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NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE


December 13, 2018


Adam Silver


New York, New York

ADAM SILVER: Thanks very much. I appreciate you being here tonight. First of all, let me thank the teams who are participating in these Mexico City games. First of all, for the Orlando Magic, actually, they're in the back of the room there, owner Dan DeVos and his son, along with CEO Alex Martins. Of course, they're playing two games here in Mexico City and also gave up two home dates there in Orlando. Orlando Magic, thank you so much for being so supportive of the NBA and Mexico.

Next, the Chicago Bulls, of course, who are playing tonight. Michael Reinsdorf, he and his father Jerry [Reinsdorf] are the owners of the team. Michael is here, has been with his team, is also the CEO of the Chicago Bulls. Very much appreciate them being here.

And the Utah Jazz, who will be arriving tomorrow, owned by the Miller family. Again, they've been very supportive of the NBA's international efforts, and we're very thankful they made the trip as well.

I'd also like to thank our partners here in Mexico. Zignia Live, who is our partner here in the arena and has been fantastic to work with and has been our host. We have a longtime relationship, and, again, are very appreciative. And Televisa, who we announced a three-year partnership with today. They're going to carry both the games tonight and Saturday on their over-the-air -- one of their over-the-air networks. And our longtime partner ESPN is televising the games as well.

I should mention with Televisa, in addition to carrying these games, is extending and expanding their coverage of the NBA, not just additional live games, but their off-the-court coverage, highlights, magazine shows as well. We're involved in other discussions with them about expanding our footprint in Mexico, and they're a fantastic partner. So we're very appreciative.

And, of course, ESPN, who is part of the Disney Company and part of our domestic partnership in the United States, and a great partner of the Orlando Magic. We're very appreciative of all they do for their coverage of the league.

This Mexico City arena is state of the art in every way. In fact, it seems once the games start here, it's hard to tell that you're not at just a regular NBA game, which is what this is, and this is an important game for both teams. It's a regular-season game. It matters. And while they've had an opportunity to enjoy the city and be involved in some other activities, they're here to play a game, and they understand that.

This arena has everything you could want in a state-of-the-art arena, and part of the discussions we've been having down here over the last day is with partners throughout Latin America, encouraging them to frankly build additional arenas throughout Latin America because, as we've always said, for NBA basketball, it's more than just a game. Part of the experience requires these types of arenas where the crowd can enjoy all the amenities and great food and the excitement and the video boards. So that's something we're continuing to partner on.

Let me just last say, and then happy to answer any questions, I want to reinforce how committed the league is to Mexico. These will be our 27th and 28th games here in Mexico. That is the most games that the NBA has played outside of the United States or Canada, which says a lot when you think about how much the NBA has done in various countries in Europe and most recently in China. We've been met with open arms in these games. This game tonight we anticipate will be a sellout. I was just outside. There's people lined up still to get in the building tonight. It's exciting to see all the merchants outside, the festival atmosphere around this game.

People in Mexico are increasingly supporting the game of basketball, and we are not just putting on, of course, these NBA games, but we're involved with our Junior NBA programs, grassroots programs for young boys and girls. It was at this very press conference last year that we announced we were opening an NBA Academy here in Mexico City. That academy is now open and operating. In fact, we're sending some of the pupils to Division I basketball, NCAA basketball in the U.S. next season.

We operate a Basketball Without Borders camp here in Mexico City, which was top-notch competition from throughout Latin America. And we're very hopeful that, as we grow this pipeline, we're going to begin to see top-notch Mexican talent emerging in the NBA.

So we see tremendous growth here. No doubt soccer is the Number 1 sport in Mexico, but we're happy to say that we're Number 2 and proud of it, and we think there's enormous opportunity for growth.

So with that, I'm happy to answer any questions.

Q. My question is have you had any talks with the new government, especially the local government, about expanding the contract with the NBA and Mexico?
ADAM SILVER: So my colleagues based here in Mexico City, we have an office down here, about 15 NBA employees, and they've been having discussions with the local government. We're not ready to make any announcements tonight, but it's fair to say that we're committed to returning for several years to Mexico City with these games. And let me add the government has been very supportive.

Q. Mr. Silver, good afternoon. My question would be how has the NBA Academy in Mexico worked? How long will they continue in our country?
ADAM SILVER: As I mentioned earlier, the NBA Academy here in Mexico City is less than a year old, and we anticipate it will operate for as long as we're operating as a league. I think these academies are increasingly becoming a vital part of the NBA. It's a practice that we've not just begun here in Mexico, but we've opened academies in China, in India, and throughout Africa.

We realize we need to participate directly in the development of young players. I think what you see differently in the NBA maybe than, for example, international soccer, there you see individual clubs opening up academies. I think here in the NBA we operate a little bit differently. Rather than have the Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic all coming and opening up their own academies, we have one NBA Academy.

