J.A. Adande and Israel Gutierrez discuss the Adam Silver era. Where does the commish begin?
David Stern's reign is defined by revenue growth, global expansion, technological adaptation and harsh penalties for those who tarnished the league's image. It's hard to imagine Silver making such a dramatic impact. But we shouldn't underestimate the future.
It took 66 years from the first airplane flight to landing a man on the moon. It took less than half that time to go from the Walkman to music-playing, picture-taking cellphones. There's always room for innovation. While we're talking technology, that should be one of Silver's goals: to incorporate technology into the arena experience so fans will have incentives to actually go to the games. Let them order food and pay for it on their cellphones so they don't have to wait in lines at the concession stands. Let them watch their choice of replay angles on their iPads. I know commissioners work for the owners, but it would be cool if Silver became the first to make serving the fans his priority.
Israel: Apparently, what's true for coaches is also true for commissioners: You don't want to be the immediate successor to a legend. And Stern certainly leaves as that. The problem in this case, though, is that Silver has been handed a winner and he's supposed to make it better. There's no chance that Silver will have Stern's level of impact because the league had so much more room for growth 30 years ago. Now, Silver is essentially fine-tuning most areas.
You're on to something, though, with the technology being on Silver's side. Stern wasn't hesitant to incorporate technology (the SportVU software that tracks player movement certainly has the potential to enhance how the game is studied), but Silver can take things significantly further. Some of your ideas to enhance the fan experience might be more the individual team's responsibility (the Sacramento Kings are allowing Bitcoin for payment), but there are still untapped possibilities.
As for the health of the game, I wonder if Silver could make a bold decision on the minimum-age requirement for entering the league. The current rule (one year out of high school) isn't ideal for either the NBA or college basketball. I mentioned this on the NBA Lockdown podcast (shameless plug): What if Silver changed the requirement to two years out of high school? But with this exception: You can come into the draft out of high school, but regardless of where you're drafted, you have to spend two years in the D-League. It would use the D-League as a minor league system and enhance the D-League product.
And it would give plenty for players coming out of high school to consider: Do I want to start making some money now and get more specific on-the-job training, or do I go to college for at least two years, benefit from the environment and the education, and then make my NBA decision? That could be a strong move, because Silver would be helping some players get more NBA-ready while also helping the college game, which he's not responsible for, but it would be a nice bonus.
Actually, that's a trick question, not a bonus question, because the answer is "You can't." So why should Silver focus on barricading the paths they took to the NBA when high-school-to-the-pros and one-and-done served both the players and the league so well? Silver also shouldn't make it easier for the NCAA to continue its morally unjustifiable practice of amateurism.
Now if Silver wants to provide an incentive for players to stay in school, raising the rookie-scale salaries for players who wait to come into the league -- as I discussed with you last year -- is another story. But artificially forcing the next versions of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony to play somewhere besides the NBA is not what the league needs most. And playing in the D-league doesn't give them the TV exposure they'd get in college, which makes them less marketable even when they do reach the NBA.
" Silver's biggest challenge will be finding revenue streams to generate return on investment for this wave of owners who bought in at $300 million and up.
" -- J.A. Adande
If they are high school graduates and they're ready, they should be allowed to enter the workforce, just like the rest of our society. Again, players should be encouraged, not forced, to be in college.
Another rule Silver could implement that might keep some players in school longer is the draft wheel. Knowing in advance which teams hold the top picks could lead a player to hold off a year to get to a team he prefers. I'm in favor of giving players more control of their careers.
I'm also in favor of spreading No. 1 picks around. Did you know that the Grizzlies, Bobcats, Nuggets, Jazz, Suns, Timberwolves and Pacers have never picked first in the NBA draft? Neither have the Celtics, Heat or erstwhile SuperSonics, although it didn't keep them from hanging banners. The main benefit of the wheel, of course, is that it eliminates tanking. Silver would never hear the topic come up at a news conference again.
Israel: How is entering the D-League not allowing them to enter the work force? They'd be getting paid and working on their craft. How is this wildly different than Major League Baseball, other than the idea that basketball players are more ready for the pros at 18 than baseball players. But that's only because we focus on the successful phenoms. For every Kobe, there was a Korleone Young.
Anyway, that's just an idea, and probably not on the top of Silver's to-do list. The tanking issue is possibly higher, but I don't necessarily believe the wheel system is an answer. Nor do I believe the draft needs to be altered. Of those teams you mentioned, two have won titles in the last six years, six made the playoffs last year and one has Kevin Durant. All of that without a No. 1 overall pick. Meaning, tanking isn't necessary.
No. 1 picks aren't locks, even in years when it seems they are ( Greg Oden and Durant in 2007). What doesn't fail is a well-structured, progressive, smart front office -- not much Silver can do about that for failing teams.
In terms of league revenue, which can help every team, I'd be especially intrigued to see if Silver greenlights advertisements on jerseys. That's the type of move that could spread across the four major North American pro sports, giving his impact even further reach.
J.A.: I think you're on to something with that last observation. Silver's biggest challenge will be finding revenue streams to generate return on investment for this wave of owners who bought in at $300 million and up. As one team executive told me, "His entire existence comes down to what he can serve up on the TV contract."
" How tight will Silver be with guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant? We've heard LeBron say he's got some ideas for the new commish. How closely will Silver listen to them in the ultimate player's league?
" -- Israel Gutierrez
There are still two more seasons before the current deals expire, so even though this is a priority, it might not happen immediately. Even when it does, it won't make much of an impact on the fans, other than affecting which channel they turn to when they're watching the games.
I do think there are business matters to be settled that impact the product, primarily a broken system that rewards teams on the extreme end of the spectrum but doesn't encourage teams to improve to merely "good." Silver has been an advocate of a hard salary cap, or as close as the NBA can get to one. If the current collective bargaining agreement makes it too difficult to build and maintain winning teams, will he call for loosening of the rules? It really comes down to whether his bosses, the owners, care more about their profits or the product.
Israel: I'd be curious to see what Silver's relationship with players will be like. We credit Michael Jordan with helping Stern expand the game, so just how tight will Silver be with guys like LeBron James and Kevin Durant? We've heard LeBron say he's got some ideas for the new commish. How closely will Silver listen to them in the ultimate player's league? Will guys suggest shorter preseasons, a wider court or just a wider lane, a friendlier schedule (less back-to-backs, for one), and will Silver listen?
Forging strong bonds with the players can only help Silver avoid severe labor tension. I know this much: Silver is an incredibly bright, progressive thinker who has likely already considered all these ideas and more. Chances are he'll find a way to surprise us all, putting his signature on much more than just the basketballs.
J.A.: The belief around the league is that Silver will be more inclusive and receptive to ideas than Stern. We know he won't have the same domineering personality. Regardless of his ruling style, it still will take a while for him to find his "commissioner's voice" for his presence to be felt. We should step back from all the suggestions for a moment to allow that to happen. Well, not completely back. Silver's first order of business needs to be giving the injured Kobe Bryant's All-Star spot to Goran Dragic. Some business just can't wait.