think that's where I want to be one day, in addition to having been a great player. The opportunity to be a majority owner of a team or partner of a team is something I think a lot of them think about. So he brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions with an owner.
Also, even when it's discussions just among owners, he's able to represent a player point of view. When owners are going into discussions with players, Michael is able to say, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues that we need to address if we're going to convince players that this is something that's in everyone's interest.
I think he's particularly thoughtful on these issues. Again, he has such a unique perspective. And I think when you have one of the greatest ever, who sort of evolved from one of the best players into being an NBA owner, I can't think of any other precedent for that in sports.
In terms of All-Star weekend, spending a lot of time with the Hornets' organization. Of course with Fred Whitfield and Michael as well, and just how to make it into a spectacular event. We want to make sure that we do things that are unique for North Carolina and for Charlotte. And I'd say there is a lot of excitement around the league, building toward that weekend.
Q. You alluded to it in your opening remarks, but can you update us on what the discussion was about the Supreme Court decision on gambling, what the owners feel about the potential for that is? And since you last spoke to us at the Finals has there been anything new with the progress toward that 1 percent benchmark I know you all are hoping for?
ADAM SILVER: Sure, there was a duel presentation. One was on the state of the law and what's happening across the country. There's roughly 20 states in some stage of passing legalized sports betting. So there was a state-by-state update on where those things stand and what the particular law will mean to the NBA. Related to that is the so-called integrity fee or royalty that the league has talked about. Frankly, it's not a place we've made a lot of progress. It's one of the issues we're talking to states about.
We're also very focused on how the data will be used and how we can protect the integrity of the league. We've made more progress on some of those other issues.
I'll say, I mentioned this during the Finals, that in addition to working with the state legislatures, we're also talking directly to the gaming establishments about entering into commercial deals. And you know, we were asked our view in that legislation. It wasn't something we were promoting. My preference all along has been to have consistent federal framework, but the extent that states were asking our opinion, we were offering it.
My view is we should be compensated for our intellectual property, but we can do that directly, again, with commercial relationships with gaming establishments. Even while I've been in town the last few days, I've had some discussions with some of the operators here about that.
So that's where things stand. I think in addition to the legal presentation, we had a presentation on what we see are the commercial opportunities. When we look out into the future in terms of how our broadcasts will look, I think it opens up a lot of possibilities in terms of how potentially gaming opportunities will be integrated into telecasts. But there's a lot of issues around that -- how, exactly, our broadcasters will present that information. We need to be mindful, again, of who our audience is. Young people watching games. How directly we, as a league, should be in that business. There's a lot of issues on the table, I should say.
But we have a lot of business talent in the room with our governors. Whether it's Tilman Fertitta, who is in the casino business himself, or Dan Gilbert or Steve Ballmer, based on his background in terms of technology, Ted Leonsis, I could go on and on, Jim Dolan. There are people who are in the media business who also understand how big data works, understand how gaming relationships work, and given that we have our long-term television relationships.
It's more us saying as an ownership group, let's step back and really study these issues and try to understand them and see what the best ultimate consumer experience can be, and at the same time balanced against protecting the integrity of the league.
Q. You talked a little bit earlier about the Summer Leagues. From that, free agency and the draft, you've been in the news a lot. How important is that for the league to be so relevant this time of year? And how much did you borrow from the NFL as far as encroaching on the whole calendar?
ADAM SILVER: I begin by saying we borrow from everyone. Thank you. We learn from other leagues. We watch what they do. We watch what other entertainment organizations do.
We're thrilled. I don't like to necessarily measure it being in the news. That's not always so positive. But we think that it's been largely positive that people are following the league. They're fascinated with the draft and the next class of players coming in, and player movement as well. We're seeing with the Summer Leagues -- again now with 30 teams and looking at the ratings on ESPN and NBA TV, you see clearly there is a big audience out there who just loves basketball. Loves seeing this next group of players coming into the league. Loves the social media chatter. Whether it's where players are moved to or what the impact is going to be, and how they're spending their summer.
On top of that, we have discussion about what the G League should look like. I should mention we have a WNBA team here in Las Vegas, of course, the Aces. There's been a lot of interest in that team as well.
I'd say from a business and basketball standpoint, we really love it. We love the engagement. I recognize that some of it is outside of our control. You happened to hit a particular news cycle or, obviously, LeBron being a free agent is going to be a big deal to sports fans everywhere, even casual fans. We're enjoying it.
Q. Michele Roberts told us today that competitive balance is not a concern of the union's, and she said she'd be surprised if she got a phone call from you sort of identifying it as an issue. But it came up in June when people wondered about the same two teams playing in four straight Finals, and it's come up now with free agency and some of the places that talent has gone. Can you characterize where it stands? I know you talked about it a little bit in your opening remarks, and how some of the owners feel?
