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NBA FINALS: CAVALIERS v WARRIORS


June 4, 2015


Adam Silver


OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA: Game One

THE MODERATOR:  Good evening, everyone.  Thank you for coming to the Commissioner's press conference.  We'll start with some opening comments from the Commissioner and be glad to take any questions you have.
COMMISSIONER SILVER:¬† Thank you, Tim.¬† Let me just begin by thanking you all for being here.¬† We have 1,800 credentialed members of the media for this year's Finals, which is an all‑time record.¬† I know many of you have traveled from places from all around the world, so we really appreciate you being here in the Bay Area and being part of these Finals.
I want to congratulate the Warriors and the Cavaliers.  I see Joe Lacob in the back of the room.  Want to congratulate you, Joe, and your partner, Peter Guber.  To Dan Gilbert and his partners, it is so difficult to win in this league.  It truly takes a full organizational effort to get here, and these are two model franchises.
I will say, the build‑up for these Finals has been tremendous.¬† I'm excited about seeing the play on the floor.¬† It's been a great playoffs.¬† It's been a great regular season, and obviously only one of these teams is going to be able to be champion, but it's been a wonderful season.
We've talked a lot about seeding this year and division and conference formats.  Of course what we ended up seeing in the Conference Finals was 1 playing 2 on both sides of the bracket, and here we have the No. 1 seed in the West playing the No. 2 seed the East.
And we have LeBron James, who is now in his fifth Finals in a row, an incredible feat.¬† Obviously, one of the greatest players ever to play this game and who knows by the end of his career, maybe he'll turn out to have been the greatest.¬† And Steph Curry, another All‑Star, people are already saying that fairly early on in his career that he may be the best shooter in the league.¬† And, once again, people are saying maybe he will be the greatest shooter ever in the league.¬† So you couldn't ask for more in terms of the competition.
Of course, we have other All‑Stars on the teams, you have Kyrie, you have Klay, deep benches, fantastic competition.
I will say just generally about the game of basketball, I'm a big fan of the game at all levels, watch a lot of college ball.¬† Obviously get to see so much NBA, and I can't think of a time when the game has been better.¬† We're seeing as a result of a combination of the analytics, the incredible brainpower that is behind these teams, the finesse style we're seeing on the court, the three‑point shooting.¬† I really think they represent sort of this next era of NBA basketball.
I mentioned ownership before, and it all begins at the top in these organizations.¬† But in addition to the fantastic owners and their partners, and obviously the All‑Star players and the deep benches, we also have two terrific organizations here with the Warriors, Bob Myers, of course, the general manager.¬† Rick Welts on the business side.¬† Two of the very best in the organization.¬† And the same thing with the Cavaliers.¬† It's no accident that these organizations are here.¬† You have Len Komoroski as president of business operations.¬† You have David Griffin as the general manager, also some of the best in the league.
Coaching, it's hard to believe we have two rookie coaches here in Steve Kerr, again, five rings.  Spent time as a general manager in the league, long time as an analyst.  Someone who knows every aspect of the business.  Someone I got to know well when he was a broadcaster.  It's wonderful to see him here, and he has his own compelling story to tell.  David Blatt as well.  Multiple championships while he coached in Israel, competed himself in the Euroleague, storied basketball career.  Again, each one of them has an incredibly compelling story, which brought them here today.
Lastly, just want to talk about the greater community that's become involved in the NBA.  I'm thinking back to last summer when LeBron wrote that great piece with Lee Jenkins in "Sports Illustrated" and talked about his calling, his greater calling in returning to northeast Ohio.  I will say that we used to be defined more by these geographical boundaries.  You had northeast Ohio or the Bay Area, and now while we have incredibly passioned fans of those teams in those areas, there really is a global community of fans right now.
So that greater calling speaks to young people throughout the world, families throughout the world.  And I think LeBron said it well in that essay where he said the reason he was returning to northeast Ohio in part had something to do with a calling much greater than the game itself.
And I only end with this thought that while only one champion will emerge from these Finals, that what we're seeing in terms of every team in this league, and really every player in this league, has taken on that greater responsibility to be part of a larger basketball community.  I think that the NBA has become defined not just by the incredible competition on the floor, but what we're doing in communities throughout the world and not just in our team cities.
So I look forward to a fantastic demonstration of the greatest basketball in the world.  If we get just a small percentage of what we're all talking and writing about, it's going to be one of the most exciting Finals ever.  So I can't wait.
With that, I'm happy to answer any questions you have.

Q.  How can you tell in 2015 if an owner is doing a good job?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  Well, there are a lot of metrics you can look at to see how a team, any particular franchise is doing.  I mean, you can begin with the record on the floor, and that's part of it.  So nothing could be more objective than standings, and that's one of the ways that owners get measured.
But, of course, if you're the league office, it's a zero sum game.  I can see how frustrating it may be for a lot of owners because while in many of their other businesses they can be incredibly successful and a direct competitor can be incredibly successful as well.  Here there are only so many wins in every season.
So by definition, therefore, from the league office, we don't want to define success solely by wins and losses.  It's defined by the impact in the community.  Something I talked about earlier.  There are also many business metrics.  It can be defined by attendance.  It can be defined by the number of season ticket holders they have.  It can be defined by their television ratings in their community, by sponsorships.
There is a more subjective side to it as well.  We spend a lot of time in the league office talking to owners and talking to management and teams throughout the league to help them improve.
My view is ultimately of course, as I said, it is a zero sum game in terms of wins and losses, but it's not a zero sum game in terms of well‑managed franchises, and the goal of this league is to have 30 well‑managed franchises.

Q.  We had kind of a flukey situation here recently with Steph Curry falling on his head, and then Klay Thompson having the concussion.  In light of that, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on the concussion protocol?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  Well, one, as you said, it seemed like a bit of a flukey situation, just in terms of statistically how many concussions we have in this league.  It was a huge aberration to have two players on one team in such a short amount of time.  Having said that, we have a protocol in place and a prominent national neurologist who is in charge on behalf of the league in setting that protocol just so no particular team feels pressured to go outside of a set of rules and get that player back on the floor.
Our protocols were followed exactly as mandated in the case of both players.  I've had discussions with the Players Union as to whether there are other ways to do it, and my response has been we're all ears.
Right now we talked to the other leagues.  We've talked to medical advisors everywhere about the best way to approach this.  As I said, we think the best way we're approaching it now is best in class in terms of medical and science information that's available to us.
But we'll continue to look at it.  And, again, as we've had several discussions with the Warriors and their physicians, and as best we know, the protocol was followed to a tee.

Q.  Commissioner, I'm sure you've been following the unfolding FIFA scandal.  My question to you is how confident are you that international basketball and FIBA is free of that sort of corruption?  What role do you see the NBA playing in making sure that sort of thing does not happen in international basketball?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  Well, I'll just begin by saying there's been absolutely no suggestion that FIBA, our federation, as opposed to FIFA, has been tainted in any way by corruption.  I know the head of our federation, Patrick Baumann, very well.  He's been someone I've been working with for over 20 years.  And in fact, Mark Tatum, the Deputy Commissioner of the NBA, is on the executive board of FIBA.
Again, they are a very transparent organization.  Their financials are audited.  They have open board meetings.  And, again, there's never been a discussion in our sport of any of the sort of taint that we're seeing right now in FIFA.  I mean, we're going to take a close look at it.
I'm sure that because of the investigation that's now going on with FIFA that the other federations, not just FIBA, will all take a fresh look at how they do business, to ensure that everything is done in the best possible way with the highest standards.  But we're very confident in the way that FIBA is operating.

Q.  Question for you.  The Warriors for many years were the laughingstock of the NBA.  They had a lot of bad times over the last 40 years.  But this season has really been a big turnaround.  Your thoughts on just the Warriors and how they've progressed from where they once were.  And with the Cleveland Cavaliers, do you feel there is a changing of the guard with the teams that are in The Finals?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  I do think there is a changing of the guards.  It's a lot about what I said earlier about management.  It's not one particular person in an organization or, even the greatest players will tell you, one particular player.  I mean, that same team analogy that you see on the floor is true for organizations.
I'd say just to begin with the Warriors, as I said before, sort of top to bottom in their organization, they're top‑notch.¬† They went about it in a particular way, and Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, in addition to having an outstanding group of partners and ownership, they brought in first‑class people to run their organization.¬† They're very hands on in terms of the management.
I think ultimately those things alone aren't going to bring success in the NBA on top of that, just like in any other business, there are aspects of luck and aspects of timing.  But here they are.  And I'd say the same thing about the Cavaliers.
Dan Gilbert, he's got two partners.¬† Jeff Cohen and Nate Forbes are very involved with the franchise.¬† They're very hand's on in terms of the team.¬† Again, they brought in relatively recently a new general manager, brand‑new coach this year, just as they did here, and it really matters.
I, fortunately, am in a position where I have that perspective over 30 teams from the league office, so you get a chance to see sort of the ebb and flow and teams that are applying themselves and other teams that are making mistakes.
I would just say that this is the best that a commissioner could hope for is to have two incredibly well‑managed franchises meet for the highest level of competition at The Finals.

Q.¬† Whether it was Kevin Durant during the regular season or any number of players, high‑profile players, during the playoffs, it seemed that injuries played a more prominent role than usual.¬† What does the league data on games missed due to injury say to you?¬† Does it indicate any type of trend?¬† What do you think would be the most beneficial steps the league could take to address player health?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:¬† It's a great question.¬† Our data doesn't go back that far at least to a point that it's really reliable in terms of games missed.¬† But at least over a short period of time we don't see‑‑ even versus last year, games missed is not greater than last year.¬† In other words, the injury data isn't showing that this was a worse year in terms of injuries than last year.
Having said that, there are more high‑profile players seemingly that are injured this year than last year.¬† So that always concerns me.¬† I think it's something that the league and the teams are spending enormous resources on for best‑of‑kind medical care, best‑of‑kind science to see what we can do to prolong players' careers and keep them on the floor longer.
One of the things we know we think will make a difference is to reduce the number of back‑to‑backs and to create more rest for players.¬† I mean, some of that is done by teams in a very sophisticated way, managing minutes.¬† Most people didn't talk about the fact in their last collective bargaining agreement, as you know, we added another roster spot on teams. ¬†So now it's a 13‑man roster instead of a 12.
And I think what you're seeing with teams is they're going deeper into the benches than they did historically to give star players more rest, to get more players involved in the game.  So that is one thing the teams have control over.
From our standpoint in terms of scheduling something, I've talked about we've revamped the entire scheduling process this year to try to do everything to clear more windows at our arenas, to clear more broadcast windows.  ESPN and ABC and TNT have been very cooperative in releasing sort of Thursday night and Sunday afternoons, releasing their exclusivities to allow us to schedule other games in those time slots.  Those things make a difference.
I think the science over time zone travel has gotten much better, where moving four time zones we think may have an effect on players' bodies that we may not have understood historically.  So this is all something we're taking a very close look at.  We're working in conjunction with the Players Association on this.
So it's a course‑‑ of course it's a concern of ours when players are getting injured.¬† It's not necessarily worse than it's been historically.¬† But it's to the point, especially when you see star players going down and missing serious numbers of games, it's something we're very focused on.

Q.  The announcement today in Milwaukee, could you give your viewpoint on the current status of that franchise going forward?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  Again, the conversation came up about new ownership.  I think their new ownership group led by Wes Edens and Marc Lasry, I think they're doing a tremendous job there.  There's been fairly quick turnaround in terms of the quality of the team, in terms of the quality of the marketing of the team and the presentation of the team in the community.
But one of the things they knew coming in was that they would need a new arena in Milwaukee.¬† And I think they're‑‑ as I've said before, these are to me the paradigm of what public and private partnerships should be, where you have private investment in downtown Milwaukee together with public investment which will spur additional development.
There is a bit of a negotiation going on.  I don't know how else to say it.  There are some moving parts there.  You have the State making a contribution, you have the City making a contribution as well.  But I'm fairly confident it will all get worked out.
I've been out there several times.  I've met with most of the political leaders out there.  There is a strong desire to get it done.  There is a strong desire on the part of the new ownership to get it done.  We all know that Senator Kohl on his way out, the former owner of the team, made a personal contribution of $10 million to a new arena as well, which I think hasn't gotten nearly the sort of credit, and he hasn't gotten nearly the sort of credit he should for that contribution.
But I think at the end of that day, that team's going to be in Milwaukee for a long time.  And in relatively short time that negotiation will be completed and they'll be announcing the team is staying with a new arena.

Q.  It's not often in any sport that a team wants to leave a venue that they've had wild success and fabulous attendance.  Even when they weren't doing well, they've had great attendance.  So as Commissioner, does that concern you at all?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:¬† You're speaking here about the Warriors.¬† No, it doesn't concern me because, one, the team needs a new building.¬† I think that's apparent every time I come here.¬† It's apparent when we bring in big events like The Finals and we need to try‑‑ just look at the size of this room‑‑ and we need to accommodate 1,800 members of the media and broadcast crews and everything else.
I would say from the league standpoint we've always seen this team as the Bay Area's team.  I was just talking to my colleague Rod Thorn when he was here and he played in the league, the games were in San Francisco, and the team moved to Oakland.  But I think there is a reason the Golden State Warriors, they're not the Oakland Warriors.
So for us, that's ultimately a team decision.  We think it's important, of course, the team stay in this area.  But I think ultimately I have complete confidence in Joe and Peter to make the right decision for their franchise and this community.

Q.¬† This is the first final with a Russian player playing in the NBA Finals and the first ex‑Russian National Team coach participating in The Finals.¬† Five years ago when we met in Moscow, you told me you were counting on Russia very big.¬† But this is historical for Russia, historical Finals are not televised in Russia at all.¬† Actually it's a bit of a low interest to the NBA and to basketball as well in Russia.¬† How can we people in Russia, I mean, there are some sort of people in Russia who can help and cooperate with the NBA?¬† They want to know how do you view this, how can we help?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  First of all, thank you for being here, given, as you said, the low amount of interest back at home, so I appreciate your being here.  As you said, we have the former Russian National Coach.  We have a Russian player.  We have a Russian owner now, of course, in this league.  So it kills me that we don't have greater interest in Russia.
As you said, I traveled to the market.  I've talked to Mr.Prokhorov about it, and I think it comes down to hard work, and we have to do a better job building our business in Russia.
I think, as you know‑‑ you heard my opening‑‑ it's a fabulous sport and people can relate to it all around the world.¬† There's been a longtime history of great national teams in Russia, national basketball teams.¬† It's a sport that's played by boys and girls in the school system in Russia.
You raise a very fair point.  While it's true we don't have broadcast coverage, we have an enormous amount of digital media coverage in Russia, so at least I feel good about that in terms of League Pass broadband and other products that are available to the citizens of Russia.
But we're going to redouble our efforts.  And I think to those who are watching our games on broadband and following on social media, when they see such a spectacular Finals like we're about to have, that will generate more interest back home.

Q.  Speaking of the need for a new arena, what is your opinion of the progress of what's going on here?  Are you going to take a look at the site while you're in town?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  I am going to take a look at the site while I'm here in town.  I don't know, exactly, frankly, where it stands in terms of progress.  I've been following it a bit in the media.  I plan to meet with Rick Welts tomorrow and talk more about it.
Ultimately this team needs a new arena.  There is no doubt about that.  This is one of the oldest arenas in the league and can't support long term the NBA infrastructure.  So I will take the opportunity, while I'm in town the next few days, to better educate myself on it.
But at the end of the day, I have tremendous confidence in Joe and Peter and Rick Welts to get this done.

Q.¬† It doesn't appear to be any movement to end Hack‑a‑Whoever, there doesn't appear to be a change in playoff format coming anytime soon.¬† What is next on your agenda that you think needs to be addressed to improve the game?¬† And is draft lottery reform anywhere near close to happening?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  Just on those two topics.  Let me just hit on those before I talk about other areas.  One, I think in terms of seeding, we have spent a lot of time looking at it in the last few months, and we had a long discussion about it at our last owners' meeting in April.
I think ultimately where we came out is this notion of 1 through 16 seeding, while it seems attractive in many ways, because of the additional travel that will result, it just doesn't seem like a good idea at the moment.¬† This notion of, for example, this team would have played Boston in the first round under a 1‑through‑16 seeding and would have had to crisscross back and forth across the country, which does not seem like a good idea, especially based on the earlier question based on the health of our players, and focusing on actually reducing the amount of travel and back‑to‑back.¬† So that's one issue.
Having said that, we are very focused on the divisional seeding process, and I think we are going to take a very close look at whether we should seed at least 1 through 8 by conference as opposed to giving the division winner that higher seed.  So that is something we are taking a close look at that, and we may change that fairly quickly.
As I've said earlier, that is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore.
On the Hack‑a‑Shaq, you know, as I've said before, again, another issue we had a long discussion about at our general manager's meeting recently in Chicago.¬† And while we looked at the data, it's true most of the general managers in that room were not in favor of making the change.¬† In essence, what the data shows is that you're largely talking about two teams throughout the playoffs, in fact, 90 percent of the occurrences of Hack‑a‑Shaq involve the Rockets and the Clippers, and then for the most part it's two players, 75 percent involved two players, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard.
So then the question becomes should we be making that rule change largely for two teams and two players?  I don't necessarily think the answer is, therefore, we shouldn't, and it's not surprising also, therefore, that the general managers would take the view they do from wearing their competitive hats, as you might expect.  But ultimately rule changes come from ownership, not just from the general managers.
Then the question becomes is it good or bad for the game?¬† I worry when people talk about sort of the aesthetic aspect of the game in terms of we are an entertainment product and people saying it's boring or it's not something they want to watch.¬† So I'm very aware of that.¬† Although, at least up until now, when we look at the minute‑by‑minute data of ratings, ratings aren't necessarily going down, for whatever reason.¬† Maybe it's because people are so curious to see what's going to happen or the pressure on those players.¬† So the data isn't necessarily showing that people are turning off their televisions.
But, in addition, one of the things I've raised before is I'm also concerned sort of as a steward of the game what it means if we change the rules as well, and that's from literally the hundreds of emails I get from high school coaches, junior high coaches, AAU coaches saying you can't possibly change the rule to accommodate players who can't make free throws.
So it's a balance of issues, but I think it's one that the owners will end up having a sort of robust discussion on this summer.  Ultimately, I think I said the other day, my personal view is it would help to look at another season of data, because in so many of the situations with which it was used this year, putting aside the fact it was largely two teams, it flat out wasn't effective.  Even in terms of players hitting their free throws, roughly, if a player can hit 50 percent of his free throws, it defeats the strategy.
So that's sort of just on those two issues.  They haven't necessarily been put on the back burner yet.  They're still active discussions.
In terms of the draft lottery, as you know, I am in favor of making modifications to the draft lottery, and I brought something to our board last October which ultimately did not receive the super majority of votes that would be required to pass.
I'm currently of the view that's actually one I think we should park at least for a year because when all this cap money comes in‑‑ like we're going to go from a cap of I think approximately $67 million next year in the '15‑'16 season to a cap of roughly $90 million in the '16‑'17 season.
What I've learned from this league, having been around a long time, is that our smart teams figure out angles, approaches, that we just can't possibly model.  Of course the draft is only one of three ways in which you sign teams.  There is then of course free agency and trades.  It's all part of one larger system.
My hesitation now to push through a change on the draft lottery is without knowing how our teams are going to react.  It's a massive amount of capital that's going to come in from one year to the next.  Something that's never happened before in the history of this league.  That's one issue where I feel that even though I think a change in the draft lottery is needed, we should wait and then take a look at it holistically when we see how the whole system will operate under much higher caps.

Q.  Per that discussion of ratings, "Sports Media Watch" had an article saying the NBA was in decline, citing a drop in ratings over the past three seasons.  Is that a concern for the league when the NFL's ratings are going up?  And what should be done to reverse that trend perhaps?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  No, I mean, ratings fluctuate.  Let's see how we do in this year's Finals.  My hunch is we're going to be up and we'll make judgments there.  But there is always the ebb and flow.  Clearly the marketplace has confidence in the NBA.  We just renewed our national television deals for nine years beginning the season after next, and a lot of our ratings now, in essence, come through digital media, come through streaming.  The world is changing.
I think for the league also we look at ourselves as a global product, and we're clearly growing on a global basis.
But in terms of ratings in the United States, a lot of it I could go through it, it's sort of match‑up specific in certain cases, injuries to certain players.¬† Part of the issue we have, we don't have a tremendous amount of flexibility once the season starts.¬† If TNT's night is Thursday night and we schedule a particular team and a star player on that team is injured, understandably fans have opportunities to watch other games.¬† While we may move start times around a little bit, given the complexity of the schedule, we've never gone to teams and said you were supposed to play on Wednesday and now we need you to play on Thursday because that's the Turner night.
I think part of it is it's sort of endemic to injuries in the season.¬† I'm not worried at all about long‑term trends.¬† In fact, all the data we have is just growing interest in our sport.¬† Kids especially, boys and girls in particular as well.¬† So we feel very good about the future.

Q.  Michelle Roberts said a few months ago she sees no reason why a new collective bargaining agreement couldn't be agreed upon before this one expires.  Do you agree, and do you think there is an opportunity for that?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:¬† Yeah, I hope there is an opportunity for that.¬† This current collective bargaining agreement was actually a ten‑year agreement.¬† But either side can opt out at the end of the '16‑'17 season.¬† Like any contract, you can talk about it at any time.
Certainly we've had discussions about The Players Association about getting together as early as this summer to begin talking about how both sides feel the collective bargaining agreement is working, if there were to be changes, what changes we'd like to see made.
My feeling is the league is doing incredibly well.¬† The players are doing really well.¬† Popularity is at an all‑time high.¬† So I think it would be very constructive to sit down sooner than later to start talking about to the extent there should be changes in the collective bargaining agreement, what both sides would like to see.

Q.  LeBron James was elected VP of the NBPA this year.  And he joins Chris Paul, another prominent figure in the game in that leadership structure, which kind of bucks a trend from maybe the last decade and a half.  What are your thoughts as Commissioner that those guys, the people in place, and of course you kind of alluded to 2017, it could be significant?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  I think the fact that both Chris and LeBron are directly involved with the Players Association is very good news.  I think it's very healthy for the players.  My experience through many collective bargaining sessions and agreements over the years is just like in the locker room, the star players have outsized influence, so I think that those players are involved and gotten involved early and want to have direct discussions both with other players through their Executive Committee and then with the Owners Committee, it will be very helpful for the process.
They're also two players I know pretty well.¬† I think they're both very business savvy.¬† They invest in their own businesses.¬† I think they're sort of able to take a long‑term view or sit across from the owners and put themselves in their shoes, and I think have a pretty good understanding of the business as well.
So I think it's very productive and constructive that they're both involved.

Q.  I was just wondering, there has been a lot of talk about it, and Andrew Bogut has been quite vocal about taking a game down to Australia.  Has there been any talk about that and knowing that there is such a huge fan base down there?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  No, thank you for being here, and it's great to see Australian players in The Finals.  I've been to that market, your market with the NBA a couple times.  It's sort of the ebb and flow in our business.  There is sort of an evanescence and interest based a decade ago, and we focused our interest on other markets.  But we're seeing a real surge in popularity in terms of all the digital media data we have, the broadband League Passes we sell in Australia.  I think it will be something we'll look at.  It's obviously a long trip, but we'd love to bring teams back there and love to play a game in Australia.

Q.  Commissioner, in the last lockout, you guys got rid of Bird rights being sent with the sign and trades in order to give the home team an advantage to keep the hometown.  It hasn't really worked out that way.  Dwight Howard, LeBron James, teams are losing their stars and not getting anything in return because they can't barter with that sign and trade rights.  Is that something you guys are trying to bring back?
COMMISSIONER SILVER:  It's too early to say.  Our system is designed to give a player's team an advantage in trying to keep that player.  On the other hand, we respect free agency, and there is always that tension and teams can still sign longer contracts, they can pay players more money.
But as you said, some high‑profile players have left.¬† As I said earlier, it's a zero sum game.¬† So you have teams and even owners on both sides of that conversation.¬† It depends on who your particular player is at the time.¬† I have no doubt that player movement‑‑ there is the economics and there's the player movement issue, and then there is the health and welfare issue of the players.¬† I think that will all be on the table when we start discussions with the players.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you all for being here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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