NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 17, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
DAVID STERN: We're excited to be back in London. I think the post?Olympic glow is terrific, and it's also been good for basketball. Our social media numbers are up. Our participation levels are up across the sport in the UK. Awareness of our game, I think, has increased. We're delighted with our new partnership with BT Sport, and we managed to come here with two teams that are jockeying for playoff position, and we think we're going to have a really, really good game.
I have a lot of thank?yous, really, to the fans who sold this game out in record time. I think it took four hours for us to sell all of the tickets. We're delighted that our sponsors have been able to support us in the way that they have, and our players have been out and about in the community, as have our owners, who you've had the opportunity?? I know you visited with Mikhail Prokhorov earlier, and Bruce Levenson of Atlanta has been very much evident, as well.
We've really had great participation by our teams. This is the last time that I will address you or probably any other press conference as commissioner, and it's always been a pleasure. The greatest pleasure I have is really turning over the mic to the next commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver.
ADAM SILVER: All I want to add to that is thank you to David. I'm not quite sure if this is going to be your last press conference. You still have little over two weeks to go as commissioner, but certainly on behalf of myself and my thousands of colleagues at the league office and at the teams, I want to thank you for an incredible 30?year run as commissioner. We wouldn't be here without you.
DAVID STERN: It doesn't seem like a day over 29, 360. Thank you, Adam.
Q. I'd just like to kick off by asking, obviously you had hoped that this program would continue after you retire, and whether Adam, you have plans to continue to keep coming to London in particular.
ADAM SILVER: The answer is yes, we do have plans in place to continue playing regular season games in London. It's been a fantastic experience for our teams and our players, and we hope to continue building our business in London and throughout Europe.
Q. Can I ask, is it something that you would envisage being an annual event, or might it get spread around more?
ADAM SILVER: No, I think it will be annual. I think we're looking at other opportunities, maybe to play more games or possibly do a tournament at some point, but right now we're going to continue on the same course, an annual regular season game.
Q. In London?
ADAM SILVER: Yes.
Q. The Nets made note of the fact they're going to market themselves aggressively on this side of the Atlantic, and a quick walk around the concourse seems to indicate that it's working. Are they sort of the front of the queue for London games, or are they going to become an established London team, or is there a desire to rotate around other squads, as well?
ADAM SILVER: No, they're not at the front of the queue. As Brett Yormark, the president of the Nets, has said before, he's often the first to raise his hand for international travel, but the plan is to spread it throughout the league.
Q. Given the logistics of travel, is it always going to be teams from the East that come over, or have Western Conference teams expressed a desire to come over, as well?
ADAM SILVER: Western Conference teams have expressed a desire, as well. It doesn't really matter because obviously Western Conference teams make a swing through the East Coast to play. It's an easier launch pad to come over to the UK, but it just is more happenstance that it's those teams that are here right now.
Q. For David, a nice feelgood generic question. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment during your tenure as commissioner? Also, for Adam, will one of your goals as the new commissioner be to hopefully get a team back in Seattle? Will that be possible?
DAVID STERN: I don't have a good answer for that question. I've been knocking myself out for 30 years, and we've had some good successes, we've had some difficulties, but it's?? I think that if you just look to what the modern NBA has become, my greatest accomplishment was in hiring the now 1,200 people that used to be 24 that are taking this league?? have taken the league to where it is, and under Adam's leadership are going to take it to where it's going, which is higher yet.
So I'm either smart or lucky enough to hire very strong people who care deeply about basketball and about the growth of the NBA.
ADAM SILVER: And under the right circumstances, we'd love to see a team back in Seattle.
DAVID STERN: He sounds like a commissioner; it's great. (Laughter.)
Q. David, I wanted to ask you if there was one particular thing you wish you had accomplished but you didn't.
DAVID STERN: Oh, that's a long list. But nothing?? as I sit here, I wish the WNBA was 24 teams rather than 12, but it'll take us some time. I wish the American team at the Athens Olympics had won the gold rather than the bronze. It wasn't mine to have either way, but I wish that had happened. But I'm very happy with where we are, and I'm looking forward to perhaps traveling a bit for the NBA on an international basis and enjoying watching its continued growth.
