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February 18, 2017
New Orleans, Louisiana
ADAM SILVER: First of all, thank you all very much for being here. This is our third time being back in New Orleans in the last 10 years, and as always, they've been fantastic hosts.
Let me also begin with a few thank-yous. First of all, to Governor Edwards and Mitch Landrieu, who welcomed us with open arms. I think you all know the circumstances in which we came here, and they accomplished the impossible, which, again, was on very short notice -- created the hotel rooms, the arena availability, and everything else we needed to make this work. So really a special thank-you to Mitch and Governor Edwards.
I also want to thank Tom and Gayle Benson. When we went to them and said we needed to move the All-Star Game and we knew New Orleans had been a great host in the past, they moved mountains to make this work, along with Dennis Lauscha, the President of the Pelicans, and the entire Pelicans organization that made this work.
As you all know, this All-Star -- what was the All-Star Game and then the weekend and really All-Star week -- has taken on huge magnitude of events and a much greater scope every year. And this year, in addition to the All-Stars, we have roughly another 60 current players who are in town on top of the All-Stars, plus roughly 150 NBA Legends who are in town as well, who are working in the community, participated in our Day of Service on Friday, are conducting basketball clinics, are working in schools, working on our events. So it's truly the NBA family in town.
On top of that, in our Day of Service, which, interestingly enough, began here 10 years ago under Kathy Behrens' direction, who runs NBA Cares, it was initially a response to Katrina and our attempt to contribute to the community when we brought our All-Star Game back here. It's become a regular feature of this weekend in every city we go to, but it's increasingly impactful here in New Orleans. 2,500 of our guests participated in the activities in the community on Friday, were outside, many of them working in the rain, building playgrounds, refurbishing courts, and all kinds of great activities.
I know for many people who I talk to who have been coming to these All-Star festivities for years, it's become the most important part, the hands-on volunteer work they do in the community. So I'm very appreciative of them.
Again, even this year, because of the impact of just the hurricane and storms from last week and the tornado, there were additional sites that we added on short notice, working with Mayor Landrieu. So I think my heart goes out to those families that were directly impacted by last week's tornado. Again, I was pleased that we were able to add those locations.
And then the game itself. I've been with the league for a long time. I think the state of the league is as good as it's ever been -- the competition on the floor, the diversity of the players. For the first time this year, we made somewhat of a significant leap in the number of international players in this league. We climbed from roughly 20 percent of the league, players that were born outside the United States, to 25 percent, and those numbers are only going to continue to grow. If you look at last year's draft, nearly 50 percent of the players in our two-round draft were born outside of the United States as well.
So as this game becomes more global and the competition increases for these jobs around the world, it makes these positions in the NBA that much more coveted.
And speaking of the basketball competition, it's been a very busy few weeks from a business standpoint. I know most of you heard earlier this week Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum was down in Florida at the Gatorade Institute and announced that we are changing the name of our development league, known as the D-League, to the Gatorade League, where it will be known as the G-League. And that name change accompanies really a substantive change in the way those positions will work beginning next season with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
We will now have two-way contracts associated with every NBA club. So those will be two positions, not part of the NBA roster, but at a pay scale between where our D-League currently is and the NBA minimums, where teams will know that those players can be taught their system. They'll be ready to go to come up to their NBA teams, learning the culture and learning the strategies that those teams incorporate. But it will also mean that the development league will be in a position to attract increasingly high caliber basketball players from around the world. So it's something we're very excited about. I think it's a great statement about the popularity of the game as well.
On the virtual front, last week we announced we're also moving into the eSports business, and together with our partner Take-Two, we announced the NBA 2K eSports League. Just to be clear, for those of you who played NBA 2K, which includes avatars of real life current players, our gaming league will be avatars of a new set of professional players. These will be gamers, professional gamers, who are associated with our NBA clubs, but they also will be from a global pool of a different kind of athlete competing for these positions, and it will be -- and the avatar, in the case of our eSports league, may bear no similarity to the actual appearance of those athletes competing in those leagues.
And also, in terms of the pool available to compete in that league, physical prowess, at least the way it's necessary on an NBA court, will no longer be necessary. It may be a different kind of physical prowess in terms of reflexes and your ability to move your thumbs very quickly, but these athletes can be any shape or size and any age and from anywhere. So we're very excited to move into that business.
And an added benefit, in terms of an NBA 2K league, is that it will further engage people in the sport of basketball. So I'm very pleased with that.
Earlier today, we announced that we're returning to Africa this summer, specifically to Johannesburg, where we're going to, in partnership with the NBA Players Association, are going to be playing on August 5th, our second game on the continent of Africa. And we're very pleased with the growth of the game there, and we're appreciative of the partnership with the Players Association.
