LAS VEGAS — Despite the balance of power shifting even more toward the West this offseason, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league will not consider rebalancing conferences or altering the playoff format for now.
Silver, though, did leave the door open for the possibility of one day rebalancing the two conferences or having a 16-seed tournament.
“Ultimately [two years ago] we concluded that given all the focus on sports science, health of our players and impact of travel, it didn’t make sense, at least at this time, to move to a rebalanced schedule because we played an imbalanced schedule,” Silver said at the board of governors news conference Wednesday.
“Ultimately I don’t recall the precise calculations, but it resulted in significantly more travel for our teams, especially for those teams on the coast. So the conclusion was at least, given the state of science on travel, we are better off staying in the conference system the way we have it and of course same implications for the playoffs. The notion of having teams crisscrossing the country in the first round didn’t seem to make sense to our teams.”
Silver admitted “many” were in favor of a 16-seed playoff when it was examined two years ago.
“Will we look at it again? I assume we will,” Silver said. “I think for the league, many of us felt that a 1-through-16 playoff made more sense and maybe there’s also the potential, in some ways a separate issue, should you reseed after every round as some leagues do? I think those are things we will continue to look at, but it is not at the top of the agenda right now.”
Another issue that may move up Silver’s agenda is the NBA’s age limit of 19.
During June’s draft, a record 16 freshmen were selected in the first round compared to just two seniors, the fewest ever.
Silver said he doesn’t believe the current age “system is working well for anyone.” He said at the All-Star Game in February that he and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts agreed that the age issue needed to be studied more — perhaps even outside the boundaries of the current collective bargaining agreement — for the long-term health of the game.
“In terms of one-and-done, it is something that we are taking a fresh look at,” Silver said Wednesday. “As I’ve said, I don’t believe the system is working well for anyone, and most importantly, from a developmental standpoint for the league, the question is when players come into the league at 19, have they gotten the best possible training to be equipped for NBA basketball? Our sense is, in some cases, yes. In other cases, no. It is a much bigger issue than whether we go from 19 to 20 [or] 19 to 18.”
The NBA has taken steps toward trying to improve the development of prospects around the world by establishing NBA Academies in Africa, China, India and Australia and NBA junior programs domestically. Silver says the NBA will have to work with the NBPA, the NCAA and youth basketball in an effort to help prospects be more prepared for the league upon entering no matter the age limit.
“One of the things that we want to talk to the NCAA about is historically we have stayed away from some of those younger players because we didn’t want to impact NCAA eligibility,” Silver said. “But we really need to take a complete, holistic look at this, to see putting aside minimum age in the NBA, how can we intersect with these players at a younger age to ensure they are getting an appropriate development.
“It is something we feel an obligation to the game, to be much more involved in youth basketball. There was a time when we weren’t frankly welcomed in youth basketball. I think now the community is asking us to be more involved, and I think we will find a way to do much more.”
Silver also addressed the issue of tanking, and specifically comments made by Dallas owner Mark Cuban on “The Dan Patrick Show” in May that the Mavericks played all their young players once they were eliminated from playoff contention to do “everything possible to lose games.”
Silver said he spoke to Cuban, and the NBA examined whether the Mavericks players showed any signs of losing games to get a higher draft pick.
“Yes, it is not what you want to hear as commissioner,” Silver said. “I would say that Mark has a long track record with provocative [statements]. It is something that we spoke to him directly about — he acknowledged it was a poor choice of words.
“When we looked at what was actually happening on the floor, which was most important to me, there was no indication whatsoever that his players were intentionally losing games. So we were satisfied with that and everyone moved on.”