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May 31, 2018
Oakland, California: Game One
COMMISSIONER SILVER: First of all, welcome, everyone. Wonderful to be here for yet another Finals. First of all, let me congratulate both organizations. Of course, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, along with Bob Myers and Steve Kerr, it's quite an amazing feat to be back here once again.
I'm sure many of the people in this room have been around the game a long time or played the game, and just to be here is quite spectacular. So congratulations to them. And of course to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert and his partners, together with Koby Altman, Ty Lue.
Again, they made a lot of changes throughout the season. Quite an incredible undertaking by them. A lot of people were predicting they weren't going to be here, so once again, congratulations to them. Obviously, LeBron, an eighth Finals in a row, it's quite an incredible feat.
Let me just say, I've been around the league for a long time, and these are some of our most spectacular playoffs in years. It's the first time in almost 40 years that both teams have taken their Conference Finals to seven games. Both teams, of course, were down 3-2. Won on the opponent's court. That in itself is quite an accomplishment to have done that and be here.
I'd say this for the quality of the basketball. There is so much discussion about the NBA world on Twitter these days. I pulled off two just that I thought were fascinating. There was Victor Oladipo's trainer texted right after they lost, Indiana lost in Game 7, and he said: Can you believe it? Victor just texted me and said I want to see you back in the gym tomorrow. I now know where I need to get to.
Manu Ginobili, who, of course, knows firsthand how hard it is to win in this league, tweeted the other night: Unbelievable display of talent by LeBron, Steph and KD. Great to be an NBA fan.
I couldn't agree more with Manu. I think we have spectacular competition throughout the league, and I would just say I'm really looking forward to these Finals.
Again, I know we have media from all over the world here. I want to thank you for covering our league throughout the season and for being here in Oakland. With that, I'm happy to answer any questions.
Q. I'm asking at the suggestion of one of the participants tonight, and his question, or forwarding a question from us, is, is it a good thing for the NBA to have the same two teams in The Finals four years in a row?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, as I said, first of all, just to get here is quite a spectacular achievement. And for those teams to have gotten here four years in a row is even that much more difficult. I think this league is about celebrating greatness, and I think that's what you're seeing on the floor here. You're seeing it whether it's an individual player accomplishment, team accomplishments. I, frankly, can tell from the ratings and from the amount of interest that our playoffs now, these Finals, that people agree.
But underlying that question, of course, is the notion of parity. And I'll deal with it directly. I'll say that as a league you're constantly looking to design systems that help to achieve parity, but the notion in this league is parity of opportunity. As I said, I don't want to take anything away from the spectacular achievements from ownership throughout management that it takes to get these players here, and of course from the players themselves and the enormous amount of hard work that goes into it.
Also, on the other hand, you could do more to achieve parity, but you also don't want parity of mediocrity either. So you look to find the right balance as a league, and it's something we always continue to look at. But I will just add, as I said earlier, I looked this up. LeBron, now over the course of the last eight Finals, has played with 59 different players. So even if you were looking to design a system to try to create more parity, just take it in the East, I'm not sure what else you would do.
I will add something, and it's no secret we looked at for a long time -- we have a soft cap system. And you have two teams here who are both, with their tax, the highest salaried, highest payroll teams in the league. That's something we'll continue to look at. But that's for another day.
I would just say that these teams deserve to be here. There is an enormous amount of interest in these Finals. I think the drama, it couldn't be more exciting.
Q. I'm curious, have you reached out to Philadelphia and asked to be updated on this Twitter situation at all? How eager is the league, whatever the resolution's going to be, to get it done quickly?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, for the league there is always that balance of speed and doing things in a deliberate and appropriate way. So I have talked to management at the 76ers, and the notion here was let's find out what's going on.
In anything we've dealt with over the years, you have to separate sort of the chatter and sort of what either fans or, frankly, the media are saying from the facts. And the first thing we have to do here is determine what the actual facts are in this circumstance.
