OAKLAND - Adam Silver walks into a room and the mood instantly changes. He’s not David Stern. There is no ego or self-importance to the man. He is a basketball fan first and he also happens to be the most powerful person in the game. But you never feel it, or at least he never makes you feel it.
It’s customary for the standing commissioner to take the podium before Game 1 of the NBA Finals to give a state of the NBA address. Yes, the league is as healthy as it’s ever been. No, massive changes aren’t coming.
Silver congratulated the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors for their valiant efforts in the conference finals. He lauded the play of the two teams left standing, as well as their ownership groups and then he stood in to take a fierce round of questions.
Does he have an issue with the Warriors moving to San Francisco? No, in fact, he supports it. Golden State needs a new arena and the Commish is on board with a relocation across the Bay Bridge.
Will Silver mandate change to keep up with the Golden State Warriors and their record breaking 3-point shooters? Not a chance. He isn’t going to add a four point line or extend the court in order to elongate the 3-point line.
“In fairness to Steph and to Klay to a certain degree, it's not clear whether they may be aberrational,” Silver explained. “We may be looking back in 10 years from now and saying no one else can do what they can do. My hunch is that won't be the case. That may be what Steph is demonstrating; he's just so good that no one else can touch him. But we'll see. Right now at least I think the game is just fantastic in its current state.”
Silver was also quick to point out that Curry might be opening up the game of basketball to a much broader audience, instead of damaging the game like many former players have claimed. Always a thoughtful quote, Silver spoke with a new perspective on Curry.
“He's smaller than the average player in this league,” Silver said. “He's not particularly physically overwhelming, and I think it broadens the pool in many ways of potential players in this league. I think even with his three-point shooting, what it's demonstrating is that there's a whole -- for a class of young people playing the game who can at least dream that they can potentially do what he can do. You can't dream that you're going to be 7 feet tall, but you can work at it and become a fantastic competitor on the floor.”
Changes are coming. The competition committee will look at a few tweaks during the offseason, including a potential “Draymond Green Rule” for kicking, punching and screaming on missed shots.
“So in terms of the flailing, and we're seeing a lot more late kicks and, frankly, players flailing their arms as well, it's clear what they're doing,” Silver diplomatically explained. “They're trying to sell calls. They're trying to make contact. They're trying to demonstrate that they're getting fouled on particular plays. It's not something new in the league, but as we track it, it's becoming more prevalent.”
Hack-a-Shaq is on borrowed time as well. The league is looking to adjust the trend of fouling players down the stretch of games, but not completely overhaul their system. According to Commissioner Silver, there are only three teams in the league that are dramatically affected by the trend, and really only three players. Do you change a rule for 10 percent of the league?
“What our analytics tell us is it's not as big an advantage as some might think, but it's an advantage,” Silver said. “And it's my job to look out for the greater good of the game.”
The commissioner has taken a strong stand against the controversial new law in North Carolina banning anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. Silver has been working towards a resolution with politicians and business people with the hopes of coming to some sort of compromise.
According to Silver, he will make a decision this summer regarding the situation, but he has retained the option of moving the 2017 NBA All-Star out of the state if changes aren’t made.
The barrage of questions came fast and furious. Perhaps the biggest issue looming over the NBA is a potential work stoppage in the summer of 2017. Both the players and owners have an option to walk away from the current deal, which is expected.
“It's no secret, we've been engaged in discussions with the Players Association,” Silver said when asked about the potential for a work stoppage after next season. “Both we and the Players Association have agreed, as you all know, that we won't share what we've been talking about behind closed doors with the public.”
The last time the league had labor unrest in 2011, it caused a long work stoppage that ran into late December and reduced the NBA schedule from 82 to 66 games.
“I only say I remain optimistic,” Silver said. “I think there are aspects of the collective bargaining agreement that both sides would like to see addressed, and we're engaged in constructive discussions over how we can find ways to make the system even better.”
When the topic of parity in the league came up, Silver pointed to the fact that over the last four conference finals, 10 different teams have been represented. LeBron James has been to six straight finals, but he is an outlier, not the norm. Sometimes individual talent trumps team talent. Finding a star and keeping him is paramount.
“I think the best we can hope for in this league is that every market, every team has the opportunity to compete for those great players, can obviously enter the draft and do their best, but then take those players they draft, take those players that they trade for or sign as free agents, build culture, coach those players well, strategically manage a system and build toward success,” Silver explained.
Lastly, Silver was asked repeatedly about the officiating throughout the playoffs, including the use of the two-minute report. According to Silver, the officials are getting around 90 percent of the calls right in the final two minutes of the game and the league can live with that number.
“My view, first of all, in terms of building confidence in the public, they want to see consistency,” Silver said. “So they want to understand if we call something a foul, why we called it a foul, and we often give explanations for why we believe something was a foul, whether it was correctly called or incorrectly called. And also whether our teams or the fans want to have a better understanding how we see the game.”
You can never have too much Adam Silver. The NBA is in quality hands going forward with the mild-mannered, but exceptionally intelligent gentleman. He has a lot on his plate, but you would never know it from his demeanor.