ADAM SILVER: Sure. Michele is not going to get a call from me complaining about competitive balance. I accept her point of view. It's not necessarily her issue. I think it's on me and our Labor Relations Committee, ultimately, to sit with the players and their committee and convince them that their may be a better way of doing things. By that, meaning change ultimately in the collective bargaining agreement.
Collective bargaining agreements are contracts like any others. They have expirations, or you could a mend them as you go. So I'm not here to say we have a problem. And I love where the league is right now. But as I said earlier, I think we can create a better system.
We learn from each successive deal. We try new things. We make predictions about how caps and exceptions will work. We have great economists who come in on our side of the table. The union does as well. But it's not a perfect science in trying to predict the behavior of our teams, and things change in the marketplace as well. So I don't necessarily think it's per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant. As I've said before, we're not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity. And a fair point could be made in the tax system when certain teams are spending significantly more than others that that's not parity of opportunity.
And also certain teams have advantages that other teams don't based on the resources in the market, the wealth of the market, and they may be in a position to go deeper into the tax than another team does.
Dynasties are nothing new in this league. There is a long history of it. I also think it's hard to make comparisons to other sports because in the NBA where superstar players are on the floor roughly 80 percent of the time, obviously play offense and defense, there are only four other teammates on the floor, they can be that much more dominant than even a great quarterback that is only on the field half the time and has many more teammates. Or a great NHL player who is on the ice roughly 30% of the time.
So there are unique issues. Even as I said during the Finals, LeBron had 59 different teammates over eight years. So we recognize that great players, superstar players, are going to have a unique ability to impact games. But having said that, there are changes we could make to the system that I think will create more competitive balance and more equality of opportunity, and those are things we look at.
The discussion in the room, again, people weren't coming in necessarily complaining, but as good business people do, they're looking out to the future and saying how can we improve things? And what I point out is because we have a respectful, productive relationship with Michele, with Chris Paul and the rest of the Players Association, that everybody is saying to each other we're happy to talk about these issues. Let's model it. Let's look at other ways of doing it.
As I said, I recognize what Michele's saying. But at the same time, if you talk to players in the league, and I've talked to plenty of individual players as well, they want to be in the most competitive league possible too.
But let me make clear that under the current system right now we want teams to compete like crazy. So I think the Warriors within the framework of this deal should be doing everything they can to increase their dominance. That's what you want to see in a league. You want teams to compete in every way they can within the rules. And if it makes sense to make some adjustments in the rules next time, we'll look at that.
Q. Did the Competition Committee or the owners discuss anything about the playoff format, about maybe altering that a little bit? And is there any update on the eligibility rules for 2021, or the one-and-done rule? And one more question. There are more women officiating here at Summer League, and I know that was part of an initiative that you wanted to see more women in addition to coaching ranks and officiating. I was wondering how soon you might expect to see more women officiating at the NBA level as well?
ADAM SILVER: In terms of women moving into officiating ranks, we're thrilled that roughly 50 percent of the officials here in training camp are women. [EDITORâ€™S NOTE: 19 of the 81 referees working the Las Vegas Summer League are women; however, roughly 50 percent of new hires in the G League for the upcoming season are expected to be women.] It's what you like to see -- women are, of course, 50 percent of the population. We have, I think, 19 women here in training camp. And we're pleased to see, of course, we had two women out on the floor the other night for one of the games. It's a process bringing women into the officiating ranks, getting more women, ultimately, as NBA officials.
The way the development works now is all our current officials move through the G League before they come into the NBA. We expect to have higher, significant numbers of women into the G League development path coming out of the Summer League this fall. So it takes a little bit of time. But to me, it's a bit embarrassing that we only have one working woman in our officiating ranks right now. There is no physical reason why that's the case. It's just the way things have grown up in the league, but we're determined to change that as quickly as possible. Byron Spruell and Michelle Johnson and Monty McCutchen have gone out and really doubled down on the recruitment of women into the officiating ranks, to point out what a great profession this could be for people. And we're seeing those results.
You had two other questions. So the one on the age limit. We did discuss that, both with the Labor Relations Committee and with the Board. The sense was we should be engaging with the Players Association on the minimum age to come into the NBA. We presented the pros and cons on going from 19 to 18. In conjunction with that presentation, we discussed a lot about the development of younger players prior to them coming into the professional ranks.
We've had several discussions with both the NCAA and USA Basketball about engaging with them, with players beginning roughly at 14 years old, and especially with those elite players who we know statistically have a high likelihood when they're identified at that age of being top-tier players coming into the league.
