ADAM SILVER: Thank you all for being here. With less than a week left in the regular season, let me start by saying this has been another remarkable season. This year has been filled with incredible team efforts and historic individual achievements.
We are witnessing a historic MVP race. There have been numerous records set, including a league record for three-pointers made, a record for triple-doubles in a season, and a record number of players scoring 50 points or more in a game.
As a reminder, our traditional regular-season awards will be presented at our inaugural NBA Awards Show after the season on Monday, June 26 on TNT.
As you all know, there are several playoff spots yet to be determined, and it is likely that final playoff seedings will not be determined until the last day of the season, which is this upcoming Wednesday. The playoffs, of course, begin next Saturday afternoon, April 15th, on ESPN.
Yesterday, we had a full day of productive meetings with our Board of Governors. Let me highlight a couple of the notable topics we discussed.
We had a thoughtful conversation on the subject of player resting. As we already have announced, we are adding a week to next year’s regular season to create additional spacing for our games. With that change, plus requiring our arenas to hold additional dates for scheduling, we hope to eliminate for next season the playing of four games in five nights, as well as achieve a further reduction in the number of back-to-backs.
Resting is a complex issue with a lot of factors to consider, but there was a consensus on the need to find the right balance between appropriate rest for our players on one hand and our obligation to our fans and business partners on the other hand.
There emerged from the meeting a shared view that teams should avoid resting multiple players for national TV games, and to the extent rest is possible, there should be a strong preference for resting players at home. We will continue to discuss this matter among our owners as well as at our Competition Committee meetings this summer.
Another important issue we discussed was the revisiting of North Carolina as an All-Star host. This is not an easy decision. The most recent change in the law does not mean the fundamental issues are resolved. But after considering all points of view, we concluded that Charlotte will be eligible to host the 2019 NBA All-Star Game.
When Charlotte resubmits its application, we will need to ensure that our events can proceed with open access and anti-discrimination policies, and that we can extend those policies to the venues, hotels and businesses that we would work with during All-Star.
Our decision was guided, in part, by the fact that we have strong roots in North Carolina. We, of course, have an NBA team in Charlotte, and it’s been there for nearly three decades. Twenty-nine NBA teams travel every year to play in Charlotte, stay in its hotels and eat in its restaurants. We also have an NBA Development League team based in Greensboro, and 29  different teams travel there every year to play.
We believe that an All-Star Game in Charlotte could be a powerful way to display our values of equality and inclusion, and by engaging even more deeply in North Carolina, we can be part of a larger national effort toward securing LGBT equality.
Ultimately, I believe changing attitudes and not just laws is what will lead to that result.
With that, I’m happy to answer any questions.
Q. Adam, you said Charlotte is eligible. Does that mean indeed that the All-Star Game in 2019 is going to be there?
ADAM SILVER: It’s not a done deal yet. What it means is we now need to go back to Charlotte and ensure that, one, all of our typical requirements in terms of hotel rooms, other venues that we need for our events are satisfied. That process hasn’t begun yet. And then, in addition, as I said, we are going to develop an anti-discrimination policy and then ask all of our participating partners to sign on to that policy as part of our All-Star festivities. If those requirements are met, it’s our expectation the All-Star festivities will be there for 2019.
Q. I know you have a little bit of time and you’ve been reluctant to put timelines on things in this regard. Is there a timeline for those decisions to be made?
ADAM SILVER: Not a precise timeline, but it would — all those things would need to happen roughly in the next month.
Q. You are clearly taking a strong position on resting players, but for most of the last month, you’ve got two teams in the Lakers and Suns that seem to be actively trying to lose. Was that something that was discussed, and do you have a plan of action, if at all, for that in the future?
ADAM SILVER: That was discussed as well, and I would categorize that as a different kind of resting. I think on one hand we have the type of resting midseason, marquee games, national TV games, teams that are clearly in the hunt and are resting for strategic purposes to advance in the season. And then, as you pointed out, you have a different kind of resting where frankly teams are focused on rebuilding.
I think that is also a serious issue for the league. It’s not a new issue, and the league, sometimes there are other advantages to that end-of-season resting. Sometimes there are opportunities to give other players on the roster additional minutes. But there’s no question there’s also a certain amount of jockeying that’s going on there as teams look to go into the draft.
I think that the larger subject of the lottery, the odds for the lottery, how so-called lottery picks are protected, in certain cases you have lottery picks 1 through 3 protected. That is something that we discussed at our board meeting and agreed that we need to revisit it in a holistic way.