Q. When will we see an official match in Spain, Greece or Turkey?
DAVID STERN: It's a hard answer, so I'll give it?? let Adam be the good guy here. The economy is booming comparatively in the UK, and we're having a sellout at good prices. I'm not sure that's possible at the current time in Greece. It's unlikely in Spain, and I don't know what the third?? did you mention a third country?
Q. Turkey or Italy.
DAVID STERN: Well, and Italy, as well. These are difficult times, and so for us to appear, it's problematic. And the O2 is a spectacular building. The last time we played in Italy it was in the Forum, and I think the Forum might almost be as old as I am, and it looks it.
Those are all considerations, and our sponsors, our licensees, our international broadcasters, they enjoy coming to the center point here in London, and this has been very good.
But I think we're going back to those places. We will be in Spain. We will be in Italy. We will be in Greece. I just don't know when Commissioner Silver is going to decide to do that.
ADAM SILVER: It was a great answer. (Laughter.)
DAVID STERN: This is fun. I can promise everything here.
Q. David is leaving a staggering legacy. Will the next thing to move the league be something along the lines of something the Brooklyn players have insinuated, bringing a franchise eventually over here to London?
ADAM SILVER: It's something we've talked about for years, and that is bringing NBA franchises not just to London but to other major European cities, as well. I think most likely if we were to come to Europe, it would be with a division rather than a single team for ease of logistics, and it's something we're going to continue to look at. And part of understanding the opportunity is to play games like this and to measure the response and go from there.
Q. Mr.Silver, after such a long time of being the vice commissioner, what are your plans for things you want to change in the NBA? Start with little things like the signature on the balls?
ADAM SILVER: That is one thing that's being changed, the signature on the ball. But other than that, in all seriousness, I've been working alongside with David for 22 years now, and I think anything that we've wanted to change, we have changed. It's been a partnership, and so my plan is to listen to the team owners, listen to the players, listen to the partners of the NBA, and then be very deliberate about making any changes.
The league is operating at a wonderful state right now, so I want to be very cautious about making any changes. But invariably we will make changes over time.
Q. Every time you come here to Europe, obviously we talk about globalization of the NBA. What I wanted to ask you was about the FIBA World Cup and how everything is changing and how it's going to affect, or not, in a good or bad way, the NBA, the fact it's going to be connected with the Olympics, and there might be some national team games during the season. What do you think of that, and how involved is the NBA in this process?
DAVID STERN: Well, we have a very good relationship with FIBA, and they keep us advised of each step that they're taking. First of all, I think it's a wonderful thing that after all these years they're calling it the World Cup of Basketball. That was a major victory. It will get the recognition that this event deserves because it's a great event.
We will not be interrupting the NBA season, nor will we be releasing our players to go play because that would be impractical as a business matter. But to the extent that they find a methodology that works better for them, we think it's great, and we will try to be as supportive as possible within our business model of the changes that they're making.
Q. I know you've mentioned a few times you're going to do some more international work overseas, but do you have a formulated plan in mind for what you're going to do on February 2nd and beyond? And then for Adam, obviously you and David have worked well as commissioner and deputy commissioner for a long time. Do you have plans to continue that model, or are you still evaluating whether you're going to have a deputy commissioner?
DAVID STERN: Why don't you answer first, Adam.
ADAM SILVER: Our constitution and bylaws of the NBA call for a deputy commissioner, so we will be naming a deputy commissioner at some point, so this model will continue.
It won't be the same, and it's a long distance between this seat and that seat, and I'm feeling it already. But the league will continue.
DAVID STERN: Right now I have decidedly refrained from making plans. I think on February 2nd I'm still going to be taking all of the junk that I moved out of my office and deciding how much of it to keep, how much of it to dump on Adam's doorstep and how much to throw out, so I've got a fair amount of work to do, and I'm planning to do some skiing before I get to that, and then we'll see. I'll have a different office, not at the NBA, and I'll be making some relatively significant announcements in the not?too?distant future.
Q. Do you have a time frame for when that announcement will be made, and do you think it's going to be by the 1st or will it be sometime after that, or is it to be determined?
ADAM SILVER: It will be made in the next few weeks.
Q. My question is for David. The first Chinese player to play in the NBA has announced that he will retire from the sport. Do you have any comment about this? And the second is the television audience has fallen in the past three years since Yao Ming retired. Do you think it is time to find a new player for the NBA?
DAVID STERN: Wang Zhizhi reminds me of Bill McAdoo. He may retire but he'll still keep shooting. He was a terrific player and a great spokesperson for Chinese basketball, and he had a very accurate eye, and I'm sure the CBA will miss him.
Actually our television ratings, you must look at them together with our internet streaming that we're doing on SINA.com and on Tencent and the games that are being shown by Shanghai Media Group on our multiplatform view. Our consumption in China is actually up.
But of course we're hopeful that there will be other Chinese players. A country that has as much basketball interest as China and a billion plus people to go with it at 300 million playing basketball is going to produce more NBA players, and we're working with the CBA on training techniques and sports training issues, and we think that there will come a time when we will have many more Chinese players.
Q. Adam, you've been working with David for 22 years. What did you learn from him?
ADAM SILVER: So much. I learned to pay attention to details. I learned to work extraordinarily hard. I learned to be very cautious and deliberate in making decisions, and especially in making changes. I learned a lot about the sports industry. I could go on and on.
Q. Commissioner Stern, can you talk about I guess the draft process. During your legacy you instituted the draft lottery. Teams are talking about tanking this year. How do you feel about that? Do you feel it should be kind of redone or what do you feel about that right now?
DAVID STERN: I honestly sometimes don't even understand the commentary. It's as though a generation has forgotten why the draft lottery was implemented. The draft lottery was implemented because there was just too much pressure on the two teams, and the perception was if you could get to the bottom, the perception of the tank, you wouldn't get the first or the second pick. So we implemented a draft lottery, okay, so now people are saying, okay, the draft lottery is responsible for something. The draft lottery is responsible only for ameliorating the possible side effects of having the same kind of draft that others have.
In the interim I think the NHL also adopted a draft lottery.
We have tinkered a bit with the draft lottery. At some period of time, we had all of the teams having an equal opportunity in the lottery, and that seemed to be unfair, so we modified it a bit, and then some teams who weren't?? didn't have the best odds won in any event. So we made it a little bit more slanted to the worst teams, and I think it's maybe time to look at the lottery and maybe tinker a little bit more. But we'll see what Commissioner Silver wants to do on that.
I was reading about Toronto and Cleveland "tanking," and I guess somebody forgot to tell their coaches and their players that that's what the program was because obviously it's not. So I am much less believing of the media's take on this than a lot of other people.
Q. Can you just put into words the challenge that you have following Commissioner Stern, what it's like to follow in somebody's footsteps that's been doing this for 37 years?
DAVID STERN: Stop it. He's been the commissioner for the last 10 years. They just haven't given him the check. Leave him alone. He's going to be great, and everything we've done for at least the last 22 years, we've done together, so it's a piece of cake.
Q. You've had a long time to build up to this point, but have you thought emotionally what it's going to be like in that first morning when you walk into the office and have the commissioner's name tag going on your door? David, similarly what will your emotions be on February the 4th sitting at home not having to put a suit and tie on?
ADAM SILVER: I'll say, although I can't imagine better preparation for a job like this, I think there's no substitute for being in the job, so I'm not sure exactly what to expect.
I couldn't be more excited on one hand, but sure, I'm a bit nervous, and so we'll see, and we'll see what challenges come my way. I feel one of the things that's so exhilarating about not just being the commissioner or the deputy commissioner but working at the NBA is there are new challenges and opportunities every day, so it's hard to predict what will come, and I'm sure there will be events that come and my first instincts will be to call David and say so what do we do.
DAVID STERN: It's going to be busy, a busy signal.
ADAM SILVER: Fortunately I have a terrific group of colleagues who David is also leaving behind with me at the NBA, people like Joel Litvin. We've all been working together for literally decades, so we'll see. But I'm a little nervous.
DAVID STERN: You know, for me, I'm very proud of this transition. I think there's a magazine out today, Bloomberg Business Week. Are we on the cover? Okay, we're on the cover, about corporation succession, and that's something that I've been thinking about and planning for for a while. And so to have somebody who's been part of the team for 22 years who's known to and respected by his colleagues who will continue to follow him because he's really led so many of them is a terrific thing, and it makes me feel very, very good.
I'm stepping down at a time when I think the league is in great shape, and I think it's really going to be fun to watch and enjoy it because every time there's a change, people who might have had an idea and thought maybe they shouldn't suggest it because it's being done a certain way, it's an opportunity for them to say, okay, here we are, what should we do differently.
And although that has always been my approach, which is the worst answer you can ever give me is we did it because it's the way it's always been done, because we try to change things every day, I think this is an opportunity really for Adam and my colleagues to step up one more time, and I'm sure the NBA is going to be better for it, and that makes me feel very good.
Q. Adam, going back to the regular season games here in London, are you thinking in the future to stay in London or perhaps expand further maybe up north to Manchester or anywhere else?
ADAM SILVER: You know, as you know, we played a friendly in Manchester. It's something we'll look at. I mean, nothing is set in stone. We've done very well here in London, so the greater likelihood is we would return to London.
But to the earlier question, are we looking at other cities in Europe, as well? Absolutely. We're going to see what the opportunities are and look at everything.
Q. Commissioner Stern, what's your view on Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea?
DAVID STERN: Well, he didn't invite me to go with him, and had he, I would have declined because I think that those things are best undertaken by coordination with government to make sure that the right protocols are followed, and sports diplomacy is used at its highest and best level as we've tried to use it when Adam actually hosted in Salt Lake City the Iranian national team with the encouragement and support of the U.S. State Department and the United States senator from Utah when we invited the Chinese national team here in 1985 and again in 2008, and there's a huge, huge spot for sports diplomacy.
Birthday parties for dictators that torture, kill, starve, develop missiles and bombs, not so much, and that's my thought.
Q. Adam, you have the two teams in New York that are struggling right now. They gave up a lot of assets for this team. Is it concerning to have two teams in New York? Are you more concerned for the long?term of those teams, or is it more reassuring that under this CBA you can't just buy a championship?
ADAM SILVER: Look, I care about every team in the league, and you'd like to see every team present its fans with an opportunity to compete for championships. But management matters, and that's what we're seeing, especially under this new CBA.
First of all, it's still relatively early in the season. I'm not counting out any New York team, especially the Knicks and Nets are both playing better as of late. So we'll see. But I don't have particular concern about one team more than the other in this league. Our jobs are to look out for the health of 30 teams.
Q. Considering all the injuries, is it possible that there are going to be less than 82 games a season? Is that one of the things you're going to consider?
DAVID STERN: You're looking at me, but I know you're addressing that to Adam since he's going to be meeting with the Board of Governors on a regular basis. Adam?
ADAM SILVER: No plan at this time to look at a shorter season. We've been playing an 82?game season for I think roughly 45 years. And I'm not even sure that the injuries this season are a statistical aberration. There may be more high profile injuries this year, so of course we're concerned, and maybe it's an area we can do better on in terms of training techniques and using big data to better understand among our teams if there are better ways to rehabilitate players, whether there are better training techniques, so those are things we're going to continue to look at, but no plans at this time to shorten the season.
Q. You were asked a little earlier about globalization and the other European countries that you may or may not visit in the future. Which European countries have kind of been most receptive to the NBA in the years that you have been coming across the Atlantic, and can you kind of explain how receptive a convert the UK has been?
DAVID STERN: Well, I think it's fair to say of all the countries we've visited, the profile historically of basketball has been the lowest in the UK. We have played tournaments in Rome, Milan, Munich. We've played exhibition games in Berlin. We've played in Madrid and Barcelona, and we've played in Paris, and I think we might have actually had an exhibition game in León. I'm not quite positive about that.
So we have had great receptivity to our game every place we've gone.
The infrastructure in the countries other than the UK historically has been a little bit more focused with support of a governmental body together with the federation, together with the league, and that hasn't quite been the case with the UK. But I think it's becoming clarified, and I think it's going to, together with the increased support that we see for us and the increase in sort of the interest in our game here, especially amongst youth, that Basketball England?? or is it England Basketball? It was named something else the last time I visited. There seem to have been different names and different organizations.
It seems that there's, together with the post?Olympic hopefully grant that is coming for the development of the sport, there's going to be a significant uptick in basketball interest in the UK.