I know the first thing that Josh Harris and his ownership group did was when presented with that story, which I believe came as a surprise to them, was to engage an outside law firm, a New York firm that specializes in these types of investigations and said, you know, here's all the information we have. Our organization, all of us are available to you, and I know that includes Bryan Colangelo, and with deliberate speed, but don't cut any corners, let us know what's going on.
So, of course, from the league standpoint, here we are, Game 1 of The Finals, it's not necessarily something we want to be talking about, but it's the reality of this league. So I have no information beyond that other than that investigation is underway.
Q. Delaware plans to open up sports gambling next week. What additional steps did the NBA or does the NBA need to take or has taken to bolster whatever you need to do internally to monitor this? How close are you or how much headway have you made also on integrity fee that the league has been looking for?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, let me begin by saying, of course, sports betting is already legal in the United States in the state of Nevada, and it's legal in many other countries we do business around the world. We have several so-called integrity provisions in place already. Many of them relate to disclosure, as the media well knows, and other controls we have in place to monitor betting lines, monitor betting information.
The real issue, as we move to new jurisdictions that are legalizing sports betting, is access to information. And that's one of the things that we have sought and modeled legislation that we've presented to now the roughly 20 jurisdictions or so in the United States that are looking to legalize sports betting.
So what we can do is going to depend in large part on the quality of the information we can get from these states. It doesn't necessarily mean that we need to know name and Social Security number for the person placing their bets. But if we can get aggregate information, for example, and we can look at trends, it will put us in a better position to detect any aberrational behavior.
So, again, as you know, we've spent a fair amount of time over the last several months talking directly to states like Delaware, like New Jersey, West Virginia, New York, Illinois and others that are in the process of passing legislation.
And to your last question, one of the issues we had on the table and have been seeking is a so-called integrity fee. And the notion of the integrity fee is that, as we're now dealing potentially with 50 different jurisdictions, all with differing permutations of sports betting law, it's going to dramatically increase the enforcement cost for the league office.
So we think the integrity fee is something we're entitled to, one, because we have the additional cost. And also something, as I've said before, and we're not hiding from, we also think we are due a royalty and that if the intellectual property that is created by this league -- and I know all the leagues support this position, but in the case of the NBA, we'll spend roughly $7.5 billion dollars creating NBA basketball this season. And to the extent that product is then used for casinos, betting parlors to make money on, we feel, just in the same way a musician that receives a royalty for the music that's being played, that we should receive some sort of royalty.
So call it a royalty; call it an integrity fee. We will have additional expenses, and it's ultimately our intellectual property and we ultimately believe we should be compensated for it.
Q. Just briefly, have you heard from other sides, and do you expect to get that fee?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Good question. It depends. I think we've had better receptions in certain states than others. There are very strong gaming interests, some who we've talked directly to in many states that do significant business through their casinos in those states, and, again, their position has been very public.
Their view is we're not entitled to that integrity fee. And my response to those gaming organizations is if that's your view, then we will negotiate with you directly, because I think many of them desire to get official data feeds from the league, they desire to use our trademarks for placing bets. Some of them desire to have official designations from our league and others, so we will have direct commercial negotiations with those casinos, which is, to me, not inconsistent in any way with also seeking that integrity fee.
Q. Can you talk about what happened with Bucks guard Sterling Brown and whether or not you've had a chance to speak to him? Also wanted to see if you could talk about the NFL ruling with the owners last week in regards to the National Anthem, and if perhaps you guys might change anything in the NBA?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, let me begin with Sterling Brown. So, yes, he and I have been in contact, and I also have had extensive conversations with his father, Chris Brown, who, as I think you know, was a police officer in Chicago for 30 years. He shared his perspective with me as well.
I saw the video for the first time when the public saw it. It's horrific. I think for any of us, regardless of the fact that he's an NBA player, it was difficult to watch. It's painful.
I will say that as a result of whether it's police officers wearing cameras on their body, the transparency that the internet now provides through that sort of distribution, I think in my sense it's not necessarily the case that society has changed in the last few years; it's that now that in a very positive way, people like me who aren't subjected, frankly, to that kind of treatment, are becoming much more aware of how a certain part of our society views law enforcement and their interactions with law enforcement.
Of course, as I discussed with Sterling's father -- again, he's a gentleman who had been a police officer for 30 years, so there is no anti-police sentiment whatsoever in that family. I think it's a reality in our country right now that there's a disconnect often between young people of color, especially, and police officers, incidentally, black and white.
One of the things the league has undertaken, and led in many ways by our players and by our leading players over the last several years, has been to find ways to build bridges and communities, to create dialogue directly between young people and police officers. We haven't publicized a lot of those meetings.
In many cases, it's been meetings, again, without media, without camera crews, of young people, players acting as facilitators -- many players can relate, of course, to situations many of those young people are in in communities -- together with police officers so they could better understand each other.
We've embarked on those initiatives throughout the country, all of our teams. The Warriors have done a ton of things in Oakland, and I know also in Cleveland, these two teams. They're exemplars of the kinds of impact that teams and players can have in communities.
Again, they've tried to have those so-called difficult conversations. I think they have been very effective. But at the same time, when we see a video like with Sterling Brown with that young man, again, we realize we have a long way to go.
In terms of the anthem policy, of course I've watched what the NFL has done. I feel that they're in a very different situation than the NBA is in. Of course, we've had a rule on our books that precedes David Stern. It was put in place by Larry O'Brien in the early '80s. From my standpoint, it's been about respect -- respect for the institution, respect for the fans, respect for the country that these players are playing in.
In the case of the NBA, of course, 25% of our league is comprised of players who aren't American. So it's hard to say in the case of the NBA it's about patriotism when a quarter of our players aren't even American.
But we've viewed it, and we collectively have viewed it, as a moment of unity in our arenas. Frankly, it's been a different dialogue in the NBA than it's been in the NFL.
Again, I'm only an observer in terms of what I see and read about what's happening in the NFL. But our emphasis at least has been on constructive activities in our communities. There has been no discussion with our Players Association about changing our existing rule.
Q. Just to follow up on Steve's question, you and your predecessor obviously spent considerable time and effort to try to create a league that was competitively balanced, I think as you put it, so that all 30 teams, if well managed, would have a chance to earn a profit and compete for a championship. Have you come to the realization that that kind of top-to-bottom parity is unattainable in this sport? Is it not as vital to the game as you thought it was, considering the ratings and the interests continue to go up and up? Or is that still a priority and a goal of yours as Commissioner?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Again, the only slight pivot I'd make from your question is I view it as a quality of opportunity as opposed to an NFL-type parity, because I think it's a different game where there truly is an "any given Sunday" notion, frankly, despite the Patriots' incredible success over the last decade and a half. I think they've achieved a kind of parity, and hat's off to them. It may be they're able to do it through their collective bargaining system or something that I'm missing. But I think it's fundamentally a different game.
My point before, if you have LeBron James playing with 59 different players over eight years, it means that presumably the team LeBron is on is going to be a dominant team. Whether they get to The Finals every year is a separate issue. Not to take anything away from strong coaching and general managing and ownership at that team, but you have certain players in our league that are so transcendent that their team is always probably going to be in the hunt.
I would also say about the Warriors, again, it's a team largely built through the draft and some strategic trades. Again, I watch, as I look at our teams investing enormous resources in coaching, in facilities, analytics, they certainly believe there is something more than just putting players on the floor.
In fairness to Golden State, there is something special going on here. But now, in terms of overall parity, I guess I'll go back to where I started: Can our system be improved upon? I think it can. I think it's something we're constantly looking at.