Q. One power that presumably you would have is what was exercised five years ago when David [Stern] fined the Spurs for doing what they did. Have you considered fining teams for not playing guys that are healthy and able to play?
ADAM SILVER: Not in this instance. Of course I was at the league office when that fining occurred of the Spurs, and it was a different set of circumstances and largely went to whether appropriate notification had been given to the league and to the media in terms of that plan, resting for that night. It was not a fine based just on the fact that players were being rested.
That is a different subject, and it’s one we discussed with the owners. I would say I’m certainly not of the mind that we need a new rule at this point. Having said that, there is an expectation among partners that teams are going to act in appropriate ways, find, as I said, that right balance between resting on one hand and obligations to fans and partners on the other.
One of the things we did discuss at the meeting is potentially issuing guidelines, but again, not necessarily at the point of enforceable rules. I only say this is a complex issue because many of our coaches have pointed out that as disappointing as it is for any individual fan on a night where a player is rested, I think if we all came to the point where we accepted the science, the medical data supports genuine resting as improving performance and prolonging careers and reducing injuries, I think we’d all have to agree that it does make sense at certain points in the season to rest players.
Now, I’m hopeful we can accomplish much of our goals by better scheduling. The additional week I mentioned will make a huge difference in avoiding the four games out of five nights and reducing back-to-backs significantly.
In addition, as teams have pointed out to us, when we do have marquee network games, we the league office can do a better job at looking at obviously the prior night in terms of back-to-back, but also the several days leading up to that game so that players are at peak performance for those games.
There are a lot of moving factors. I have enormous respect for our coaches and our GMs who are doing everything they can to win. And I’m particularly sympathetic to our players because my sense is our players take the brunt of it, but they’re not the ones who are choosing to rest. Just so it’s clear, I haven’t heard of instances in the league where players are raising their hands and saying, Coach, please rest me. This is team-led decisions.
And part of the discussion we had at the board meeting was that therefore it’s not a function necessarily of owners calling coaches and saying, I’m now going to dictate to you or micromanage how you coach the team or how you choose minutes for a particular player. But these need to be organizational decisions where there’s a fair balance between the competitive issues on one hand and the very real business issues on the other hand.
Q. So you talked just now about medical science, and you have before. We know that injuries can be reduced it appears or performance improved. Gregg Popovich has been playing in the space for a long time, and a lot of his best players have played maybe two-thirds of the minutes that comparable stars on other teams play over the same period. Could that be a good thing if LeBron or Steph or whoever played a third fewer minutes? Does that help? Is it bad?
ADAM SILVER: It’s a really interesting question. As I’ve delved into this issue fairly intensely in the last month, the science is much less clear than I thought it would be. And there are different philosophies from different organizations, in some cases from storied GMs versus other GMs and coaches who have different approaches. One of the things we as a league feel that we are in a unique position to study is looking at more aggregate macro data in terms of precisely what impact rest and play does have on players.
So I don’t think we’re at the point at all where we can say this is a clear science, that if a player plays 25 games and rests for three days, that decreases the likelihood of an injury by 26 percent. I think sometimes there’s a sense that maybe the science is at that point. It’s not, as far as we know.
I think it’s like with any analytics, that intuition still is very meaningful, and I don’t want to take anything away from these great coaches who have a sense of their players, often by being around them all the time, sensing when a player is fatigued — by the way, sometimes mentally, not just physically — and that they need a break.
But I mean, for example, the question comes up all the time, would this problem be solved by shortening the season. Putting aside the obvious economic implications of shortening the season, it’s not clear at all that it would be. There were predictions that players who were involved with national competitions in the summer would have an increased rate of injury. We haven’t seen that data, either. And I’ve talked to some players in the league, some of our greatest All-Stars, who said that they felt when they didn’t play, it put them out of rhythm and actually increased their likelihood of being injured.
So there’s no more important issue for the league right now. I mean, it goes to the heart of what we do and to the core of competition, and so it is something that we’re going to be spending a lot more time on. We have a relationship with GE Healthcare where they’ve been collecting data on injuries.
I would say, I have to acknowledge even now when I read some of the articles about comparisons of injury and rest, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the data because, for example, the so-called do-not-play rest that you see on the stat sheets, that’s only been a category that’s been in existence for the last three years, and there are lots of examples even in the season where you have players who are being listed as rest, who we know are on recovery protocols, where there’s, in essence, the best — their doctors have told them that they should limit their output in the following ways as they’re recovering. That could be listed as injury, it could be listed as rest. We also have an inactive list.
One of the things we discussed with our teams is the need for much more accurate reporting. I’m not suggesting there’s any foul play going on here. I think it’s on the league to do a better job in being much more specific in terms of how exactly we categorize players who are sitting out, because over time it’ll help us with better data as well.
And lastly, to the notion of additional rules, I’m also reluctant to get into the business of the league office of having competing doctors’ notes, because for all of you around the game for a long time, especially as you get into the dog days of the season, virtually all the players are banged up. On any given night they have various injuries, and often it’s a touch-and-feel decision with coaches, with trainers, with personal doctors in making determinations on how healthy a player really is.
So as I said, it’s a complex issue. It doesn’t mean we won’t resolve it. I felt that the spirit in the room of our owners yesterday was the right one, a true sense of partnership, a recognition that we cannot take the game for granted, that this game is bigger than any team than any one person in the room, and that we should never take our fans for granted.
And so we have to work through it, but as I said — and I know I’ve heard coach [Gregg] Popovich say this many times — that just saying play, as good as that would make some people feel by saying, make the NBA great again, just go out there regardless of how you feel, you have this obligation to play, if that increases the likelihood that they’re injured and therefore they’re not available for a larger part of the season or for the playoffs or we’ve ended up shortening their career, we really haven’t served the fans’ purpose by doing that.
Q. Someone asked a while ago during a press conference about how you felt about saying a regular-season game in Asia. You said, well, there’s data that this would be a burdensome thing. It sounds like there’s a certain trust in science there where you wouldn’t expand the season with all of this travel because we believe in it, but if the data came in that 82 was too many, do you have the option of reducing it?
ADAM SILVER: Well, as a league we could always come together and reduce the number of games. As I said, there isn’t data supporting that. And I think the question about Asia has come up in two ways. One is the additional travel. I mean, look, I think the data is pretty clear when it’s true fatigue, when you’re talking about doing any exercise where you literally haven’t slept, and often you’re dealing with that when people are shifting major time zones. We see that when we play our preseason games in Asia. Often it’s why we build in so much rest, so players can get — recover just back into the appropriate time zone, so there’s that issue.
And then what I thought you might also be referencing is we’ve discussed playing games in different time zones in the U.S. to accommodate Chinese fans — for example, the notion of playing 10:00 on Saturday morning. I would say at least historically we’ve been equally concerned about the potential impact on fatigue and injuries by doing that, because players are on a certain clock, and generally go to sleep much later and wake up much later.
But those are all things — I think there’s a fair amount of pseudoscience out there on those topics as well, and anyone listening to this, send your scientific reports into the league office. We really are trying to get a better handle on this.
Q. When you’re navigating a political issue like North Carolina, the ownership does not all have the same political stances. I’m wondering how you navigate that, and to what degree this consensus was a unified one in the ownership room.
ADAM SILVER: What I try to do in these situations is to the extent possible, move it from a politically based decision to one based on the core values of the league, and equality, inclusion, diversity have been part of the core values of this league long before I joined it. And that’s how I try to guide the conversation among owners, so it’s not simply a function of Republicans versus Democrats versus Independents, all of whom are in the room.
I would say in this particular case, without getting into the specifics of what was discussed in the room because I don’t think it would be appropriate, there was a broad consensus that the right thing to do at this point was to return to North Carolina.
Q. Do you know yet what the next year’s schedule, kind of how many you could reduce the back-to-backs to. And you had reduced them [four games in five nights] this year I think to a much lower number, and was down to really just one per team, so they already were reduced a lot. Are you sure just a reduction is going to allow the rest matter and not shortening the season entirely?
ADAM SILVER: So number one, I would say I don’t want to say I’m sure. As I said earlier, there is some science here, but it’s not always conclusive. I do know that in the case of four games out of five nights, I’m fairly confident that we can eliminate them. There may be the case that there will be one, literally one, not one per team, but there may be some building situation that we can’t schedule around. But we feel pretty good with the additional weeks we will eliminate four games out of five nights, which beginning when we seriously started looking at this issue a few years ago, that was the number one concern from our teams more than the back-to-backs.
As you noted, we’ve made tremendous progress, reducing the number of back-to-backs over the last several years, in part just by better scheduling. With the extra week, as I also mentioned, requiring our teams to give us additional nights, that will give us flexibility in creating the schedule, we should be able to do a reduction of two more back-to-backs per team. I’d also say not all back-to-backs are equal. You have back-to-backs, obviously the easiest back-to-back is if you were home two nights in a row. The worst kind of back-to-back is if you have a lot of travel between the two games. Those are all things we’re going to continue to look at.
