CHARLOTTE — On Saturday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held his annual state-of-the-league news conference. He spoke for about 40 minutes, said thousands of words and covered an array of topics.
Here are six of the most important things he said and what they mean for the future of the NBA:
On public trade demands
“I would just say, blanketly, no, I don’t like trade demands, and I wish they didn’t come, and I wish all those matters were handled behind closed doors.”
This is in line with league policy, which was why Anthony Davis got hit for $50,000. Silver’s strong posture on this hints that, in the future, he might look to increase the penalty for a public trade demand: possibly larger fines or perhaps even the power to levy a suspension. But that would take changes to the collective bargaining agreement, which means it would be years away.
On more ‘unintended consequences’
“Maybe, the League has to take responsibility [for increased star trade demands]. In the most recent collective bargaining agreement, the thought was teams should be able to be in a position to extend a year early, so that a player didn’t reach the end of his contract and then a team was then in a position where they were blindsided and say, ‘Well, we had no idea the player wasn’t going to stay.’ And the notion of extending a year earlier is so you could have that conversation with the player, and the player told you behind closed doors, of course, ‘I’m going to honor my contract, but I don’t plan on staying at the end of it.’ The team would be in a position to get fair value for the player. Once again, the law of unintended consequences, it hasn’t worked as precisely as we had planned.”
Oh boy, we’re back to the dreaded “unintended consequences.” That’s what Silver said when the flood of new television money created the 2016 cap spike and resulted in a wave of bad contracts. What he means here is a measure in the last CBA to avoid trade demands — loosening the rules to allow players to extend their contracts earlier — has actually backfired.
Instead of waiting until the final year of a contract to express a desire to be moved, star players are now doing so ahead of their extension window. That’s what happened with Kawhi Leonard with the San Antonio Spurs. And Davis pushed it out even further, making a demand five months before his extension window even arrived. The unintended consequence was moving the stars’ free-agency drama earlier.
On big vs. small markets
“If you look at the success of the so-called big markets in the last five years, they’ve been an all-time low in terms of their success on the floor. I think last season was the first season on record where the Lakers, Knicks and the Bulls didn’t make the playoffs, that we didn’t have the traditional big-market teams even playing in the playoffs.”
As you can tell, there were a lot of questions about trade demands. In this case, Silver is refuting the concept that stars want to be only in big markets. This factoid is a rather useful defense. In actuality, last season was the only season in which the Lakers, Knicks, Bulls, Nets and Clippers were all in the league and none made the playoffs. Of course, if the Knicks, Clippers, Nets or Lakers land most of the A-list free agents next summer, this talking point will be shoved in a drawer.
“When it comes to tampering, I believe the League has all the tools needed in order to investigate and potentially prosecute, so to speak, a tampering claim. I believe that within our rules, the people at the League office who are in charge of those areas do a terrific job. It’s not to say that there isn’t some conversation that the League office isn’t aware of, and I think we draw appropriate lines because nobody who’s part of the NBA wants to live in a police state, either.”
This a fair point. Because of LeBron James‘ relationship with Davis and the fact they share an agent, many leapt to the conclusion Davis’ attempts to force a trade to L.A. implicated the Lakers. Former NBA commissioner David Stern set a precedent that the NBA wouldn’t fine players for tampering because, frankly, he couldn’t stop it anyway. As Silver points out, he doesn’t want a police state, and, despite his claims that the league has strong investigative power, he doesn’t have a police force anyway.
On D-Wade and Dirk, All-Stars
“I thought it was a very unique situation in which you had two NBA champions, two NBA players who had long, fantastic careers, both of whom had been All-Stars multiple times in their career and both of whom, in the case of Dwyane Wade, had already announced it was going to be his last season. In the case of Dirk Nowitzki, I saw him painfully running up and down the court, and I think it was clear that this was going to be his last season.”
Ouch, Silver with a zing toward Nowitzki’s knee struggles that have robbed him of much of whatever athleticism he had. In all seriousness, Silver said the idea to add Wade and Nowitzki with special exemptions came from a fan who had emailed him. He didn’t rule out making other such gestures in the future, but don’t expect it every year.