ADAM SILVER: Thank you all for being here. It’s great to be back in Las Vegas. This is our 13th NBA Summer League here in town. I told Mayor Goodman yesterday that we should get a commission for the NFL and the NHL following in our footsteps. We were here when some leagues weren’t even taking advertising in Las Vegas, and we’re proud to be here. I feel our Summer League has become a fixture in Las Vegas, part of the permanent summer calendar.
We’ve taken advantage of the fact that we have 24 teams here by scheduling our league meetings and our owners’ meetings here as well. We have, combined, league and team together, 1,500 people here, not including the players who are participating in the Summer League.
We had owners’ meetings yesterday here at the Wynn Hotel, including committee meetings of owners, and in essence our full board meeting, which took place yesterday afternoon.
Our team meetings began last night. We had an interview of Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, who has a great book out called “Shoe Dog,” which I highly recommend to everyone. It was a truly incredible address by Phil to our employees, talking about him getting his start in the sports industry, in essence creating the shoe business as we know it today, talking a little bit about his life. It was truly inspirational.
And then this morning, Mike Breen from ABC and ESPN interviewed Kobe Bryant, and he talked about his 20 years in the league as a player and then about the transition to his new multifaceted career as movie producer, director, author and all the other businesses he’s involved in. My sense is he’s putting all of the same energy, preparation, creativity into his business life that he did into his playing career. And again, I thought it was incredibly motivational for the roughly 1,200 people who were in the audience listening to him speak today.
I also want to commend Warren LeGarie and Albert Hall, who oversee the Summer League for the NBA. They continue to do a fantastic job. We’ve had record attendance this year, as you know, several sold-out games. As part of our new television relationship with ESPN, they’re carrying the bulk of the Summer League games now on one of their many networks, and NBA TV through Turner Sports is here as well. So every game is on either an ESPN asset or through NBA TV. In addition, the coverage has just been fantastic.
We have about 500 credentialed media out here for the Summer League. I think combined with our meetings, we don’t have baseball’s equivalent really of their Winter Meetings, but I think this is about as close as you can come to it. Even for the six teams that aren’t here with their Summer League teams, their general managers are here, their team presidents and their business folks as well. I think the NBA family is all here united for about two weeks, and as you know, the Summer League still has about five more days to run. It concludes on Monday.
Again, for people here in Las Vegas, the tickets are very affordable. I encourage you to stop by, and also for our television audience, again, through ESPN and NBA TV, virtually every game is televised. It’s incredible to see.
In addition to having about 20 of our first-round draft picks here and a lot of up-and-coming talent, we have probably about 300 of the next greatest players in the world here all hoping to make an NBA roster. I think it’s energizing and just a great atmosphere in the gym, and obviously a lot on the line for these young men. We’re seeing some terrific basketball as well.
So with that, happy to answer any questions you all have.
Q. With the imbalance in conferences, in terms of a lot of talent going West, I’m wondering if there’s been any discussion raised again about moving away from a two-conference model, and is that something that would even be envisioned at any point?
ADAM SILVER: So sort of suggested in your question, we considered it fairly thoroughly about two years ago through a committee process and at the Board of Governors meeting, and ultimately we concluded that given all the focus on sports science, health of our players, impact of travel, it didn’t make sense, at least at this time, to move to a balanced schedule, because again, we play an imbalanced schedule. Teams in the East obviously play each other more than teams in the West, and the notion is if you’re going to see 1 through 16, the only fair way to do it is then have a balanced schedule throughout the season.
So ultimately I don’t recall the precise calculations, but it resulted in significantly more travel for our teams, especially for those teams on the coast. The conclusion was that at least given the state of travel, the state of science on travel, we’re better off staying in the conference system the way we have it, and of course same implications for the playoffs; the notion, again, of having teams crisscrossing the country in the first round didn’t seem to make sense to our teams.
I will say that even since two years ago when we looked at making the change and decided not to make it, there’s only one team that had a top-16 record that didn’t make the playoffs, and that was the Bulls two years ago. So I think when you look at the actual numbers, it’s not as out of kilter as you might think it would be. But will we look at it again? I assume we will. I think for the league, I think many of us felt a 1 through 16 playoff made more sense. And maybe there’s also the potential — it’s in some ways a separate issue, should you reseed after every round as some leagues do? I think those are the things we’ll continue to look at, but it’s not at the top of the agenda right now.
Q. Based on the last two summers, last summer and now, is there a concern for next summer that we are going to be looking at a historic level of teams that are going to be in a luxury tax potentially, maybe 12 or 13 teams?
ADAM SILVER: Well, we’ll see. I wouldn’t say concerned. We designed the system in a certain way, which allows teams to go into the luxury tax. Obviously we don’t have a hard-cap system. We just entered into a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s six years long. There’s an option at the end of it. But we’ll see. I think one of the things we talked about at our owners’ meeting is the view of how is this agreement working already. Some of the new provisions kicked in on July 1st for free agents, and it’s something we’re always looking at.
The system is designed so that you don’t have a lot of teams in the tax. The notion is on one hand you want players to have more freedom. On the other hand, you want to create as much sort of equality of opportunity as you can among our teams.
There’s always been this notion, and part of the design of the current system was that it allows teams at a certain point to in essence go for it, to not break up their team because they see an opportunity, but then the tax has multipliers in it, so it creates further disincentives to stay in a tax.
You know, these systems are so hard to calibrate. As the money has gotten bigger, it’s becoming harder to project future cap and tax levels. I think those are all things that we continue to look at. I think our teams are smart. They find ways to compete. They work within the existing system but always with one eye on the next time we sit down at the bargaining table and are there ways of making it even better. It’s too early to say concerned, but it’s something we always look at it. We have a system designed to try to keep teams out of the tax but with the recognition some teams will in essence go into the tax.
Q. I’ll ask the requisite Las Vegas question. With the strong crowds at Summer League, will that carry any weight if relocation or expansion is considered in the future?
ADAM SILVER: As I’ve said before, relocation or expansion is not on the table right now. We love the Las Vegas market. We played an All-Star Game here; as I said, 13th consecutive year for our Summer League. So in essence, in some ways I feel like we have a team here already when you think about the presence we have. USA Basketball has been training here for the last several cycles.
So again, I feel that we do well in the Las Vegas market. From an expansion standpoint, I’m not focused on the need to have a team here. But again, at the point when we ultimately look at expansion, which we will at some point — growth is inevitable — I’m sure we’ll look at this market as we look at others as well.
Q. The Designated Player Exception was put in with the intention of obviously helping teams retain their stars, and so far we’ve seen in the small sample size a little bit of a reverse effect in some of those scenarios. I’m wondering if you think that’s something that might continue and if this was something that you guys expected when you put in that rule?
ADAM SILVER: When you say by a reverse effect, what do you mean?
Q. Teams maybe not wanting to pay some of those guys and having to trade them instead of using it to their advantage of maybe being able to retain them.
ADAM SILVER: The answer is no. But I will say when you’re trying to calibrate these systems, there are always unintended consequences. We’re constantly calibrating these systems. It’s, for example, that to the extent you reduce the amount of free agency, it puts even more pressure on a draft. It creates even more incentive to be at the bottom of the draft. So those are always things we’re looking at. And from a player standpoint, you try to find the right balance. Players get drafted in; there’s a rookie scale. They stay in those markets, most for seven to nine years, which we think is a pretty good factor. But at some point they have the right to leave, and then to your point, you can design a system where you so load it toward the incumbent team that it becomes a weight too much to bear in terms of a cap system.
So again, I think it was suggested by your question. It may be a little bit too early to say. Smart people in the league office, not me, are constantly looking at these things, talking to GMs, talking to the cap experts of the teams and always looking at what makes the most sense in terms of a system.
Q. With respect to reducing the number of timeouts, just how much of a priority can you guys make it in terms of looking at game flow and pace, and then also, how did you balance that with having to give opportunities to your sponsors to get their ads in?
ADAM SILVER: It’s the right question in terms of that balance between the need for the networks and the marketing partners to show their ads versus flow of the game. I would say in this case, we’re pretty happy with the length of our game. We’ve made some changes over the last few years directed at overall length, and in essence quietly have sort of gotten the length of our game down from around 2 hours and 23 minutes or so to about 2 hours and 15 minutes. We’re pretty happy with the length of the game.
But to your point, we were more focused here on the pace and flow of the game. What we heard from our fans and heard from many of our teams was that the end of the games in particular were too choppy. I think since I was a kid, that’s an issue people have been talking about, the last two minutes of our game.
