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NEW YORK — During the busiest stretch of the NBA calendar, Adam Silver found time to discuss various topics around the league with media members last Thursday. With representatives from different outlets and regions represented in the room, the commissioner broached a slew of subjects, including All–Star Weekend in Charlotte, advertisements on NBA jerseys, Hack–a–Shaq and more.
Here's a quick digest of the most interesting notes from Silver's Q&A with the media:
1. The NBA will miss Prince. In the days since his passing, it seem as if everyone has a Prince story—not just celebrities. He was a larger than life character who managed to touch the lives of so many ordinary people. And while Silver is far from ordinary at this stage of his life, that wasn’t the case when he first encountered the music star. Silver broke the news of Prince’s death to a group of reports Thursday before dropping details about an encounter in 1994, when the NBA held All-Star Weekend in Minneapolis and Prince invited league personnel to an all–night party and performance. Prince, who attended a Warriors game this season and shouted out Stephen Curry in March, will be missed, Silver said. “I just want to note his passing and say, on behalf of the NBA family, how sorry we are for him, for his family and for his literally millions of fans around the world.”
2. Kobe will have a relationship with the NBA. The ending to Bryant’s final season couldn’t have gone better for the NBA. His farewell tour allowed fans and players to thank him for 20 years of greatness. Silver was among those who expressed appreciation for all that Bryant has done for the game, and he plans to keep in close contact with Bryant. “I’m sure this is not the last chapter for him in terms of the NBA,” Silver said. “He’s talked to us about doing all kinds of things. He seems particularly interested in doing something around media.” Silver explained that Bryant will not have an official role, but wants to work with the NBA to teach the game to others. Silver used Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Grant Hill as examples for the relationship Bryant could foster with the NBA in retirement.
3. Silver appreciated the Warriors’ candor in chase for 73 wins. Silver started his time with the media by touching on a few topics, and it’s quite obvious that the Warriors are bound to dominate any free-flowing NBA discussion. Silver liked that the Warriors admitted they wanted the Bulls’ 72–win, went after it and made history.
4. NBA player feedback on sponsor patches. There are basketball purists who don’t want to see advertisements on jerseys, but NBA players are not among them. When SI.com asked how players reacted to patches on jerseys, Silver said he’s heard nothing but positive feedback. As Silver noted, a decision of this magnitude can’t be made without input from the NBPA, and players receive about 51% of basketball–related income. Silver made a few poignant business points as well, mentioning that adding patches on jerseys circumvents efforts to avoid advertisements in commercials and brings in partners who will likely continue to spend money with the league.
5. The 'problematic' situation surrounding 2017 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. Silver has been asked about moving the All–Star Game from Charlotte many times and he continues to be skeptical about the event's future. Silver still has faith that something could be done to resolve the problem, but he did call the state's anti-LGBT laws “problematic” and acknowledged that the NBA has contingency plans.
6. Should free agency start at midnight? The period during which players are free to sign with new teams starts at 12:01 a.m. The tradition is set so firmly in place that no one had ever asked Silver if it should be changed so media members and basketball fans could react in real time. Silver mentioned that the moratorium is in place so players can talk to multiple teams and avoid the pressure to sign when free agency starts at midnight. That hasn’t stopped late–night deals from going down, however. Which means teams still feel the need to court players and media members feel the need to provide coverage. Dates and times like this are negotiated in CBA agreements, so the phrase burning the midnight oil could no longer apply to the NBA if a revision can be reached.
7. The history of Hack-a-Shaq. When Hack-a-Shaq is discussed, the man who created it is seldom mentioned. Don Nelson, one of the most creative basketball minds ever, was the architect of an approach that still causes much debate today. Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations, was in the room with Nelson when the strategy was devised. It was created out of necessity, as Nelson, then coaching the Mavericks, decided to foul Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal every time he touched the ball. Dallas’s rationale? They couldn’t guard Shaq so they had to do something.
8. Coach/President positions equal fewer positions for minorities? One question posed to Silver asked whether hiring one person to be both president and coach could lead to fewer jobs in the NBA for minorities. Silver said the league is doing its best and Kathleen Behrens, president of social responsibility and player programs in the NBA, discussed two initiatives to combat that problem. The NBA’s associates program mentors players on salary cap strategy and the assistant coaches apprentice program provides a proactive approach that shows the league doesn’t need a Rooney Rule just yet.
9. Players appreciate extra time during All–Star Weekend. As part of the NBA’s effort to better rest players, the league added extra days to the All–Star break. This addition was especially important for players who take part in All–Star festivities and don't get much down time at the midseason mark. Silver said he heard positive feedback and hopes to continue to find ways to make sure players remain fresh throughout the season.
10. NBA expansion and Seattle. There cannot be a discussion of expansion without Seattle becoming the center of the conversation. And while that conversation made sense in David Stern’s NBA, it seems to make less under Silver. Chris Hansen and others who want basketball in the city have tried valiantly to add a stadium with hopes of bringing in an NBA team in the near future. Silver made it clear that having a stadium doesn’t mean an NBA team will come to town, and that there is no strong push for expansion.
11. Stan Van Gundy fine affect in-game interviews? During a recent interview, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy used his time to discuss LeBron James and the way he’s officiated. He acknowledged that James, one of the league’s foremost talents, is treated differently and can get away with things at times. Viewed as a roundabout way to criticize officials, Van Gundy received a $25K fine from the league. Silver admitted that coaches are accommodating the media through in–game interviews and said he valued the entertainment element, even though some coaches might disagree. That these interviews could result in fines is not much of a surprise, considering the spotlight on national games. Silver said Van Gundy knew where the line was and was looking to send a message to officials. Van Gundy apologized to Vandeweghe, who is in charge of fines, and admitted that he went too far. The league’s message was received.
12. Could NBA games be streamed via social media? As more fans cut cords and watch sports via streaming sources, the NBA will try to find ways to accommodate them. Silver said he is aware of the NFL’s experiment with Twitter, which will stream 10 Thursday night games, and plans to talk with the social media site about the deal. But because the NBA has entered new deals with ESPN and Turner, its broadcast partners would have to be involved in any such situation. But that hasn’t stopped the NBA from streaming outside the United States.
13. The DeAndre Jordan rule. As noted above, the NBA moratorium is in place so free agents can field all offers and make a final decision. Previously, players and teams were allotted 10 days to negotiate. The drama that unfolded behind DeAndre Jordan’s last–minute change of heart caused the NBA to react and shorten the moratorium to six days. Silver agreed that media are sort of in a holding patter when deals are reported and confirmed days later. He also tapped into one of the weirder points of moratorium for the league. There is a time when they must police comments and make sure teams don’t announce signings before free agency. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tested this policy when he joined a radio show and announced that he had a deal with Jordan. In the end, the league fined Cuban and Jordan re-signed with the Clippers.
14. Resting players. This has become an issue as more coaches follow Gregg Popovich’s lead and rest their players during the regular season with a title in mind. For Silver, though, entering into discussions about playing time is a slippery slope he’s unwilling to climb. He’s aware of the delicate balance between player and coach, and doesn’t want to throw off that dynamic.
15. Political statements are welcome in election year. Silver said he encourages players to make political statements, but he was also clear that he would prefer for them to be kept away from the confines of the basketball court. He said he made a special exception when players wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts during pregame, although he acknowledged that he would like for players to refrain from deciding to “modify the equipment” under other circumstances.