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July 30, 2015

JOHANNESBURG (AP) With a multi-billion dollar new broadcast rights deal set to kick in from the 2016-17 season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says ''it's a very good time'' for the league right now and, he stressed on Thursday, the players, too.

The new agreement with ESPN and TNT, worth nearly $24 billion over nine years, will have a ''significant impact on the viability'' of teams, Silver said.

That will also likely see players seek much more in their next collective bargaining opportunity, possibly in 2017, after they had their guarantees of revenues slashed four years ago when team owners insisted that they needed a new financial structure.

The new TV deal, announced in October, came with an indication from players that they would be seeking a bigger slice next time round.

''The whole thing that went on with the last negotiation process was the owners were telling us they were losing money. There's no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now,'' Cleveland's LeBron James said last year.

James said ''that will not fly with us this time.''

That was further underlined by Silver's comments on Thursday, when he said business was much better.

''I would say generally it's a very good time for the NBA and its players right now,'' Silver said.

He was speaking in South Africa, where players' association president Chris Paul is part of a group of 20 NBA stars set to play an exhibition game on Saturday, the first by the NBA in Africa.

For Silver, who took over as commissioner in 2014, there was an improved relationship between the league, the owners, and the players now, he said.

''It's premature to talk about that specific negotiation (collective bargaining),'' Silver said. ''All I will say is that as with any negotiation, trust plays a critical role. Building relationships plays a critical role ... and I would hold up the partnership the NBA and its players have as the best, as far as I know, in all of sports.''

Silver even highlighted what he called ''the warmth of the personal relationships'' between players, NBA officials, and team general managers around the hotel this week in Johannesburg. Then, he was reminded of the 2011 lockout and the ugly standoff between players and owners.

''It doesn't mean that there are not business negotiations to take place, but again, you know, avoiding work stoppages is something we think about all the time,'' Silver said.

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