NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hopped on ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption on Monday with Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser. Silver discussed a variety of issues that have been at the forefront of highly debated topics in the league this season, including tanking, playoff seeding, resting players and the Hack-a-Shaq strategy.
In the full transcription of his five minutes on PTI below, Silver explains why he’s reluctant, as the commissioner, to put anything in place that would prohibit coaches from using the Hack-a-Shaq strategy or resting players. Plus, Silver delves into the issues with playoff seedings and why he considers teams positioning themselves to get a higher draft pick (i.e. tanking) a legitimate strategy.
On NBA playoff seeding/issues with division winners being seeded at the top
One, I don’t want to take anything away from what was a fantastic first-round series (Los Angeles Clippers Vs. San Antonio Spurs). The issue is we reward division winners, and as I’ve said before there is very little you can win in this league, and you can win your division, you can win a conference and of course the championship. I guess you have to go one way or the other, either divisions matter and you have to reward a team for winning the division and hence give them a higher seed or decide divisions don’t matter, and so we have a competition committee meeting coming up, we have a general managers and then another owners meeting in July and we’re going to discuss it at all three meetings.
Gut reaction on whether it will or should change?
My gut is that it shouldn’t change. Or at least that I’m not ready to go 1-16 in terms of seeding. I don’t want to go to an extreme place where it has a huge impact on the schedule. On the divisions, maybe they’ve outlived their usefulness because my sense is right now, if we’re going to say divisions matter then we have to go all out, it has to mean something to win it, fans have to understand what division their teams are in and I don’t get the sense now that anyone really understands it.
On Hack-a-Shaq strategy
I’ve heard from some of the greatest at our owners meetings, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird has attended those meetings and their view is guys have to make their free throws and that’s influenced me. At my old job, I used to run NBA entertainment, I used to say we’ve got to do away with this because it’s bad television. The other thing I’ve learned is that when you actually then go look at the ratings, people are not tuning out. It’s a fascinating strategy for a lot of fans and also you and I talk a lot about youth basketball, I keep getting emails from youth coaches saying make it matter, make guys have to hit their free throws so I’m reluctant to make that change, I would say once again we’re going to discuss it at the competition committee and with our general mangers, and to make that change requires approval of a super majority of the owners. 2/3 of the owners have to vote that change in, so I don’t think it’s going to come quickly. I think we’ve got to study it, we’ve got to look at all the data. But my sense is that we should leave it alone for now.
On tanking as an organization, specifically the structure of the league that allows teams to seek an advantage by losing
As an organization, they are rebuilding and they’ve made a decision that in order to rebuild they have to position themselves to get higher draft picks. It’s a legitimate strategy in the league right now. I don’t think by any means it’s a disgrace. I was in favor of changing the draft lottery to make it a little more disadvantageous to the teams with the worst record in terms of the top picks and the owners didn’t approve that. It’s a close call I think the draft still has to serve it’s purpose if you take away the notion of the draft that in essence helps those teams with the worst records get the best draft picks, then you can question what the very draft is for. The interesting thing about the 76ers is that there is a marketplace of ideas out there, and I think if every team was convinced it worked then every team would be doing it because our teams are so competitive. I’d like to see over time whether that’s really an effective strategy. I think they are free to try it. They have not violated any of our rules. I get it I’m a fan too, it’s not great basketball to watch but I don’t have an easy solution to it.
On resting players and how that affects the fan experience
I’m a fan too, so it bothers me. On the other hand, I’m extraordinarily reluctant as the commissioner or the league office to dictate minutes to coaches, especially great coaches, so I don’t have an easy answer to that, but one solution though is, he’s doing it to get players more rest, so we’re focused on the schedule and how to create fewer back-to-backs and fewer four games out of five nights.
Would you then go to the coaches and say ‘We’re a star-driven league, we’re an entertainment league, we’ve got to put our best players out there. Now, we’ve done this for you, now do this for us?’
I would go to the coaches, and I do have that discussion with the coaches. I think it’s different to saying we’re all in this together, this is a partnership among teams in the league to put the best product on the floor, and it’s very different though to legislate it and require them to play a certain amount of minutes and that, I don’t want to do.
Remember When Adam Silver Made This Powerful Statement?