NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the media before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, saying the state of the NBA game “has never been better.”
In a nearly 40-minute news conference, Silver covered a range of topics, including:
▪ The 2017 All-Star Game. The NBA is exploring alternative venues for next year’s All-Star Game in Charlotte, N.C., if the league is not satisfied there has been enough progress regarding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
All-Star Weekend is set for Time Warner Cable Arena, the home of the Hornets, owned by Michael Jordan. But the state has come under fire for a recent law that states individuals must use restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate.
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Silver said the league does not have a deadline on a decision to move the game, but, “I don’t see how we would get past this summer without knowing definitively where we stand.”
“The critical date for us is, are we in a position, if for some reason we don’t move forward in Charlotte, to play our All-Star Game somewhere else?” Silver said. “We are in the process of looking at other options. At the same time, I don’t think it would be productive to draw a line in the sand, and we’d be moving on if I didn’t think there were constructive discussions going on in North Carolina right now.”
North Carolina’s controversial restroom law was not the main concern initially for the league, Silver said. The NBA celebrates its diversity and does not want to hold the All-Star Game anywhere a part of its fan base would feel uncomfortable.
Silver said the debate in North Carolina has increased, with some seeing the need for changes that afford members of the LGBT community equal protection under the law. They also say that beyond the NBA, there are potential long-term economic consequences if the state is viewed as anti-LGBT.
“I think if we can make progress there, we will see you all in Charlotte next February,” Silver said.
▪ Potential rule changes. Silver reiterated his stance against the practice of fouling poor free-throw shooters away from the ball to force them to the foul line, commonly known as “Hack-a-Shaq” because of how teams used it against former player Shaquille O’Neal.
“It is my hope that we are not far away from some reform” to the rule, Silver said.
This season, the rate of those intentional fouls rose 2 1/2 times over the 2014-15 season and is up 16 times just in the last five years, Silver said. While the advantage to teams using the strategy is “not as big as some might think,” Silver said, it affects flow of the game regardless: Sending a player to the line intentionally 10 times a game adds about 15 minutes to the length of games.
“Not only is that something that’s bad for our network (TV) partners, but all the fan research we have shows that the fans hate it,” Silver said.
Most of such fouls this season were directed at three players: DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers, Andre Drummond of the Pistons and Dwight Howard of the Rockets. While there is plenty of opposition to the strategy, some teams have spoken out against change. Silver said he thinks “there may be a compromise where we can cut it down significantly, but it still remains an advantage.”
Silver said the league’s competition committee also plans to discuss increasing instances of players flailing their arms and legs to sell fouls.
“We want to find a way to discourage players from flailing,” Silver said. “It may be that we have to take a fresh look at that and draw a brighter line in terms of what’s permissible on the court.”
▪ League parity. It was pointed out to Silver that the past four Finals have featured four teams: the Warriors, Cavaliers, Spurs and Heat. Silver countered by saying 10 different teams have appeared in the conference finals in that span.
“Rather than parity being the goal, I think it should be equality of opportunity,” he said. “Our goal is to have a league where 30 teams are always competing, and I think we’re increasingly moving closer to that model.”
Silver also cited the recent success of teams in smaller markets such as Oklahoma City and Cleveland as demonstrating to players that “economic opportunities come from success, not markets.”