With that, I couldn't be more excited about what's ahead, and I'm looking forward to the festivities on the court tonight, which will be on TNT. So happy to answer any questions.
Q. With the new CBA and the seasons now being able to start earlier and hopefully the elimination of four-in-fives and things of that nature, at least the limiting of them, are you hopeful that one of the by-products of that will be alleviating this problem of guys resting, particularly when they come to an NBA city only once in a season? Are you hopeful there might be some solutions on that front or at least some minimization of all that?
ADAM SILVER: Yes. The answer is, in fact, yes, that's why we're adding the extra week to the season. So everyone understands, we've reduced, in essence, our preseason. We've reduced the number of games we'll play in the preseason and added a full week to the regular season.
As I said before, every day makes a big difference in creating the schedule. That extra week in our schedule will enable us to cut down on the back-to-backs, cut down on the number of times that our teams are obligated to play four games in five nights, and it will enable the coaches to provide additional rest for their players.
So we do hope it will cut down on the resting of players in marquee games. I do recognize, though, that there isn't an easy solution to that problem, and I'm sympathetic to fans who turn out -- whether they buy tickets to games or watching games on television and don't see their favorite player on the floor. But we also have to be realistic that the science has gotten to the point where there is that direct correlation that we're aware of between fatigue and injuries. And as tough as it is on our fans to miss one of their favorite players for a game, it's far better than having them get injured and be out for long periods of time. So we're always still looking to strike that right balance.
But clearly, one of the ways that we can work to minimize the resting is to add number of days to the schedule, which will add additional rest.
Q. Adam, I'm just wondering about the D-League, or the G-League, I guess, now. As you get closer to maybe 30 one-to-one relationships with teams, do you suspect that maybe you could revisit that with the union in terms of how that is structured, the contracts there, and things like that? Or is that something that has to go through collective bargaining every time?
ADAM SILVER: Well, the two-way contracts are part of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those D-League players that are not part of the two-way contract system are not in our players' union. So in terms of revisiting it with the Players Association, I think both Michele [Roberts] and I recognize that a Collective Bargaining Agreement, at the end of the day, is really not that different than any other contract, and I think that we're always looking to find ways to improve the way we do business, to find other ways to grow the game.
So once we see how those two-way contracts work in operation, I'm sure there will be various aspects that we'll revisit. But as you said in your question, our goal is to move to a 30-team development league as quickly as possible.
Q. But just it seems like that with both the D-League and, say, the age limit, those are issues that have been punted down the road the last two CBAs. Is that something that you don't need a CBA negotiation to revisit?
ADAM SILVER: No. Well, first of all, we absolutely need the union in order to revisit the age -- the current age minimum of 19 years old, but something Michele and I discussed directly -- and this is different than last time we negotiated a Collective Bargaining Agreement -- is that rather than say to you that talk to us in seven years when we sit back down to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I think she and I both agree that it's the kind of issue that needs to be studied, in essence, outside of the bright lights of collective bargaining.
And I think both of us, while our traditional positions have been the league would like to raise the minimum age from 19 to 20, and at least Michele's stated position is that she'd like to lower it from 19 to 18, I think there's an acknowledgement that the issue is far more complex than that, and it requires sort of all the constituent groups to be at the table. We have to understand sort of the level -- where those players are coming from before they get -- in the case of the lottery picks, before they get to that one year of college. How is the AAU system working in practice? How is the high school system? What access do coaches have to them once they're in college under the NCAA rules? Throw in the potential loss of eligibility if we have contact with them at a younger age.
And I will say -- and maybe it's a little bit of a different position from my standpoint -- I think rather than standing here and saying league's goal is to get from 19 to 20, I think I have a better understanding of the issue now as well as I talk to some of the young players who are coming into our league who have only completed a portion of their freshman year in college and have a better understanding of what the conditions are for them both academically and in terms of their basketball requirements.
And, again, it is one of those issues that doesn't lend itself well to one of 50 issues we're trying to get through in a collective bargaining session, but, again, I think both Michele and I agree that it's something we should turn back to right away, partly have a better understanding.
Remember at the end of the day -- I looked at these numbers recently -- just in men's college basketball, the combination of Division I, II, and III, you have roughly 16,000 players participating in college basketball right now, and I think the five-year -- the average over the last five years is roughly eight players coming in as so-called one-and-done players. So I don't want to overreact to that either, but I think it requires that we take a new look and a new approach to the issue.
Q. Commissioner, in July, when you elected to relocate the game from Charlotte, what were the factors that led you to New Orleans? And how has the event co-existed with Mardi Gras in town?
ADAM SILVER: The last part of your question, at least so far we're co-existing well with Mardi Gras, thank you very much. I think our guests are having a great time. Everyone seems to enjoy partying together, whether you're here for Mardi Gras or All-Star festivities or both.
In terms of our selection of New Orleans, we recognized that, when we made that decision to leave North Carolina, there are very few cities in North America that could host an event of this magnitude on short notice, and one of those cities, New Orleans, was where we had experience with two other All-Star Games, as I've said earlier, in essence, in the last decade, and we had very good relationships with the mayor, Mayor Landrieu.
I hadn't talked to Governor Edwards previously, but he's someone who reached out to me and said we would welcome your All-Star Game with open arms. In addition, thank you also to Tom and Gayle Benson and Dennis Lauscha because they stepped right up.
And as great as this event is for this city, one, we were in discussions with North Carolina, New Orleans and Louisiana were not soliciting these events. As active as your tourism and visitors bureau is, they weren't saying North Carolina's loss is our gain. What they had said to us is, if you find yourself in a situation where on short notice, the NBA has been great for our community. You all stepped up after Katrina. You were there for us, and we'll be there for you.
Again, they welcomed us with open arms, and everything is working very well for us this weekend. But it wasn't easy. They had to work with other groups that would have otherwise been here. They shifted their dates. Thank you to a few acts, a few musical acts that moved out of the arena and out of the Superdome -- out of all the facilities in town to make room for us. It wasn't easy, but there was very much a can do attitude to make it happen.
Q. Following up on the circumstances of moving All-Star, would cities and states with ordinances or legislation pending that could be similar to North Carolina's be excluded from consideration for future All-Star? And is the league involved with legislators on working on pending legislation or local ordinances?
ADAM SILVER: We're not involved directly with legislatures. I have talked to Governor Cooper, the new Governor of North Carolina since he was elected, really to express our desire to return to North Carolina next year  for our All-Star Game. We have a team in North Carolina. We have a development team, soon to be a G-League team, in North Carolina. And 20 other teams will visit North Carolina this season. So we'd very much like to get back there.
We had a discussion so I understood, certainly, his position, when he was running for office, was anti-HB2, the bill that ultimately led to our leaving. So I really was talking to him more to understand, from his standpoint, how he was hoping to move forward in terms of changing that law. My pain purpose of talking to him was to express our desire to return next year.
In terms of laws in other jurisdictions, it's something we continue to monitor very closely. You know, I'm not ready to draw bright lines. Clearly, though, the laws of the state, ordinances, and cities are a factor we look at in deciding where to play our All-Star Games.
Q. Just to follow up very briefly, if it's pending legislation to be voted on after a decision would be made about 2020 or 2021, would a city or state be eligible? Would it be considered even if there's a possibility? In the case of Texas with SB6, could have a similar impact as HB2?
ADAM SILVER: I think the issue is we'd have to look at the specific legislation and understand its impact. I mean, I'm not ready to stand here today and say that that is the bright line test for whether or not we will play All-Star Games in Texas. It's something we're, of course, going to monitor very closely. What we've stated is that our values, our league-wide values in terms of equality and inclusion are paramount to this league and all the members of the NBA family, and I think those jurisdictions that are considering legislation similar to HB2 are on notice that that is an important factor for us. Those values are an important factor for us in deciding where we take a special event like an All-Star Game.
Q. There was a big jump in the cap this summer, and there's been a lot of reporting about different levels of increase over the next several years. At times it's going to go flat. Other times it seems like it's going to rise a significant amount. I'm curious, now that you've had some time to analyze the data, do you have any idea how you think it's going to rise over the years? And do you have any opinion on the surprising debate this weekend on whether the earth is flat or not.
ADAM SILVER: I'm not sure which is the harder question, but I'll take the cap question first. On the issue of the cap, it's a derivative of our business and the amount of revenue we generate and a formula that is part of so-called BRI, as you well know. These projections change on a regular basis. And the good news is that, as we continue to find new opportunities for our business, it generates more BRI and will lead to increased cap projections.
And our teams, I recognize, are in a difficult position sometimes because they're making important tactical and strategic decisions about which players to sign, trying to calculate how much cap space they're going to have long term based on that same position. So the best that we can do, both with our teams and with the Players Association, is just to be very transparent and to regularly update those projections.
Given the nature of 30 teams plus a Players Association, as soon as we update those projections, they become known to the media as well. I don't have any so-called inside information to share other than we look out at our business and we try to project ahead, but it's a function of ticket pricing and sometimes which teams make the playoffs because the gates in some cities are higher than others, some international media deals we might do, but that's the state of things.
And as far as your second question, again, Kyrie and I went to the same college (laughter). He may have taken some different courses than I did. But in all seriousness, as he made clear today, he was trying to be provocative, and I think it was effective. I think it was a larger comment on the sort of so-called fake news debate that's going on in our society right now in terms of what's reported, and it led to an interesting discussion. But personally, I believe the world is round (laughter).