We think these new changes will have a significant impact, especially at the end of the game. Overall, we’ve gone from 18 to 14 timeouts. We’ve reduced the number of timeouts by four in the last — I’m looking at my colleagues here, we’ve reduced the number of timeouts by four [EDIT: two] in the last two [EDIT: three] minutes of the game. So now in essence it’s not apples to apples [EDIT: the previous rule allowed three timeouts per team in the last two minutes]. In the last three minutes of games, each team will have two timeouts, and so that’s significantly down. Again, we’ll see how that works.
What we’ve done is we’ve found other opportunities in the format, even though we’ve gone from 18 timeouts to 14 timeouts, to ensure we get our full complement of commercials in. It’s the reality of the telecast. But it also works because even if we weren’t going to commercial, players still need rest. So that’s something we’re focused on as well.
We evened out the halftime, made it a consistent 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s deceptive because there’s a set time for the halftime, but it depends when the clock actually turned on. What we’re looking at is, for competitive reasons and for consistency reasons, coming into this year it’s 15 minutes. The clock starts, halftime starts. And also it helps the coaches because they don’t like it when the clock is held for some special event on the floor or whatever else. And guys are hydrating; they want to have a snack and drink a certain number of minutes before they go back out on the floor. So I think these things help the competition of the game, will help us from a fan standpoint in terms of the flow, and also satisfies our network partners.
Q. A lot of team personnel here training on new stat software. What can we expect from that? Is there something new coming, more data?
ADAM SILVER: Wow, your question may be above my pay grade in terms of the stat software. But I know that they are training on new software. Yes, we’re constantly looking at new stat fields. The assist-before-the-assist notion is something that the analytics people have been looking at for a long time. One of the things we’re trying to do as a league is create more efficiency for our teams. If we know, for example, that there are certain stat fields, like the assist before the assist, that all our teams are individually keeping, there’s a huge efficiency in the league adding those fields and then keeping those stats for all our teams and for fans as well.
You’re constantly looking for ways to make it easier to collect the data. We have a great partnership with a company called SAP. What we learned is all these interesting stat fields and permutations that our teams use are also of great interest to our fans. A little plug for NBA.com: You can go on to the website now and through this SAP program you can run the stats the same way that our basketball analytics people do.
It’s something that continues to grow. In terms of new generation of fans, they seem to be increasingly interested in studying sort of those kind of stats. I think it leads to more engagement in our games.
Q. You were in Detroit in November for the announcement that the Pistons were going to move to downtown Detroit into Little Caesars Arena. Your general thoughts on the move now, and is there an official league stance on the public financing aspects of it?
ADAM SILVER: Well, first, in terms of the actual move, I continue, as I said at that press conference, to be thrilled with that move. I think it’s part of a trend we’ve seen throughout the league. Really began probably 20 years ago where teams that had — in the ’70s in essence moved from cities out to suburbs all came back to cities. I think it’s a great trend for the country. I think it’s a great trend for the league. I think we’re seeing it makes these arenas more accessible. They’re accessible through public transportation, and they become part and parcel with the energy and the heart of these cities. They’re multi-use facilities; they get used for all kinds of events. They’re modern city centers in many ways, town halls of these communities. So all that I think is working very well.
In terms of public financing, I think every city has to make their own decision. To me, these are, I think, model partnerships between the public sector and the private sector. Again, NBA basketball takes up let’s say roughly on average 50 dates, so that leaves 250=plus dates for other events in those cities. I think that once you have these partnerships, and whether it allows for community events, concerts, the circus, graduations and other things in those buildings, I think the cities need to make those decisions.
Often cities — it generates additional tax revenue by having those arenas there. It creates excitement for those urban areas. I think Detroit is a perfect example, because given Dan Gilbert’s investments in the city and now what Tom Gores is doing there, it’s encouraging a lot more urban development. I spent a day sort of touring downtown last summer with Dan Gilbert and his folks, and it’s incredible, I think, the tech jobs that are being created there, the jobs that he’s created through his companies. And part of attracting especially young people to these cities are having major league sports and having the kinds of other events that take place in these arenas.
You know, at the end of the day, cities need to make their own decisions, and there’s different circumstances in every city. For example, in San Francisco right now, where the Warriors are making their move from Oakland, that new arena is being entirely funded by ownership of the Golden State Warriors. That was a decision that they made, and with the proper incentives in place for them to hopefully run a good business there. But that was one of the cities that said, we’re not going to participate.
Q. Has there been discussion of having teams on the floor essentially go to neutral corners during replay reviews, or might that be considered now a way of sneaking in a little unofficial timeout with the reduction in timeouts?
