NBA commissioner Adam Silver talks about league expansion, potential All-NBA changes ahead of Finals

NBA commissioner Adam Silver talks about league expansion, potential All-NBA changes ahead of Finals

Ahead of Game 1 of the 2022 NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke with media members in his annual state of the league address and touched on several important topics. From league expansion, potential changes to All-NBA voting and possible tweaks to the NBA schedule, Silver offered some insight into the future of the NBA, and what direction we could see the league heading in going forward.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights from Silver’s address.

NBA expansion plans

This has been a hot topic surrounding the league for several years, and there have been reports suggesting that if the NBA were to expand, the two cities it would look at are Seattle and Las Vegas. It’s also been reported that the league would look for a $2.5 billion fee each for two expansion teams to be added, a pretty pricey number to create a new franchise. However, Silver said Thursday night that expansion is not something the league is focusing on right now.

“That talk is not true,” Silver said. “As I said before, at some point, this league invariably will expand, but it’s not at this moment that we are discussing it. One of the factors in expanding is the potential dilution of talent. As I’ve said before, I find it remarkable that when you have the second-most-played sport in the world after soccer, tens of millions of young men playing in this game, and then you have the 450 best in the world in this league, that there’s a few of them who separate themselves even among those 450 as the very best of the best, but there is then a fall-off, a drop-off in talent after that.

“So expansion does create a certain amount of dilution. And even sort of adding another 30 players or so that are roughly comparable, there still are only so many of the truly top-tier super talents to go around. That is something on the mind of the other teams as we think about expansion. But those are wonderful markets. We’ll be looking at it at some point, but there’s no specific timeline right now.”

Potential All-NBA voting changes

There’s been controversy for years over how All-NBA selections are decided, and this season was no different. While the back-to-back MVP winner Nikola Jokic was named to the First Team, the runner-up for the award, Joel Embiid, was placed on the Second Team, only because of the position requirement that is attached to All-NBA voting. The position component of All-NBA voting has been deemed antiquated as the league has moved to a more positionless style of play. To that point, Silver said that the league has considered removing the position designations for All-NBA.

“I think a fair amount of consideration is going into whether we should just — really, you, the way it works now, the media — should just be picking top players than be picking by position,” Silver said. “I think we are a league that has moved increasingly toward positionless basketball, and the current system may result in some inequities based on the happenstance of what your position is. So that is something we’re looking at. It’s something that we will discuss with the Players Association because it has impact on incentives and players’ contracts, and it has, you know, deep meaning for their legacy as well. So we will look at those things.”

To Silver’s point about All-NBA being tied to contract incentives, players have voiced concerns about that in the past, and about media members being the ones essentially controlling how much money they can make based on their votes. Silver said that the league and Players Association felt that was the best way to handle those incentives, and as far as media being the deciders, it’s the least biased way to approach the voting.

“Right now we agreed with the Players Association to use those designations to trigger certain bonuses in players’ contracts, frankly because we couldn’t come up with a better way that would feel objective to everyone involved,” Silver said. “I think we all recognize that doing it on a pure stats basis or just using analytics, there would be unfairness there because it doesn’t pick up the intangibles. Certainly I don’t think anyone wanted the league office to do it. And we came up with this proxy for the media to do it.

“I understand from a player’s standpoint, saying, ‘Can’t believe the media has been given this power over me.’ I will say, when you have a hundred media members essentially on the panel, it seems to work its way out. We are going to discuss that with the players and sit down once again and see if there’s a better way to do it.” 

On the Trail Blazers reportedly being for sale

A surprising development was reported Thursday when it was announced that Nike founder Phil Knight and Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Alan Smolinisky made an offer north of $2 billion to purchase the Portland Trail Blazers. Former Blazers owner Paul Allen died in 2018, and a trust headed by Allen’s sister, Jody, has controlled and operated the team since. After news broke that Knight and Smolinisky made a bid for the team, the Blazers current ownership made a statement saying the team is currently not for sale. Even though Silver didn’t know all the specifics about the reported sale, he did say that eventually the Blazers will be sold. 

“I don’t know all the specifics of Paul Allen’s trust, what I understand is that Jody Allen, who is Paul Allen’s sister, is the trustee of the estate, and that at some point the team will be sold,” Silver said. “I don’t have a sense of the precise timing, but at some point it will be for sale. It’s a hugely complex estate, and while it’s already been several years [since Paul’s death], these things can take time. Having said that, everyone has an interest in a smooth transition. I think Jody has been an excellent steward of the team in the meantime. Portland has been a wonderful community for the NBA, and my preference would be that the team remains in Portland as part of this process.”

Changes to NBA schedule

The NBA has been toying around with several ways to tweak the schedule for years. When the league restarted after a shutdown in the summer of 2020, we got to see what it would look like having NBA games played over the course of the summer. Last season the league cut 10 games from the schedule and started the week of Christmas to give players a bit of a rest after the Orlando bubble. However, the league went back to its usual scheduling this season with no notable changes. While some players would like to see a reduction in games in order to limit the rise in injuries we’ve been seeing, if a change were to come, it may happen in the form of an in-season tournament.  

“I think the way we are trying to look at it now is instead of reducing the number of games, we are thinking from a competitive standpoint, is there a way to improve what, to many people, is a long regular season,” Silver said. “And one of the ways we’re thinking of doing that is an in-season tournament. Something we talk a lot about. We are not there yet. We continue to talk to our Competition Committee about it, our team governors, the Players Association, to see if there’s a way throughout the season to create more meaningful games, more games of consequence, potentially a tournament that would arguably replace some of the regular-season games but would be more meaningful.”

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