So it's an important investment, I think, that we're making back in the markets in which we operate, but also we realize that, unless these young players have the opportunity to play against top-notch competition, it's very difficult to emerge as a premier player. It's a model that we've watched closely.

In soccer, and frankly in many countries around the world where there's an enormous amount of basketball being played, what our scouts tell us, when they see the young players at 15 years old, they're as good as the young players they see anywhere in the world, but then they don't continue to develop at the highest level because they're not playing against top-notch competition. So part of the academy system, it's not just because we have great coaches, but as you hear basketball people saying, young players who shoot free throws in empty gyms, they may shoot incredibly well in that empty gym, but it's very different when you're in an arena like this with 19,000 people screaming at you and you're playing against top-notch competition.

So what we found is that to bring the top players together so they're playing against other top-notch players, and then we need to travel them so that they get the actual competition too, which helps them elevate themselves and size themselves up against other players.

Q. You've obviously made addressing the schedule a pretty big issue for you since you've been Commissioner. You've been aggressive with limiting back-to-backs, eliminating four games in five nights. How do you think that's working? And when you hear about the kind of week the Chicago Bulls had in which one player contacted the Players Association for a multitude of reasons, but one of the reasons being that they didn't want to practice after a very tumultuous week, what kind of reaction do you have?
ADAM SILVER: First, let me just say to the general point, we think that the changes in the schedule have been very effective, and we're hearing that directly from our teams and our players. To your point, eliminating the four games out of five nights and dramatically reducing the back to backs, we think it's had a direct impact on the quality of play on the floor, and it's resulted in less resting of players. Again, we think that's successful.

In terms of the Chicago Bulls specifically, I'd say I'm very careful not to get involved in the operation of any particular team. I don't know firsthand about a player who did or didn't call the Players Association. I mean, I read the story. I don't know about it. No one called me to complain. Players Association hasn't talked to us.

I accept, though, that in a group of young men who are playing, there may be a difference in view occasionally in terms of when players should be practicing and how hard they should be working, but generally those issues are worked out at teams. I've read some of the comments that have come back from the Bulls management, from their coach, and there seems to be a meeting of the minds.

Again, when a new coach comes in midseason, that coach may have a different way of doing things than the prior coach, and I think these great players in the NBA, they've had lots of different coaches in their careers, even beginning when they were young players, and there are different styles. I will say there are rules set out in the collective bargaining agreement, in terms of practice time and days off. No one has suggested to me those rules have been violated. Again, I'm so confident that our teams know how to work through these issues and they don't require the league to step in.

Q. First question I want to ask you is what is the social commitment the NBA has with Mexico? And the second one, hours ago you had a meeting with Emilio Azc√°rraga from Televisa. What did you talk about with them?
ADAM SILVER: It was a secret meeting (laughter). No, I think we had a meeting with cameras around us earlier. I'll begin with the meeting. What we talked about was our new relationship that we just announced with Televisa. We talked about maybe expanding that relation into Univision in the United States. We talked about potentially partnering on new ventures in Mexico. Given how powerful a company they are and successful media company they are in Mexico, we recognize that there's so much more we can do together than them just televising the games or distributing highlights.

I thought it was a very productive meeting. I think there was a strong sense of partnership there, and we'll see what comes from there. I know the Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, Mark Tatum, is here with me, and he was already exchanging schedules and agreeing on when the next meeting was going to be and when he would be back here in Mexico City.

In terms of your first question, our commitment to Mexico, I would say, one, this is a large investment we're making in Mexico by bringing these 28 games here, by bringing our teams, by the Orlando Magic giving up home games in order to play here. This is a long-term investment in growing the game here. The NBA Academy is something which is a pure investment on our part to help grow the game by producing great young players coming out of Mexico, and maybe even more importantly, our grassroots efforts, where we're working with young boys and girls in the community with virtually no expectation that any of them are going to become NBA players, but teaching them the values of sport, which I often talk about.

It's using this platform to talk about values like hard work and discipline and respect and encouraging proper habits for sleep and physical fitness and eating properly. Those are all these values that can be taught through basketball, and I think that's why, to that earlier question about the government, governments around the world are so receptive to the NBA and, frankly, other sports leagues coming into their markets.

Q. With Patrick Beverley's situation fresh in everyone's mind, have you noticed any sort of uptick in inappropriate behavior directed toward your players, both in arenas, on social media? And if you have seen that, what actions will the league take to combat that?
ADAM SILVER: Well, let me begin with in-arena behavior. It's not that I haven't noticed an uptick. We track those things very closely. There is no statistical uptick in incidents in our arenas right now. I will say, though, with the advent of high-quality cameras now carried by everyone in the arena, otherwise known as smartphones, things are picked up that didn't used to get captured. But I think that's important, and it gives us an opportunity to, in the case if a patron is out of line, to talk directly to that patron, or in the case of a player doing something that's inappropriate.

Again, I think those -- one of the things that makes the NBA game so special is how proximate the fans are. What other sport are the fans literally on the playing surface and where a player potentially can tumble into them, and it gives fans an opportunity to tell players exactly what's on their mind. We have codes of conduct in the arenas. We enforce those.