ADAM SILVER: It’s come up in terms of requiring them to be separate. I think ultimately the view was if there’s a break in action, it seems artificial and silly to suggest that coaches can’t speak to their players. Our teams are so smart, they’ll be sending hand signals and other things. I think it was just one area we decided the league didn’t need to intrude. I think if it became a bigger issue, maybe it’s something we’d look at. I think as you may be suggesting, it’s as much an issue of us in game flow as it is an opportunity for a coach to talk to his players. I think from a game flow standpoint, we’ve made considerable progress in cutting down on the amount of time replay takes.
Remember last season we moved a whole host of replay calls to the Replay Center, so in essence the official is just going to monitor and finding out what the call is and why it is. We felt like that was still important. And my sense is as the technology gets better, the earpieces get better and you won’t require — it seems a little clunky and old fashioned that they’ve got to go put on those headphones and turn the monitor around. I think we’re constantly looking for ways to improve that, and it has gotten better.
Q. The league has decided to move the trade deadline before the All-Star break. What was the motivation behind that move, and how will it affect say if an Eastern Conference All-Star gets moved out West, how will you address that?
ADAM SILVER: The motivation for moving the trade deadline before All-Star was the sense that it was more unsettling to have a player traded right after the All-Star break, that the All-Star break would have been an opportunity for the player to move himself, his family, get his family readjusted and get readjusted to the new team when they have that four- or five-day period to do that.
So it was really no magic to it. It was something we’ve discussed for several years. The thinking was, remember, we’re adding an extra week to the season this year, same number of games, to help space out the travel. Given that we’re starting, I think roughly — October 17th is the first day of the season this year, therefore if we were going to make the change, this was the time to do it.
I think if we have a situation where a player gets traded across conference right before All-Star — actually we talked about it with the owners and we said, rather than having a hard-and-fast rule, let’s make the decision at the time. It hasn’t happened very often. Remember, even though the trade deadline was after All-Star, obviously players had gotten traded before the trade deadline, so it’s something that has come up before. And again, we’ll deal with it when it happens.
Q. You’ve spoken about this before, about the one-and-done issue. You guys had like 16 freshmen; I think it was a record in the draft this year. I was wondering if you’re going to revisit that issue because I know you said there were some stats that recently entered your head, and the second question was that Mark Cuban had said that once the Mavericks were out of the playoffs, they did everything they could to tank and get a higher draft pick. Did that alarm you, his comments, and also, is there anything you can try to do about that?
ADAM SILVER: Let me begin with Mark Cuban’s comments. Yes, it’s not what you want to hear as commissioner. I will say that Mark has a long track record of being provocative, and it was something that we spoke to him directly about. I think he acknowledged it was a poor choice of words. When we looked at what was actually happening on the floor, which is most important to me, there was no indication whatsoever that his players were intentionally losing games. So we were satisfied with that, and again, and we moved on.
In terms of one-and-done, as I’ve said fairly recently, it is something that we’re taking a fresh look at. As I’ve said, I don’t believe the system is working well for anyone, and most importantly from a developmental standpoint for the league, the question is when players come into our league at 19, have they gotten the best possible training to be equipped for NBA basketball. Our sense is, in some cases yes, but in other cases no. And I’ll add that to me, it’s a much bigger issue than whether we go from 19 to 20 or 19 to 18. One of the things we’re talking about with our teams here today are development programs. While we’re going into the academy business outside the United States, places like China, Africa, India, but in addition to the U.S., we’ve got these incredible organizations, our teams, who are creating these junior programs, Junior Mavericks, Junior Lakers, et cetera.
Now, I think one of the things we want to talk to the NCAA about is historically we’ve stayed away from some of those younger players because we didn’t want to impact NCAA eligibility, but I think we need to really take a complete holistic look at this.
Putting aside, again, minimum age in the NBA, how can we intersect with these players at a younger age to ensure they’re getting the appropriate development.
As I mentioned in my opening, Kobe Bryant spoke to the teams this morning. That was one of the things he spoke about. He spoke about his development as a player in Italy, how he was taught fundamental basketball, his view of the current AAU infrastructure and his own desire to be a teacher of young players. So I think it’s something where we feel an obligation to the game to be much more involved in youth basketball. I think there was a time where we weren’t frankly welcome in youth basketball, and I think now the community is asking us to be more involved. I think we will find a way to do much more, but it requires talking, of course, to our Players Association, to the NCAA and to all of other various constituents out there that have an interest in this.