As I said, ideally, at least from the league standpoint, and these are things we need to talk to our Players Association about, that you still have two teams that are significantly above, not just the cap, but the tax. So one of, presumably, the elements that creates a bit more parity in the NFL, one of the factors other than the game, is they have a so-called hard cap. We don't have that.
Now, it's something that we'll continue to look at. There are pros and cons to doing it. Historically, one of the issues in our league was we didn't necessarily want to break up teams. There is a different sense in the NBA than the NFL, and the chemistry and dynamic that comes together with a group of players.
Not to say -- the tax can still force a team to be broken up at some point, because, to your point, we had twin goals there. One was to put teams in a position where they could make a reasonable return and not just be competitive. So at some point the tax becomes so onerous that it's difficult to operate under it.
Again, we have many years left in this collective bargaining agreement. At some point we'll turn back to a discussion with the Players Association, and presumably for them -- the notion, too, is the greater the competition you can create, the greater their interests will be.
At the same time, I don't think it's inconsistent to celebrate greatness and to say, my God, look what these two teams are doing, and let's celebrate it. So we're a work in progress.
Q. It's the first year of the new two-way contract. You're nearing, not quite, but near 30 G League teams, and there's been a lot of discussion of which I think you talked a little bit at All-Star about. Where is the NBA in progressing toward be it one-and-done or these changes? How do you think -- what is your impression of what we've seen so far?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, I think the premise of your question is exactly right. Those issues are all linked, the operation of a 30-team G League, two-way contracts and what the minimum age should be in the NBA. It's an ongoing discussion.
We read very closely and carefully the report issued by Condoleezza Rice and the NCAA, and their view, frankly, that players at 18 who are of NBA caliber, at least their view is, they should not be in college and they should be playing either directly in the NBA or in our development league. And I will say that if you have, in essence, college saying we don't want these players, it would be hard for us not to respond.
Now, how exactly we respond, again, that's something that needs to be bargained with our Players Association. We have a Labor Relations Committee that's led by Michael Jordan. We've been having a lot of meetings with our committee to try to formulate a proposal to take to the Players Association. I've been having discussions for several months with Michele Roberts, our Executive Director at the Players Association, about her view and her players' view of what we should be doing on the age issue.
Again, our teams are on both sides of it. I think 11 years ago or so, when we went from 18 to 19 as a minimum age, it was driven not just by a league view, but by player view, too, that we were a better league by having these young men spend a year outside the home before they came into the league. It's not just basketball experience. They're a little bit more mature. They've been out of the home.
On the other hand, I think now that we have a G League and a development league, we're in a different position where we can be more directly involved in the development of those young men. So that's something I look at.
Just the last piece of it, and this is a place where there is commonality with us and the NCAA, and as, I think, a realization that we need to get involved with these top-tier group of players at a younger age. It's not just about 19 or 18 or 19 or 20; it's when they truly start specializing. Our recommendation is it shouldn't be until 14, but they're specializing at a younger age than that. They get recognized at a fairly early age as being elite.
It's our view, if we can intersect on a regular basis with them, not necessarily academies that we're looking to do outside the United States, but say four, five times a year, have regular interaction with the young players, talk to them about physical fitness, nutrition, skills, mental wellness, all the different types of programs that we're involved in, that we're going to put them in a much better position -- if we do end up lowering our age to 18 -- so they're ready to play professional basketball.
Q. I'd be remiss if I didn't at least ask your comments on LeBron James and the suit shorts. I don't know if you saw that before the game.
COMMISSIONER SILVER: I'm behind a podium, so you can't see mine (laughing). You know, LeBron defines fashion. If LeBron is wearing shorts, it must be in.
