Adam Silver is now on the record saying that he thinks “superteams” like the new, allegedly improved and yet utterly unproven Golden State Warriors are not good for basketball.
In other words, he has, as we suspected might happen eight days ago when Kevin Durant destroyed the National Basketball Association with a single handshake, introduced the possibility of an owners’ demand for retrenchment of the free agency rules in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Which, after all, is what a good commissioner does.
“In terms of creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I think we do need to re-examine some of the elements of our system so that I’m not here next year or the year after again talking about anomalies,” Silver told a gaggle of medioids at the Las Vegas Summer League, currently blighting NBA.TV on an almost endless tape loop. “The good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity, owners and the union, to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it. My belief is we can make it better.”
“Better?” Sounds like an autocorrect for “more restrictive.”
We needn’t rehash how we came to this point except to note that it has been part of the NBA’s operating system for decades, not days. Silver knows this, of course, because he majored in way smarter than you in college. His bosses, however, do not, and since 29 of them either lost the race or knew they could not enter, they suddenly feel like the Warriors have somehow skirted a secret memorandum of understanding that managed most recently to escape the notice of both Miami’s Micky Arison and Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert, both in relation to LeBron James.
But here is the dirty little secret that Silver also knows. The free agency rules, such as they are, are as liberal as they are because the owners are not to be trusted with their egos and wallets. This is how they compete with each other, given that most of them are fairly useless in a pickup game – by spending massive amounts of money getting players to buy their pitch to relocate from Team A to Team B.
After all, if they hated the deal so much, why did they (a) sign the last CBA and (b) trumpet it as an unqualified victory for management? And why were so many owners so eager to chase Durant to The Hamptons to get him to listen to their pitches?
Because owners like free agency too – when they win. And the ones who lose on purpose year in and year out are busy positioning themselves for that magic day when they too can become former losers. Like, say, the Warriors.
So when Silver says things like, “I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it’s a huge television attraction. I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear,” he’s speaking only anecdotally. After all, the new megamoney TV contract came about right after James left the superteam he helped assemble in Miami, drawing massive ratings and inspiring TNT and ESPN/ABC to hurl money at the league by the traincar.
That’s Silver’s real issue. He doesn’t know if superteams are actually good for revenues or not. He just knows that he has a bunch of owners who don’t like them now because they don’t have one and one of their brethren does.
And why do they have that remorse? Because they can’t help themselves when it comes to fiscal discipline. They really don’t think in terms of the league as an entity except when CBA negotiations begin or TV deals need to be struck. They like being “the guy who signed so-and-so” because they can lord it over their compete-o-colleagues.
Trust us on this. Joe Lacob is walking around like Red Auerbach’s bad angel right now, the self-styled living embodiment of everything he said he and his organization were in the now-infamous New York Times Sunday Magazine story. And he gets to do that, because he won Durant.
But Lacob is only the momentary focus of his colleagues’ unfocused ire. The owners know this is the league they all bought into, so Silver’s concern, whether on their behalf or an actual sympathetic pang for what it might be like to own the Philadelphia 76ers, defies one of the reasons they all bought in – because they all imagine that day when they get to be Joe Lacob.
But fairness being our watchword, we’ll allow Silver to close.
“There’s no question, when you aggregate a group of great players, they have a better chance of winning than many other teams,” he told the gathered men and women who bamboozled their idiot bosses into paying for a week in Vegas. “On the other hand, there are lots of things that have to happen. We’ll see what happens in Golden State. You had a great, great chemistry among a group of players and you’re adding another superstar to the mix, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. But just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that's ideal from a league standpoint.”
Well, I guess it’s a vision for a league that hasn’t really existed since Wilt Chamberlain forced his first trade from San Francisco back to Philadelphia and then doubled down three years later to get to Los Angeles. Good luck with that, Scooter.