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April 12, 2019

Adam Silver

New York, New York

TIM FRANK: Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us. The commissioner will start with some opening comments and then be glad to take any questions you have.

ADAM SILVER: Thank you very much, Tim, and I appreciate all of you being here on a Friday evening. I'll just be brief.

We've just completed two days of meetings with the Board of Governors, including several committee meetings as well. They were very helpful for the league office and with a very engaged group of owners on many different topics. Everything from media trends in the league, changes in the television landscape, to a view of how the current Collective Bargaining Agreement is working and a few presentations on some arena developments, in particular a terrific presentation from ownership of the Golden State Warriors on the new Chase Center, which is just truly spectacular.

On a personal note, of course we talked about the fact that two first-ballot Hall of Famers are retiring, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. Just fantastic representatives of all the best of the NBA, those two guys, and it was wonderful for me to see on television the way Dirk Nowitzki was celebrated in Dallas, the way Dwyane Wade was celebrated down in Miami. And then Wednesday night in Brooklyn, at an away game to see the outpouring of love and support for an NBA great, I think it's really what this league at the end of the day is all about. Two guys, very different backgrounds, very different styles of play, very different approaches, but just incredibly wonderful guys who the league office has worked closely with over many years and who I have no doubt will now find different ways to engage directly with the league as retired NBA players. So I want to say my formal goodbye to those two players.

And with that, happy to answer any questions that you guys have.

Q. We're about a year and a half or two years fully into the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and one of the main topics that came up was the Designated Veteran Extension. Do you think it has worked as intended, and if so or if not, why?
ADAM SILVER: I think it's still early days. It was one of the topics, of course, we talked about at the meeting. Dan Rube from the league office presented to ownership on those players whose contracts have come up for the veteran extension. It's no secret in certain cases it's resulted in trade demands, and other situations it's been effective. What we did point out is part of the goal in "earlying" up the discussion was that those players then wouldn't reach the end of their contracts and frankly surprise teams by then announcing they were leaving.

The fact that a player left the market doesn't mean it was a failure, because at least in those cases the teams got value. Of course, from a league standpoint, we disfavor trade demands and particularly public trade demands, so that was something we did talk about.

The ultimate conclusion is we have several more years in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Let's continue to talk how it will operate, but it's never too early to start thinking about how we can improve the system, and by improve it, I mean for both the teams and the players.

Ultimately, you want a system, as I've said many times, where 30 teams can compete for championships, and that relates to all aspects of the system. You want a system that appropriately distributes the great talent throughout the league and that teams, regardless of where they're located or regardless if they're low-revenue or high-revenue teams, can all compete on equal footing.

I think it's pretty clear that the system, while I believe it's gotten better over the years, there's still room for improvement. The good news is we talk regularly both with our teams and the Players Association, and I'd like to think there's ultimately commonality and interest in having the best possible system.

Q. You mentioned Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. There was another exit this week with Magic Johnson from the Lakers. Did it come up in any way at the Board of Governors, and beyond that, what are your thoughts on that?
ADAM SILVER: It didn't come up at the board meeting, but from a personal standpoint, Magic has become a super close friend over all these years. I learned about his resignation seemingly the same way everyone else did, and that is by hearing -- I think somebody texted me and said, "Turn on NBA TV, Magic Johnson is in the process of resigning." So I watched it unfold on television.

He and I have communicated since then. Ultimately, I want what's best for Magic. He's been an incredible ambassador for this game, for the Lakers franchise over the years. In some ways, we're getting him back: If ultimately he decides to in essence be unattached to the Lakers -- and I don't know where that stands -- and he's then available to be mentoring a next generation of players, I think that could benefit lots of the younger guys in the league.

But I know I have no doubt, and even already just from my back-and-forth with him, that he will re-engage in league matters. Again, he's a global icon for this sport. So I don't view him as exiting the league in any way. In fact, I see it as him re-engaging in other ways.

Q. Obviously, you guys have made changes to the schedule to try to reduce the amount of time players would miss action, but sometimes this season we've seen guys have load management times off. I'm curious from your perspective as the season has unfolded, do you think we're getting closer to getting guys on the court more consistently and moving away from the phrase "load management"?
ADAM SILVER: I don't know if we're at the point where we're moving away from load management. I mean, it's a new term. I've been around the league for a long time, but that's become the term of art, especially in the last year in terms of appropriate resting for players.

Part of it, we're looking at the signs. The goal is to keep players healthy, especially for this time of year. I should have said at the top of this press conference, we're on our way into the most exciting part of the NBA season, and there are always trade-offs. I'm incredibly sympathetic to that fan who is especially at the away game where that star player is there and that's the game that player is being rested. On the other hand, it's in the collective interest of the entire league that those players remain healthy for the playoffs.

And load management, sometimes it's science, but sometimes it's art. I will say on behalf of our players, it's generally the organizations that are running these load management programs; it's not players raising their hand and saying, "I don't want to play," and often it's over players' objections. So we've got to strike the right balance. I think a fair point from fans could be if ultimately the science suggests that 82 games is too many games for these players, maybe you shouldn't have an 82-game season. I accept that, and that's something we'll continue to look at.

I think the other issue that's come up is the season is going to be roughly the beginning of October to the end of June. We could also be looking at the format. We could be looking at the number of minutes in the game. Of course, the international game and the college game is 40 minutes and our game is 48 minutes. That would be another way to address load management. But also, as I've talked about before with international soccer where there are in essence tournaments within the season, there may be other approaches to the game.

Those are all things we're looking at. They're not the kinds of format changes you're going to make without lots and lots of deliberation. In fact, Byron Spruell, who's our President of Basketball Operations, made a presentation to the team owners about the kinds of things that he and the Competition Committee are looking at as to five years out, six years out -- what may be the appropriate format. Those are all things that we're focusing on.

I will say, so-called load management, if anything it's a concept that comes from global soccer. There's a tradition, if you look at some of the great soccer leagues in the world, players are playing for their national team, they're playing for their club team, they're playing in a league within their country and then they're also playing in the Champions League. It's a fairly common practice.

Again, I think where the league comes in is as an aggregator of the best science in trying to conclude what really makes sense. There are some theories out there that if a player rests too long and they're not active enough -- and some of it is actually superstition -- maybe that's how they'll get injured. In our meetings, Michael Jordan was in the room. His philosophy when he played was that he was increasing the likelihood that he could get injured if he took a night off, and as we all know, he hardly ever did. Part of that was, of course, he recognized the personal bond he had with fans and what it meant to people if he didn't play that night. I think that's also why it's very frustrating for some of our top players when they are rested.

Again, I think this is an issue where we and the players need to continue to work together and figure out what's optimal, but then in fairness to our fans, maybe that requires at some point an adjustment in the season.

Q. Teams now are using sports science in so many ways to maximize player performance, whether it be blood testing, doing load management through quantifiable ways of attrition. Where do you see the boundaries for you and the league going forward in what you will allow and not allow? And also, do you take player privacy into consideration?
ADAM SILVER: We absolutely take player privacy into consideration, and the boundaries will be set through collective bargaining with the players.

It's interesting, even for the players, they want to strike the right balance as well between their privacy and even their own desire to have certain information about their bodies. Think about it: From a player standpoint, it might surprise people, but they are interested in sharing information with the experts at the team because they have the knowledge to help them improve their bodies and perform optimally.

At the same time, they want to be protective, of course, of their personal information, which is why very understandably these are core issues for us and the Players Association to work out together. What we agreed to coming out of the last collective bargaining session was to have a working group of team personnel, team owners, players, union staff, to work out a protocol. That protocol goes to the specific kinds of testing, whether it be perspiration, blood, the particular kinds of devices that we all agree can be put on the players' bodies, and then what we do with that data. That's something we're all working through.

I appreciate that process and don't even think it would be appropriate for us unilaterally to be making those decisions on behalf of players. But I'd just say that they have the same interest in striking the right balance as we do.

Q. I feel like it's at the point now where everybody doesn't want to play 82 anymore. They obviously just want to make the money for 82. Have you guys gotten to the point where you've talked about revenue-type situations where you could make up for a loss of games, because obviously no one wants to lose money?
ADAM SILVER: Well, it's not just to me about a loss of money and fewer games. To me, it's how do you present this game optimally from a fan standpoint. Even if you had every player playing in 82 games -- first of all, you know we're a league of 450 players and there's enormous talent on the floor. Occasionally, when some of those starters are on the bench, you're giving other players an opportunity, and often without that opportunity people wouldn't know how good they really are.

I guess, again, taking a page from international soccer, there's more history of rotating players there. It's more commonplace with baseball, obviously, with pitching. There are other notions in other sports where top players aren't playing every night. So I don't necessarily think because a particular player doesn't play 82 games that that's not the right number of games in the season.

But as I said, it may be that even if guys were playing all 82 games, it's not the optimal way to present it from a fan standpoint. I think we always have to step back and remind ourselves that at the end of the day this is about the fan, especially as the media landscape is changing and the bundle of pay television is changing and we may move into a world where we have to win that support of the viewer every night. To your point, it may be the case that if you're not going to play, you don't get paid. None of us do. It's not just about the players.

That's why I'm particularly interested in looking at different kinds of formats -- at midseason tournaments, for example, play-in tournaments -- because even accepting that players have so many miles on their bodies, there may be better ways to present it. Assuming guys are going to play 82 games, maybe there should be a certain number of games in the regular season and then there should be two tournaments throughout the season.

Now, I know for most of the American viewers, that's a very foreign concept because we're not used to having multiple goals throughout the season. But as I said, it's very commonplace in international soccer. It would take a while to develop those new traditions because I think initially the reaction may be who cares who wins the midseason tournament; it's all about the Larry O'Brien Trophy. So we need to take a long-term perspective on these things.

As I said, we and the players have a common interest in maximizing viewership and maximizing interest. The format we have in place now -- I'm a traditionalist on one hand, but on the other hand it's 50 years old or so, presenting an 82-game season, and there's nothing magical about it. I think it's on the league office to always be challenging the way we do things -- to be paying attention to changing viewer habits, a changing marketplace, a new world of the way media is presented, often on smaller devices, less on screens, people having shorter attention spans -- and saying, This is an incredible game, it's never been more exciting, the athleticism has never been greater, fantastic players coming from all around the world, but what's the best way to put the season together.

When you say we're at that point now, I'd only say that I think these kind of changes can't be done without enormous deliberation. Part of it is just the formality that they need to be negotiated with the Players Association, but even if the Players Association came to us and said, "You guys know best, what is it you want," I wouldn't know how to answer it. I think it's going to require a lot more research, a lot more thoughtfulness on behalf of the teams, players and the league working together.

Q. You mentioned earlier in your introduction, you guys talked about the media landscape changing and this is far from the first time you've talked about the idea of midseason tournaments and different things. I guess from a league standpoint, what is its approach to the changing media landscape as the new TV deal approaches, and how confident are you or how likely do you think it is at some point in the next five or 10 years there will be an FA Cup-type tournament or different things like that within the league schedule? Because, like I said, this has come up multiple times.
ADAM SILVER: Well, yes, it has come up a lot. We do have six full seasons after this season left on at least our U.S. major television deals with Disney and now AT&T. I've been raising it a lot because we've been thinking about it a lot. The process is through Board of Governors meetings like we had and then some committees. We have a Media Committee run by Ted Leonsis. We have our Competition Committee, which is run by Byron Spruell at the league. We continue to look at different concepts. And then, of course, there's the Players Association that will ultimately need to sign on to major changes as well.

And again, even if the formality of that process weren't necessary in a number of years, I want to be extremely cautious with those kinds of changes. I think in a fundamental way that the season is put together, I just think there's so much good right now in the NBA about the way the season works, about the history behind our records and the approach to the game. It's not something that you would want to do without enormous deliberation.

I'd just lastly say, I appreciate the media, too, here because there are great ideas that come in over the transom every day. There are commentators talking about it, writing about it and technology companies, media companies -- all who are thinking about these same things. I would just say, for example, just in our boardroom, we have Steve Ballmer, who not only is the owner of the Clippers but the former CEO of Microsoft. He is incredibly thoughtful about a changing landscape. Mark Cuban, Ted Leonsis and so many others in the room who are passionate about this issue.

While yes, at the end of the day we're a business, and of course the ultimate goal is to grow, it's not just a financial discussion in the room. I think people love this game, and they feel an obligation to the sport of basketball to step back and say, "We're the stewards of the game. What should it look like in five years and 10 years?" These are the kinds of discussions, though, that seem to move in five- and 10-year increments rather than what should we be doing for next year.

Q. For most of the season, load management seems to largely affect the teams on the floor that night and the audiences for that game. But when you get to the final week or two of the regular season, now you have other interested parties that are upset if a team that's jockeying for position with them has an easier game because stars from their opponent are sitting out. How do you feel that the league rides out the final days of the season? Are you comfortable with where things are at?
ADAM SILVER: I'm never quite comfortable where things are at. I think especially over that last week, you can imagine there's a fair amount of angst in the league office. There are discussions that take place with teams. Again, there's no formula necessarily that we can apply. It's a partnership at the end of the day of 30 teams. I recognize that what's in the interest of one team, which seems completely appropriate -- players have killed themselves throughout the year getting ready for the playoffs, there's a very short break, and it makes absolute sense to rest those players in that situation. But then that game may be incredibly meaningful not necessarily for the team they're playing but for another team whose position in the playoffs will be determined based on the outcome of that game.

There are changes in this league, approaches to analytics that were unimaginable even a decade ago. It causes the league office to have a fair amount of angst about those issues. At the end, we've got to be careful, too, from a competitive standpoint that we're not applying a new set of rules in the last week of the season that doesn't apply throughout the year. I think that just relates back to all these other issues we've been discussing, that we've got to holistically look at what happens out on the floor and, again, rely a certain amount on the notion of a partnership among the 30 teams and what the expectation is.

But I will say, even those teams who want to do the right thing who are calling the league office, calling our General Counsel, Rick Buchanan, or calling Mark Tatum or calling me, there aren't always bright-line answers we can give them. We always have one eye, too, that we know that the playoffs are what this is all about. So we don't want to end up forcing a team to do something silly when it could cause issues in terms of health for the most important part of the season.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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