Q. I don't know how to follow that one up. But earlier in October you said that 82 games is not a magical number, and then we just watched a regular season where the games lost due to injury were up substantially with high-profile guys like Kawhi Leonard, Kristaps Porzingis and DeMarcus Cousins. A, do you see the 82 number changing anytime soon? And B, with the gambling conversation going to be much more high pitched, do you think that DNP-rest and the availability of players that can move the lines will become a concern for the front office and understanding that certain players might be available or not available depending on how tired they are?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Well, on your last point, again, sports betting is already legal in the United States. It's legal in most jurisdictions outside the United States, so our rules in many cases in terms of disclosure and transparency are designed to deal directly with those issues. Not to say we can't look to tighten them up additionally, if there is massive amounts of legalized sports betting in the United States. But you're right, that's a core issue we've got to focus on. Disclosure, players playing, why they're not playing, et cetera.
In terms of the 82-game season and injuries, just a few of the examples you gave. Obviously, Kawhi Leonard hardly played this season. It's an injury from last year. I don't really know much about his injury other than he played very few games this year, so it's hard to tie that injury to an 82-game season. Of course, Kristaps Porzingis was lost fairly early in the season, so it's also hard to tie that to the length of the season.
So what our data shows right now, it's a little bit like driving. Of course, if you drive more miles, you're more likely to get into an accident. So if you play 82 games instead of 62 games, of course you play more basketball and you're more likely to get injured.
But we're not finding, with all the analytics we're doing, a correlation between the 70th game you play necessarily making it your -- becoming more injury-prone than you are in the 30th game.
As I said before, where we do see a correlation is lack of rest. That's why we added a week to the schedule. We've dramatically reduced back-to-backs and other things we've done to create more space in our schedule.
82 isn't a magic number. And there is, of course, a financial component for the league and the players of playing a full 82-game season. But we continue to look at other ideas. Whether we have a midseason tournament and reduce the number of games in the regular season, that's something we could look at. I think our playoff format is working pretty well.
But life changes, society changes, entertainment options are constantly changing as well. So we'll continue to look at it from a business standpoint.
But I do mean this most importantly, and we talk to the Players Association a lot about this, if we had any data, hard data suggesting that a season that was 75 games or 72 games instead of 82 games would reduce injuries other than just playing fewer games, we'd be taking a hard look at shortening our season. We just don't have that data right now.
Q. With the success and support that Nevada has given to the Vegas Knights, the ruling, like you talked about, with the Supreme Court and revenues and ratings being up for the NBA, what are the thoughts on the league on potentially expanding to a city like Las Vegas or another city like Seattle or Kansas City who have pitched wanting to have an NBA team as well?
COMMISSIONER SILVER: Just so I don't forget, I have to congratulate Ted Leonsis, my NBA owner who also owns the Capitals, on being in the Stanley Cup. Look, it's great to see the Knights operating so successfully in Las Vegas. As I've said before, expansion is not on our agenda right now. We may turn back to it at some point. And I've had this discussion with both Mayor Goodmans (Oscar and Carolyn) in Las Vegas about their desire for us to expand and have said I view us as, in essence, already having a team in Las Vegas because we have a two-week-plus Summer League there every summer, which has enormous economic impact on the city.
So before the NFL announced they were putting a franchise, before the NHL put in a franchise, the Golden Knights, in Las Vegas, we of course had an All-Star Game in Las Vegas. So we've been heavily involved there for a long time.
Expansion, at least for right now, even to the question earlier about parity, I'm very focused on creating a competitive 30-team league right now. Part of it, in a way it's quite remarkable that when you have a league with the amount of basketball being played on a global basis and the 450 best players in the world all coming to one league, and understandably people are saying can't you do more to create more competition among your 30 teams, at least from a competitive standpoint my first reaction isn't to think, all right, let's add a 31st team or 32nd team. It is to see what is it we can do system-wise, training-wise, whatever it takes to create more competition within this league.
But invariably, as I've said before, it's only natural for any business to grow and expand at some point, so we'll look back to expansion.
It's not just Las Vegas. There are lots of terrific markets out there in the United States and some in countries attached to the United States who also have wonderful cities that could potentially house NBA teams. So those are all things we'll continue to look at.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports