On the eve of the NBA Finals, commissioner Adam Silver joined Wednesday's episode of "The Herd" for a wide-ranging discussion. Silver addressed whether superteams like the Warriors and Cavaliers have created an imbalance in today's NBA, the possibility of ending the one-and-done rule, and whether the NBA eventually will shorten the regular season to protect players from injuries.
Colin Cowherd: "What if Golden State rolls Cleveland in four? Would you even drive home saying ‘we’ve got a little problem here. An imbalance.’”
Adam Silver: “Well, if that were the case, we’d have an imbalance. But let me just step back, because I think there’s a connotation around superteams that they didn’t come together endemically. Somehow, that’s a comment not about the quality of the team, but the way they were formed.
"I think the way that term grew up in the NBA around the players (who) were aggregating their talents, talking in the offseason, saying ‘All right, let’s all agree, we’re going to become free agents and we’re going to go to the following team.
"And I think we pretty much put an end to that.”
Troy TaorminaTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Silver on if the Warriors are problematic
"What you have in Golden State… first of all, by any standard you had a superteam, the winningest team in NBA history with 73 [wins] last year. A team that was formed, in essence, through the draft and a few trades. And without even a top draft pick; I think Steph was seventh.
"… In my view, that certainly was a team that was super. I think, then, the superteam connotation comes, then you have probably this unique circumstance where Kevin Durant is a free agent and he decides to join that team. That team has cap room, they’re not even in the tax, and they’re able to add that [player] because our cap, in essence, spiked that year.
"I love a team like that. It demonstrates… it’s excellence, and it’s something that other teams strive for. And to your point about the greater impact of sports, I mean it’s something that we all marvel at and love excellence.
"…. And I think the same thing about LeBron and Cleveland. I’ve said it before, I think we should be celebrating excellence. I don’t think we should be sitting around and saying ‘How can we take down excellence?’”
Kelley L CoxKelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Silver looks back on Kevin Durant’s move to the Warriors
“Kevin Durant made this point the other day, and I was the first to say it when he went to Golden State last summer — that our system was designed to incentivize [players] to stay with their own team. When they become free agents, if they choose not to and a team has cap room, then they can go to another team.
"And the way the system was designed was not for Golden State to have the kind of cap room they did,but they did, and he was allowed to make that decision. Golden State was allowed to recruit him.
"But as he said the other day, he only impacted the fortunes of one team. He made Golden State even better. Had he stayed in Oklahoma City, they would have been even better than they were this season, or if he would have gone somewhere else, they would have been better. He’s not responsible for the fortunes of the other teams in the league."
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Adam Silver on the idea that other teams can’t compete with the Cavs or Warriors
“I think sometimes it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve read some comments recently, unnamed general managers and others saying ‘We just can’t compete.’
"I think that’s crazy. And I think that this notion that tens of millions of young people, in this case young men, are playing this game around the world and that they all come together in one league, unlike soccer where it’s a global sport [with different leagues] that compete to attract players… we’re going to all sit back and say somehow ‘There can only be two great teams’ out of the 450 best players in the world? I don’t believe it.
"And I think there is an ebb and flow to these great teams, and I’m certainly not ready to declare that these guys are dynasties. Especially when they’ve only each won once. And I’ve said this multiple times, Cleveland won for the first time in the history of their franchise, and Golden State won for the first time in 40 years! And now everybody is saying ‘They’re dynasties!’
"And I read old Celtics and Lakers — even though every year for a decade or so we went back and forth between (crowning) Boston and L.A. — they’re saying ‘Yeah, but when we played it was a lot harder to reach the Finals in those days.’ ... (I)n the history of the NBA, you have essentially two teams, the Lakers and the Celtics, who have won half of all the championships.
"I’ll calm down. I guess my point is that let’s see what happens. I think that these Finals are going to be fascinating."
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Colin Cowherd: “Do you worry sometimes that your bosses, the owners, see you as too player-friendly? David Stern, he was the owners’ commissioner. Adam Silver is the players’ commissioner. That is a delicate balance, is it not?”
Adam Silver: “It is a delicate balance, but I also think I’m a representative of this next-generation owner that’s in this league. And I don’t mean just by virtue of the actual age of the owner, I mean by what this league has become.
"It’s not just in sports or in basketball, it’s all industries. If you look at any company that is not employee-friendly these days, how well are they really doing? Or a company that’s not customer-friendly? That’s just the world we live in, and it’s sound business practice. And I think, in this case, we have special employees with unique talents. I’ll tell you, if you spoke to [NBPA executive director] Michelle Roberts, I don’t think she would label me as pro-players, as some suggest. She would say I’m fair-minded, and I would say she’s fair-minded. And I think we’re able to get together. We got a collective bargaining agreement done early, we listen to each other, we respond. We have plenty of disputes; we work them out behind the scenes. But ultimately, I don’t want to run from it. I’d like people to think I’m pro-league; I’m pro-fan.”
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Colin Cowherd: “The one thing I think is a charade is one-and-done. Many of the most dynamic players in this league -- and most responsible -- did not go to college. Why not expand your D-League, make it the European style? Start at 16 years old. End this charade of college basketball one-and-done?"
Adam Silver: “It may surprise you, but I’m rethinking our position.
"Our historical position since we raised the age from 18 to 19 was that we want to go from 19 to 20, and the union’s position is they want to go from 19 to 18.
"In the last round of collective bargaining, Michelle Roberts and I both agreed ‘Let’s get through these core economic issues in terms of renewing the collective bargaining agreement, and then turn back to this age issue. Because it’s one I think we need to be more thoughtful on, and not just be in an adversarial position, sort of under the bright lights of collective bargaining.
"I’ll take your point one step further. Even the players, the so-called one-and-done players, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize them as going to one year of school.
"What’s happening now, even at the best schools, they enroll at those universities and they attend those universities until either they don’t make the tournament, or to whenever they lose in or win the NCAA tournament. That becomes their last day. So, in essence, it’s a half-and-done. A half a school year, and then they go on.
"For those of [you] who haven’t seen it, take a look at that Ben Simmons documentary that was on Showtime last year. And I don’t blame him, I don’t know him well, but he seems like a bright young man. He has a crew following him around LSU his freshman year — and it’s not LSU’s fault either — he’s essentially saying ‘Why am I here? I don’t even want to be here. I’m forced to be here.’ His team didn’t even make the tournament, and he was still the first pick in the NBA Draft.
"So I do think we have to rethink it at this point, because now selfishly, while I love college basketball and I’m a huge fan of college basketball, I worry about potentially stunted development in the most important years in these players’ careers.
"…. These young men, they’re followed so closely from the time they’re 13 or 14 on. They’re at the major shoe companies’ summer camps. They’re being watched closely by the league, by the college scouts. And so when they get to [college], now they’re in a unique situation. Talk about resting in the NBA, all of a sudden now they realize, even though they can buy insurance, their biggest concern, unfortunately, becomes not whether they can win the NCAA tournament, but whether they drop in the NBA Draft. So then they have to be worried about how their skills are showcased, how many minutes they get, whether they get injured. It’s not a great dynamic.”
Justin FordJustin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Colin Cowherd: “With TV money increasing, you negotiated a monster contract. Do you see a point where you have the leverage to sit down with owners and say ‘Fellas, let’s just shorten the season five games. It’s not about the gate, it’s about the TV. We’re hitting it out of the park. Let’s rest our players, create more urgency.' Will that happen in your commissionership?”
Adam Silver: “Well just to quickly go back to the data, there is a correlation between fatigue and injury. And that comes from back-to-backs, and four games in five nights.
"There is not a correlation between the number of games played and injuries. Meaning, if you just plot out the course of our season, the regular season and into the playoffs… obviously if you’re playing in a game, it increases the chance you get injured. But putting aside that increase, likelihood because you’re actually running up and down the floor, we don’t have more injuries in the latter part of the season than the earlier part of our season. We don’t have more injuries in the playoffs, even when arguably they’re playing a little harder and more physical than we do in the regular season.
"Again, the correlation comes from fatigue, back-to-back, four out of five nights. So it isn’t necessarily the case that if you reduce the number of games, you’ll reduce the number of injuries.
"You raise a separate business point. Maybe there will be more of a sense of interest, of urgency for every individual game if there are fewer games. That’s a different issue.
"…. I think it’s not just about me persuading the owners. I think if the data were demonstrating that if we were to shorten our season a little bit, we would keep our players healthier, keep stars on the floor, create better competition, I think the economics would pan out. It would suggest that that was the right business move. We’re just not there yet in terms of the data.”