Q. Thank you for that clarification, Adam. You mentioned a few times today the league, how much it values diversity, inclusion. You've mentioned the growth in our international players, and obviously this is a league that's long valued standing against discrimination, which is why we're here and not in North Carolina. With all that in mind, I'm curious, where does the league's stance on the White House's travel ban? I know there was a statement issued right at the time that the Executive Order came out expressing some concern and desire for more information. In the weeks since then, obviously, a lot of your players and coaches have spoken out very powerfully. I'm curious, does the league have a view of it right now, a stance on it? And secondarily, any concern for, whether it's your own players coming from overseas or any of the NBA's operations overseas with regard to the travel ban?
ADAM SILVER: So the answer is I do have concern about travel bans. Putting aside the justification for them for a second because I don't have access to the same intelligence obviously or security information that people in the government do, but we are a business based on global mobility. As I said earlier, 25 percent of our players were born outside of the United States. We do a tremendous amount of business on a global basis, and if you think about what the NBA stands for, it's, in essence, the very best all coming together, the very best in the world all coming together to perform at the highest level.
So government restrictions on travel, I am concerned about. It goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what make for a great NBA, and that is the very best in the world coming here. Of the current state of that travel ban, of course, is that it was struck down by the court. So I have nothing to add to that.
I think that my personal view is from a league standpoint we have to look out for our league members. We have two NBA players that were born in the Sudan. So my personal view is that we need to look sort of at specific cases and see how that potentially could impact members of the NBA family and then play whatever role we can in providing information to the government and monitoring the situation.
But, Howard, it's hard for me to go beyond that because I don't have access to the same information that people who are designing these laws and looking at these issues do.
Q. Adam, are you looking to get back into the Dolan-Oakley situation? And when you left the meeting, did you think things were on the right track and almost even resolved?
ADAM SILVER: When I left the meeting with Charles Oakley and Jim Dolan, I did not think things were resolved. I thought they were on the right track. As I said in the statement that I issued that night, I thought the meeting was important because, back to my NBA family, I do think it's important that family members deal with each other directly, and I thought it would be helpful if Charles and Jim sat across from each other and spoke directly to each other rather than through the media or through surrogates.
Again, as I said in my statement that night, they both apologized directly to each other. There was no agreement coming out of that meeting, though, that it had been resolved. There was no agreement that either one was restricted from saying anything further. And so while I'm disheartened that, at least based on media accounts, that it is not -- does not appear to be moving forward in a constructive way, right now I don't regret that I had that meeting. And if there is a constructive role I can play going forward, I'm available to do that.
Again, I didn't compel them to meet with me. I did it because I thought it would be helpful. And frankly, in retrospect, I still think it was helpful.
I'm still hopeful that Charles will sort of come back into the family. Again, when Jim Dolan invited him back to Madison Square Garden, Charles did not say, wonderful, let's take out the schedule and pick a game. In fact, he was very emotional in the meeting, and he said it was something he wanted to think about. And in my subsequent conversations with him, I have said, I think you should continue to think about it. And whether that's a month from now, six months from now, or a year from now, the fan in me and someone who's known Charles for a long time, I hope at some point he does decide to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately, that's his decision.
Q. You announced earlier today and just now that the NBA is headed to South Africa for the second ever Africa game. How motivated is the NBA in growing the game on the African continent?
ADAM SILVER: We're extraordinarily motivated to grow the game in Africa. We have 14 current NBA players that were born in Africa and many others who have a parent that was born in Africa. As you know, we have an office in Johannesburg, South Africa, and we see it as a very important market. I mean, the continent has nearly 1 billion people. Your network and others have allowed us to bring games directly to fans there, not just through conventional television, but through smartphones. So we see a huge opportunity there.
And I'd just add to that that I think those trips, again, as I said earlier, in partnership with our Players Association, we've been operating our Basketball Without Borders programs in Africa for 15 years right now, and I think we've seen that we can have important impact on issues like physical fitness, nutrition, values like hard work and teamwork and dedication. So there's a lot that we think we can do, both from a social responsibility standpoint and from a business standpoint in Africa.
Q. Commissioner, do you have any news of the chances of Mexico getting a game for the next season? And if there is a team already interested.
ADAM SILVER: So I have nothing to announce today in terms of games in Mexico next season. But I can say I was there, as you know, in Mexico City just this past January for one of our games for the Spurs and Phoenix, and it was incredibly successful. Mexico City and the entire country is a market that we're very, very focused on. And many of our other teams that haven't played games in Mexico have seen the success there and have raised their hand and said they would be interested in playing in Mexico as well.
So stay tuned. I'm sure we'll be making announcements in short order about next season. But my expectation is we will continue to play regular-season games in Mexico City and grow our presence throughout the country.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports