CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After two weeks of Anthony Davis’s trade request dominating conversation around the NBA, commissioner Adam Silver on Saturday sounded sanguine about any possible negative effects it was having on the league.
“Some of the greatest players in the history of this league have demanded trades at various points of their contracts,” he said at his annual All-Star weekend address. He added that there was “very little” he could do to completely stop players from trying to force trades.
Davis was fined $50,000 for the public trade request made by his agent, Rich Paul. Silver said it was healthy for players and their agents to have ongoing conversations with their teams about future intentions, but that he preferred that such conversations happen behind closed doors. As for the frenzy of news media attention surrounding Davis and his possible destination this summer, Silver said the “public spectacle” wasn’t the type of media interest the league wanted.
“We certainly are becoming a 52-week-a-year sport, and it’s largely the result of tremendous interest in these players,” he said. “I think we could do a better job as a league in avoiding those situations where they get to the point where players are maybe demanding they be traded or, worst-case scenario, saying, ‘I’m not going to honor my contract.’”
Silver has frequently stated a desire to improve the NBA’s competitive balance. Asked whether small-market teams could compete with large-market franchises, Silver largely disputed the premise without even citing the fact that the Milwaukee Bucks, a small-market club, have the best winning percentage in the league.
He took the opposite approach.
“I’m not even sure where the line is anymore on big markets,” he said, pointing out that the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls — teams that play in major cities — have struggled on the court in recent years.
Silver also said it was too early to judge whether reforms to the draft lottery, intended to reduce the incentive to tank in pursuit of a high draft pick, were having the intended effect. Four teams this year are on pace to win fewer than 20 games, but Silver said there is also an unusually large number still in contention for a playoff berth.
“I personally don’t think it is a winning strategy over the long term, losing for multiple years,” said Silver. He also said that choosing to be uncompetitive for an extended period of time would most likely have a “corrosive’’ effect on any team that took that approach.
Taken together, Silver’s responses to questions suggested that he was relatively happy with the state of the NBA and believed that the league’s problems could be solved through tweaks to the system, not wholesale changes.
Silver opened the news conference by addressing House Bill 2, the law passed in North Carolina in 2016 that invalidated local government ordinances establishing anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and required people in publicly owned buildings to use restrooms that corresponded with the genders listed on their birth certificates. In response to the law, the NBA took the All-Star Game, originally scheduled to be played in Charlotte in 2017, away from the city.
He said it was the view of the league office that the law discriminated against the LGBTQ community, and subsequently the NBA made the decision that it was “inconsistent with the values of this league to play the All-Star Game here under those circumstances.” The NBA decided to return after the law was partially repealed.
Asked about efforts to improve the culture of the Dallas Mavericks, where a league investigation found numerous instances of sexual harassment and improper conduct among employees, Silver offered few specifics but said there was a “complete sea change in culture on the business side” of the organization.
Earlier Saturday, the NBA, in partnership with the International Basketball Federation, announced the formation of the Basketball Africa League, a 12-team professional league made up of clubs from across Africa. The league will begin play in 2020, the first time the NBA will be involved in the operation of a league outside of North America.
Many details, including which clubs from which countries will be part of the league, have yet to be finalized, but Silver did say that former President Barack Obama would be involved in the league in an unspecified capacity.
I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court. https://t.co/lghcLaUN9a
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 16, 2019