By the way, let me add that the extra week in the regular season was a product of our new Collective Bargaining Agreement and it was something that was negotiated with our players. They of course have the absolute same interest we do in injury reduction, and to the extent that reducing the preseason by a week is successful and having added a week to the regular season, we may decide to go back to the Players Association and say let’s take a broader look at the schedule, that maybe there’s some days we can gain at the end of the regular season. Maybe there are some additional days we can capture early on, and that will even help us with the math on creating additional days.
Q. Was the nuclear option of reducing the schedule for two games on the table? Was it discussed at all?
ADAM SILVER: It was not discussed, reducing the number of regular-season games. I’d say because there is no support right now, hard support, for a belief that simply reducing the number of games will reduce the number of injuries. As best we understand the issue right now, it’s a function of spacing games. It’s not the totality of games.
Q. In light of Charlotte’s eligibility for the All-Star Game, how do you reflect on the league’s stance about the 2017 game and whatever impact that may have had?
ADAM SILVER: I’m proud of the league’s stance on opposing HB2 and announcing that we were not going to play the All-Star Game under those circumstances. And I’m also proud that we’re going back. I think we can be a force for change. As I said, I understand that there is a segment of our fan base that believes that the change from HB2 to the new law is not enough, but it is change. It’s incremental change. We were part of the movement, pushing for that change. It’s not everything we could have hoped for, but we’re prepared to go back.
Q. Curious your reaction on Kevin Durant’s remarks about the whole controversy about rest is really only about a handful of players missing games, and corollary to that, to the extent that you have always taken the stance that you don’t want to be in a position of telling teams how to handle player care or minutes, is what you started the press conference that this is simply a request, a preference? Is there any teeth at all behind the two items, which is not resting for national TV games and trying to at least rest at home as opposed to the one time they’re in a particular city?
ADAM SILVER: I’m trying to find the right line between cajoling and new requirements, so the specific answer to your question is there are no new rules that we have put in place. What we talked about among our owners was a sense of obligation to the game and what appropriate behavior is. And so what we concluded is if we could focus on these two issues, namely, to the extent you’re resting, resting at home and avoiding resting multiple starters, especially in marquee games, we could solve a large part of the problem. I think there was also the sense, as I said earlier, that this is an issue we’re going to have to continue looking at. Also to the other question about a different kind of resting, end-of-season resting. So our work isn’t done, but I think that was an important first step.
To Kevin Durant’s comments, I don’t think he’s all wrong. I think that with being a star in this league comes outsized responsibility, and that for those particular players, they are huge global stars, and I think there’s no doubt that there’s a disproportionate amount of focus placed on them. And when one of those players is rested in a game, it has a much bigger impact than a player who’s not as well known.
And maybe there’s even a little bit of unfairness that goes with that. But I think those players — I heard Kevin’s remarks, but I think he understands that, and he’s proud to be one of those select few players that has a following in the tens of millions of people around the world. Again, it’s just a question of striking the right balance.
But I will say, to the extent resting — a corollary to resting is distributing more minutes among more players. That may be a very positive thing for the league.
Q. On Tuesday, Knicks owner Jim Dolan got into a brief verbal encounter with a fan. The fan told him to sell the team and then he cursed at the fan. The fan is worried now that his season tickets could be taken away and said he reached the league. I’m just wondering your response to another off the court issue with the Knicks’ owner, and if the league is looking into the matter and if the league has heard from this fan.
ADAM SILVER: My response is I think there’s enormous attention in this market in particular focused on ownership and interactions with ownership. It’s not something we would typically get involved in. I mean, certainly to the extent if a fan were to reach out to us, we would respond typically as we would to any fan. I’m not particularly concerned about that incident. It seemed like it was handled in the normal course.
I will say in terms of Jim Dolan that he is as frustrated as any Knicks fan about the current state of the Knicks, and being an owner in this league and being a successful one is an incredibly difficult position to be in. There is shared frustration among ownership and among fans. You of course as a league wish those incidents didn’t happen, but we don’t want to put a microscope on every back-and-forth that happens between a fan and an owner. I don’t think it would be fair to anyone.
Q. Is there any concern that this isn’t the first time this has happened; there is an email exchange with Jim Dolan and a fan I think it was a few years ago where he told the fan to become a Nets fan, and there was the issue with Charles Oakley. Is there a concern that this is stuff that is repeating itself?
ADAM SILVER: No, I don’t have that concern. They seem to be unrelated incidents.