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May 20, 2014

Adam Silver

ADAM SILVER:  Thank you all for being here and covering the draft lottery.  Let me just say this class has a special place in my heart.  It'll be my first class as the commissioner when we hold the draft this June.  I met with seven of the potential lottery picks today.  They seemed like an outstanding group of young men.
As you all know, I'm a big college basketball fan.  I thought the NCAA Tournament was fantastic this year, particularly the Final Four, and now we're experiencing a Final Four of our own.  This Playoffs continues to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, enormous buildup and expectation for our Finals.
I'll say my sense is that the collective bargaining/revenue sharing agreement is working.¬† We have four teams competing all in the bottom half of the league at least in terms of market size.¬† We're seeing management rewarded, strong management, ability for fans in every market to have hope that if their club is well‑managed that they'll have a chance to compete for championships.¬† That's what we were hoping to see.¬† And I think we're experiencing a basketball renaissance of sorts.
I met yesterday with Jerry Colangelo, who's the chairman of USA Basketball, and talked about more that we could be doing in the youth basketball movement.  Jerry and his team have done a fantastic job leading our national teams to Olympic championships and national championships and will be competing in the World Cup of Basketball again this summer.  I think there's a lot more work to be done on the youth side.
I've developed a closer relationship with Mark Emmert at the NCAA.¬† As I've said before, I'm in favor of raising the minimum age from 19 to 20, but I think we and our Players Association agree that the NCAA has to in essence be part of the discussion and that we need to see things like the gap covered between the scholarship and additional expenses, ensure that these players are covered for career‑ending injuries, and ensure that college is the right environment for them if that's where they choose to go and play before they reach the NBA.
So my focus in my first few months of commissionership has been on the game.  That includes officiating, which I've talked about before.  We've instituted programs for more transparency.  We're focused on the existing replay program and how we can improve it.  I was out in Chicago last week at the combine, talked to the general managers there, the trainers and other constituents there about what we can do to improve that program to ensure our teams get the right kind of look at the young men coming into the league.
But I'll just conclude by saying the state of game is fantastic, and I think as I said, it's a renaissance for basketball in this country and increasingly globally, and I think our best years are ahead of us.  I'm happy to take any questions.

Q.  Obviously you guys had some big news yesterday.  I'm not sure how much you can or want to talk about that, but where is your confidence level or belief that what you want to get done is what you'll be able to get done in that kind of timely fashion?
ADAM SILVER:  My confidence level is high.  We know we're doing the right thing, and I know I have the owners behind me.  I'll say that we've had strong leadership from Glen Taylor, who's the chairman of our board, and Peter Holt, who just recently stepped down as the former chairman, or who had been the former chairman of the board.  We have a very active advisory finance committee, which is 10 NBA owners who have been meeting on a regular basis to discuss these proceedings, and the timing is laid out in the NBA constitution.  We're following it to the letter in terms of numbers of days that Mr.Sterling has to respond and then when the hearing will be held, and as I said, I know we're doing the right thing here.  This is an unprecedented proceeding.
Will there be bumps in the road?  Presumably yes.  Mr.Sterling on one hand at least in his CNN interview indicated a willingness to accept the judgment of his owner partners.  His lawyers are saying otherwise, so we'll see.
But this will all get worked out.  I know we're pursuing the right course here and doing the right thing.

Q.  Tonight begins the leadership for Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens with the Bucks, and I wonder if you could talk about the process of approving them and what you think they will bring to the league.
ADAM SILVER:  Yeah, I'd say in terms of the process of approving Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, it went very smoothly and very quickly.  I've known Marc Lasry, a fellow New Yorker, for a very long time now.  I've recently gotten to know Wes Edens better.  They have outstanding reputations.  They're both passionate about the game.  They've made a strong commitment both in terms of resources, dollars, personal commitments to the Milwaukee community.  We know we need a new arena there.  Senator Kohl, I think people haven't talked enough about a $100 million personal contribution that he's making to see a municipal arena built.
So I have complete confidence in this group, and on one hand while unfortunately so much attention has been focused on Mr.Sterling of late, we have an incredible group of owners in this league and this whole new generation coming in, and no one embodies that new generation better than Edens and Lasry, two fantastic owners.

Q.  Back to Mr.Sterling if I could:  What has been destroyed in terms of evidence that you say or misleading?  And number two, are you willing to give his attorney and Mr.Sterling three months to respond?  And Mrs.Sterling, what is your position on her ownership?
ADAM SILVER:  In answer to your first question, no, we're not going to talk about the specifics of the case.  In terms of additional time, the answer has been no.  The proceedings and the process is set out in our constitution, something they signed on for when they became owners in the league.
And my position on Mrs.Sterling, and I said at the initial press conference, we haven't focused on any conduct by Mrs.Sterling.  The way the franchise termination proceedings work is that if the primary controlling governor of the team in essence is found by three quarters of the other members of the association, the other owners in the league to have in essence done something under our constitution that calls for the termination of his team, all ownership interests are terminated as part of that proceeding.
As I understand the position of Mrs.Sterling's lawyers, in essence they would say we accept you can terminate Mr.Sterling, but somehow Mrs.Sterling comes with the team.  I think even if that's not what it said in our constitution, it just doesn't make sense.  The same way even if you had unrelated partners, if you terminated the franchise of the primary owner and that owner had several colleagues, cronies, who were also owners with him, it wouldn't make sense that under our constitution we could then go about selling the team, but those other partners would have to come along.
So our position is once under the constitution, based on Mr.Sterling's conduct, if the owners ultimately decide that it's appropriate to terminate his franchise, the interest of all owners is terminated.

Q.  In the interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, what exactly is it he said to Anderson that made his situation worse in your opinion?
ADAM SILVER:¬† You know, it's outlined in the charge that we made against Mr.Sterling.¬† I will say I responded in part right after that interview to particular comments he made about Magic Johnson but also to comments he made about African‑Americans.

Q.¬† Kind of piggy‑backing on that last question, you mentioned early on when you announced the lifetime ban of Donald Sterling that you had some interaction with him in terms of interviewing him, an information‑gathering process.¬† Has that continued at all, or by virtue of his public comments in the CNN interview and then your statement afterwards, are you beyond that point where you guys can hash it out man‑to‑man?
ADAM SILVER:¬† Well, I'll only say that Mr.Sterling still owns the Los Angeles Clippers.¬† Mrs.Sterling as I understand it through a trust owns 50 percent of the team, as well.¬† It is their team to sell, and so he knows what the league's point of view is, and so I'm sure if he wanted to sell the team on some reasonable timetable, I'd prefer he sell it than we go through this process.¬† So if that's what you mean by man‑to‑man, I'm open to that.

Q.  How long do you envision this transition process regarding the Clippers' ownership situation taking place?
ADAM SILVER:  Well, under our constitution, he has until next Tuesday to respond to our charge and then a hearing will take place the following Tuesday on June 3rd, most likely here in New York.  I envision once we move through that process that we will then put the team in order, and presumably we will hire an investment banker and we will conduct an orderly process.  We also have a fiduciary obligation to the Sterlings to ensure that we sell it for the highest possible price, and there's no doubt it's an incredibly valuable asset.

Q.  What are the right words to ascribe your feelings that you're getting all the questions about Donald Sterling and not why we're here or the NBA players, that he's dominating coverage of your league?
ADAM SILVER:  It's a great question, and it's hard for me to put in words sometimes.  I mean, especially as I said earlier that we're coming off some of the best Playoffs certainly in my memory.
Your question makes me think of Kevin Durant's MVP speech.¬† I hope ‑‑ if anybody hasn't seen it, you can go to NBA.com and watch it, but I remember at one point Kevin Durant says, really in addressing his mother who was sitting in the audience at the end of the speech, I'm paraphrasing, I think, but he said something like, Mom, we weren't supposed to be here.¬† The deck was stacked against us.¬† I get choked up a little bit just remembering watching him give that speech, and I think Kevin Durant as our most valuable player embodies what this league is all about, and frankly Mr.Sterling doesn't.
So it's not just the performances on the court that it's a distraction from, and I think what made this moment bigger than basketball, certainly for everybody involved in the league, and that moment being that recording, was that it did come from within, that under David Stern and commissioners that came before him, barriers were broken with this league, and I think for those who say it's a slippery slope, and my God, what happens to the next player or the next owner who does something wrong, I'd only say there's something particular about race issues when it comes to sports, and maybe the NBA in particular.¬† I mean, it's no secret we have a league that the majority of the players are African‑American; the vast majority of the owners are not.¬† But it's as egalitarian an institution as there is anywhere, at least that I know of.¬† And I look at the track record in terms of hiring of coaches, general managers, front office personnel, even increasingly in the ownership ranks, I think it's‑‑ you know, it's beyond anger.¬† It's sort of what I said earlier.¬† There's a certain sadness, and you feel it, it's almost a malaise around the league.¬† That's what I sensed when I first met with the Clippers.¬† It was something deeper than anger.
And again, it's that so many of our players in listening to Kevin Durant who had experienced discrimination in their lives, we're not a post‑racial society, but at least within the boundaries of my authority, I feel an obligation to protect the people who are within this league, and so that's my reaction.

Q.  You've talked about continuing to grow the game globally.  Does the league have any plans to play any exhibition or preseason games in Australia in the future?
ADAM SILVER:  You know, no specific plans, but we're looking at it.  Australia has been a terrific market for us historically.  Ultimately we need to do more than play preseason games around the world to build our business.  As you might imagine, it's incredibly labor intensive to take these teams overseas.
But I noticed you have a smartphone in your hand.¬† I think that's our future, the ability to watch these games in real‑time on any device, to be part of a large social networking community, to be the equivalent of a fan in an arena.¬† That's what we hope to do with our fans in Australia.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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