As I said, I don't think there's anything unique going on this season, but we monitor it very closely. In terms of social media, it's a whole new world. It's something where -- when I read some of the stuff on social media, no one would want to be subject to any of that, and a lot of it is anonymous. Virtually most of it is anonymous. We try to protect our players as best we can. Certainly, if things rise to the level of threats, to the extent we're able through those platforms to contact people directly who aren't identifying themselves, we attempt to. And we talk to our players a lot about what's called social media etiquette.

But as I said, I think it's something that everyone who's a public figure is dealing with these days, and unfortunately, it comes with all the enormous benefits of being in public life for NBA players. We track it, and we talk directly to those platforms about what best practices are.

Q. Regarding the possibility of having a G League team in Mexico, is it possible to know at what stage we are right now?
ADAM SILVER: We are in the third quarter, whatever the appropriate analogy is. Last year I talked about it, that and the NBA Academy in Mexico City a year ago. We said it was something we're very focused on. I feel we've made enormous progress here with coming out of our Mexico City office. We have continued discussions. Mark Tatum and I, especially today we had some very productive discussions, and frankly we're hopeful that in the next few weeks we have more to say on that.

Our goal is to have a G League team planting a flag here in Mexico City next season. I think that's a bit of a bold proclamation, and it would be our first G League team now that would no longer be associated directly with an NBA team. We're up to 28 teams in the NBA. We have two more NBA teams that don't have G League teams. We hope to get that done fairly quickly.

So if we were able to put this team here in Mexico City, it would be our 31st team, and I think it would be really exciting, I think, for the market and for us to learn a lot more about operating on a regular basis here.

Q. Good evening. Welcome again to Mexico. Most of the franchises have already played here in Mexico. There are just a few more to play here. What would be the options not only to have games here in Mexico City, but maybe also take them to Monterrey, it's also close to the border and not a trip so long for other teams. What would you say to having maybe more games in Mexico City and the other cities of the country?
ADAM SILVER: Good question. And to your point now with the 28 games in Mexico, I believe 23 of our teams have now played at least once in Mexico. In terms of Monterrey and other state-of-the-art arenas, it's something we'll continue to look at.

I will say it's an enormous contribution the Orlando Magic are making to give up two home dates to play here. I think to play yet more games out of market will require us to step back and maybe rethink the schedule a little bit. I think, as we grow in popularity outside of the United States and Canada, it creates opportunities to do maybe some other unique types of games. We've talked about midseason tournaments. We've talked about doing additional things with our preseason.

So it's a balancing act for the league office. At the end of the day, these are regular-season games that are extraordinarily important for our teams, especially when it comes to April and one game may mean making the playoffs or not. We have to make sure that it's not too big a disruption sort of on their bodies and on the schedule. But we are going to continue to look at other opportunities in Mexico.

Q. Some social media sites mentioned that people from Lakers are here. What is the possibility to bring the Lakers with LeBron [James] here?
ADAM SILVER: The L.A. Lakers have an enormous fan base seemingly everywhere in the world. Again, they are a team that is always in demand. I'm sure we'll be talking to them about playing additional games outside the United States. I'm not ready to make any commitments this evening in terms of other teams that will be coming here, but I know that the ownership of the L.A. Lakers, just like the ownership of these teams that are here tonight, very much want to contribute to the league and to the global growth.

In the Buss family, you have some of the longest standing owners. They've done a lot for this league internationally. I know I can speak for Jeanie Buss and say that she's one of the first people always to raise her hand and say how can I help grow this game? So I'm sure we'll be having discussions with the Lakers.

Q. With all the discussion of the NFL canceling the game here in Mexico and with the future of Formula One and the NFL up in the air, what can you tell us about the importance of this country of Mexico for the NBA and why it's the longest tenure, or the longest relationship with a professional sports league between the NBA and our country?
ADAM SILVER: It's very similar to the answers I was giving earlier about the importance of Mexico City and Mexico for the NBA. I'll just say, number one, Mexico City is the largest market in the western hemisphere, and if you're a North American sports league, it's hard not to very much focus on this city given that 22 million people are in the Metropolitan area. Number two, there's 120 million people in Mexico. Obviously, a country that's proximate to the United States. We have a team in Canada. It would seem to make logical sense we would next look south to potentially have a team in Mexico.

And I would say, number three, when you look at the enormous Mexican American and Hispanic population in the United States, we believe, if we had a team in Mexico City, many of those fans in the United States would identify with a team in this market. It's one of the reasons that we're thinking so much about bringing a G League team here, because we think it would be an important next step to learn more about what it would take to operate an NBA team here.

So as I said -- and on of top of that, it's just a wonderful place to be. I think our teams very much enjoy playing here in Mexico City. I enjoy my trips to Mexico, and Mexico has an enormous number of tourists from the United States.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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