NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was the guest speaker this afternoon at the Boston College Executives Club of Boston luncheon and offered optimism about the direction of the league as well as some new ideas for his new administration.
Silver, who took over in February for David Stern, who served 30 years as commissioner and revolutionized the league into a billion dollar business, told the gathering about how in 1981, the Celtics' rally to beat the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the NBA Finals was not televised live nationally. And, in contrast, Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was seen live by an estimated 900 million people.
The league's primary issue this season has been accusation of teams tanking games to improve their draft status. The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 17 games in a row and essentially gutted their roster with a series of trades. No other NBA team has lost more than four consecutive games.
"I think it's important to clarity what we all mean by tanking," he said at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. "Where I grew up tanking meant the coach and the players or some subset of that group were intentionally trying to lose a game. I don't think that's going on anywhere in the NBA and I would take action immediately if I thought it was.
"What is going on is rebuilding. And we have a system right now that incentivizes teams to rebuild. There's a sense that you're better off rebuilding in some cases from scratch than remaining mediocre. Now I am concerned even if it's a legitimate strategy that there's a perception out there by many people that it's not. There's an awful lot of chatter out there in the land and I continue to hear the 'T' word. So I think it's my obligation to address it."
Silver said he is open to various proposals to adjust the draft to prevent tanking. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said to the Globe that he suggested to Silver on Wednesday that all lottery teams receive the same odds for the No. 1 pick, which could prevent teams from making trades to reduce their talent base.
"I'm more concerned at the moment about the perception than the reality," Silver said. "I don't have a sense that any teams are doing anything wrong. Their responding to the incentives that are built into the system and if the incentives aren't right, we have to address it. This is genuine, appropriate rebuilding in this league but at the same time some teams are better managed than others."
Another league issue is potentially increasing the NBA age limit to 20, essentially eliminating the "one-and-done" rule that allows players to enter the draft following one college season or one year removed from high school.
Silver suggested that NCAA Present Mark Emmert participate in the discussions to increase the age limit.
"What I've been saying in the NBA is let's make sure we have a better understanding of the issue," Silver said. "It's a lot more complicated than saying 19 to 20. College needs to have a seat at the table as well because I think there are various rules that they can address as well as to the window in which you can hire an agent, maintaining eligibility, potentially insurance for kids. It's got to be more of a holistic approach but ultimately there's nothing we can do without our Players Association at the table and it's up to the NBA, me, to convince the Players Association that's something there would be in their interest too."
Silver was asked whether Boston, which hasn't hosted an All-Star Game since 1964, would ever get another opportunity.
"I love Boston and I'd love to be here for an All-Star Game," he said. "It really is for the team to decide that they want to host the game. I think it's a unique situation here that in a top market you have a team that's in essence a renter in its building so it's not as easy as it might be in other place. We love this team. I have no doubt that our fans would love to come here for an All-Star Game. But cities apply, that's how it works."