So I think the next step will be to sit down with the Players Association. Of course, it has to be collectively bargained if we're going to lower the age. That's something we'll begin to discuss with them.
My personal view is that we're ready to make that change. That it won't come immediately. When I've weighed the pros and cons, given that Condoleezza Rice and her commission has recommended to the NBA that those one-and-done players now come directly into the league, and in essence the college community is saying we do not want those players anymore, that sort of tips the scale in my mind that we should be taking a serious look at lowering our age to 18.
The other issue, in terms of the seeding of the playoffs, it's a discussion we've had with our Board before. We continued it today. I've said before that the most significant obstacle to seeding 1 through 16, as appealing as that would be to me and a lot of fans, is the dramatic increase in travel that would follow.
Our estimates are if we seed 1 through 16 in the playoffs, we could be looking at roughly 40 to 50 percent more travel. And it would affect teams disproportionately. Those on the coasts would travel more than those in the middle of the country.
We've spent a lot of time in the last few years trying to reduce the number of back-to-backs, to reduce the amount of fatigue on players based on crossing time zones. So obviously, if we were to make that change, it would work in the other direction. It doesn't mean we can't, but it's not something we could do quickly because it would require a wholesale reexamination of how we do the schedule. How our television deal works in terms of the spacing of the games in the playoffs.
So we're going to look at it. I think it has a real appeal to ownership, and I know it does to fans. It's just not such an easy thing to implement.
Q. Regarding the competitive balance issue, are there any ideas in particular that have resonated with you that could be realistic proposals on that front?
ADAM SILVER: No new ideas. As I mentioned during the Finals, we have a very soft cap right now. I think the question is are there ways to enhance competition based on creating more sort of a level playing field in terms of number of chips each team has, and whether the certain changes we made would increase competition around the league.
Those are the kinds of models we're going to continue to look at. But I'm open to other ideas as well.
I'm sure once we sit down with the Players Association, and again with our Labor Relations Committee -- generally we've brought in outside experts to look at those kind of issues. As I've said, we've modeled these things in the past, and it doesn't always work out the way you predict. But I'm fairly confident if we put the best basketball minds to work here, that we can do more to create more competition leaguewide.
Q. Two questions, different in tone. On a lighter note, have you guys considered and how close are you to considering moving the start of free agency from, I don't know, midnight to let's say 6, 7 p.m.? Just considering sort of all the attention and television and everything else around it. And then more seriously, I'd love an update on where the Mavericks' investigation stands?
ADAM SILVER: On the first issue, in terms of when free agency begins, I've not only heard from my friends in the media, but as I get older and the people I grew up in the NBA get older, I think we're all tired of all-nighters. What I've heard from, again, several of my colleagues at teams are does this really need to be at midnight? I think that's something that we'd need to find agreement on with the Players Association. But I think we could change for next year.
It's one of those things that everybody looks at each other and says why has it always been that way? It's unclear. It's just always been at midnight. But putting aside the impact on the working media, I think there is so much interest in it. Clearly, if it were happening at a more reasonable time, it would be better for coverage.
But, again, I think also is it maybe was kind of fun in the old days scheduling the meetings at midnight or something else. But I think we're past that. I expect a change for next season.
In terms of the Mavericks' investigation, the last report I got, which was very recent, was they expect to complete the investigation by the end of this month, by the end of July.
Q. Have you had a chance to visit with Sterling Brown since you've been here, and what are your latest thoughts about his situation? There was also a Facebook post that was pretty disturbing from some of the cops as well.
ADAM SILVER: No, I haven't had a chance to see Sterling since I've been here in the last few days. My view hasn't changed. I saw that Facebook post. Not only was it shocking to see, but I was surprised that the police chief came out and said that he hadn't seen it either. So I don't really understand what happened there and how that came to be.
It is something that we'll continue to look at. I don't have any more words to express how disheartening it is to see. I'll maybe just conclude by saying I'm still incredibly proud of the work that our players are doing in this area, not just the Brown family, but how many of our players are engaged with social activism, in a very constructive way, focused on what we can do to improve our communities.
I think with so much negativity around, I look at this league, and other sports leagues too, and other athletes, I think people are looking to the NBA and to other institutions like ours to say is there a way to come together to really try to solve problems. And I think this league is in a unique position to add in a very constructive way to the conversation that our country is having.
It's been a long tradition in this league. Our players now, the ones who are in the league, and even as I spent the day with the draft class that came in, it's part of their DNA. They come into this league with sort of eyes wide open. They understand the platform and the attention that being an NBA player provides to them, and they want to do good.
I think as tragic as that situation is -- and as you know, the Bucks are very focused on it as well -- how can we use that as an opportunity to draw attention on that issue in the first instance, and then work toward positive change.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports