NEW ORLEANS — Concerned about the “one-and-done” reality in which college basketball players bolt to the NBA after their freshman season, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday night he is committed to continued negotiations with the NBA Players Association to establish a minimum age of 20 to play professional basketball.
Speaking at a press conference Saturday, Silver said the 20-year-old age requirement was brought up during collective bargaining three years ago but became a “B list” item when other economic issues took center stage.
In his first official press conference as commissioner since taking over for David Stern, Silver said the age requirement made sense both for the college and pro game because colleges could create better teams knowing they had at least another year to develop talent, and the NBA would benefit by having more seasoned rookies, both on and off the court, joining the league.
“Everywhere I go, I know people dislike the so-called ‘one-and-done,'” Silver said. “I think it’s important to the NBA, it’s important to basketball generally that there be strong college basketball. It’s important to college basketball that there be strong youth basketball and strong AAU basketball.
“I think we feel we have a responsibility at the NBA as the stewards of the game to ensure that the game is played the right way and those values of the game … are executed properly. We at the league office are thinking about those things every day. You have my commitment that I am focused on the game, and ultimately, that’s what this is about.”
Silver said the 20-year-old minimum age was “something we had on the table” in the last round of collective bargaining three years ago, “and when we compromised on a deal well into what should have been our season we agreed to ‘park’ certain issues and return to them, and age limit was one of them.”
“It’s my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league,” Silver said. “I know from a competitive standpoint, that’s something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of the top players in the league could use more time to develop as leaders as part of college programs.
“Ultimately, this is a team sport — it’s not an individual sport. And we’ve seen it in international competition, for example, where teams of players that have played together for a long time have enormous advantage over teams comprised of superstars or teams that come together over short periods of time.”
The CBA won’t come up for renegotiation for another three years, and anything that could be done in the interim has been hampered because the NBA Players Association does not have a permanent executive director.
Silver touched on several other issues during his 36-minute press conference:
–The league will continue to look at new technology, especially replay, to see if it can get more calls correct and not interfere with “the flow of the game.” One idea is to establish a command center at league headquarters to immediately and quickly review controversial calls.
–The NBA will continue to look expand its audience through cable and Internet coverage — as opposed to broadcast distribution. Asked about exclusive over-the-air broadcasting, Silver said “those days are over.” The NBA Finals are broadcast on ABC. “I love our existing partners,” Silver said.
–The league has no evidence that any teams are “tanking” games purposely in order to enhance their chances at a better pick in the draft lottery. “My understanding of tanking would be losing games on purpose,” Silver said. “There’s absolutely no evidence of that.” Teams “rebuilding” with younger players and “looking out to the future” is not the same thing as tanking.
–Silver will continue to evaluate the draft lottery to “prevent there being an incentive to lose games.”
–In the wake of a rash of injuries to veteran players, the league has no current plans to stretch out the 82-game schedule to allow players more rest, although the time to do it would be around the All-Star break, Silver said.
–Jerseys with sleeves are a hot-selling item around the NBA and may be a fashion-forward trend. “We’re having trouble keeping them in the stores,” he said. Some players have complained that the sleeves give defenders an advantage, but statistics thus far show no field goal percentage differential between sleeves and no-sleeves games.
–The league does not foresee any immediate expansion from 30 teams. “My job is to ensure that 30 teams are healthy and competitive,” Silver said.