NEW YORK — NBA commissioner Adam Silver is a self-professed basketball junkie, who often flips through NBA league pass every night and finds compelling games to tune into.
“I love where our game is right now,” Silver said at his second state of the league address Saturday night. “I don’t think it’s ever been more free-flowing, more exciting for the fans. As someone who watches a lot of games on our League Pass, there’s seemingly interesting games on every night among our teams in the league. So I’m very happy with where the game is right now.”
Silver’s excitement in the game could be interrupted in a few years if there’s another labor stoppage. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated in the fall of 2011 was signed for 10 years but the player’s union can opt out in 2017.
A sticking point could be the split of revenues from the $24 billion television deal that was reached in early October. Under the current CBA, the players receive 49 to 51 percent of basketball related income and while the percentage will remain the same, the amount of revenue will increase significantly in 2016.
Silver has proposed a concept of “cap smoothing” that gradually phases in the money to teams but on Friday the NBPA unanimously rejected that idea.
“At the time we negotiated the new (collective bargaining) deal, we weren’t projecting that the television increases would be as large as they are,” Silver said. “We weren’t anticipating this many years out that we would have this quick a jump in our television rights fees but that’s where the market has taken us. As a result of those big increases that we know will now come in the 2016-17 season, we approached the union with a so-called smoothing concept.
“Under that smoothing concept the players would receive 51 percent of the money that year but what we proposed we would lower the cap, artificially as the union characterized it to a lower level than what would otherwise be 51 percent of the revenue. The delta between where we lowered and the 51 percent would be paid in a lump sum to the union to be distributed to all the players. That way there would be a smoothing in of the increases and you wouldn’t see a one-year spike in the salary cap. That’s something we presented to the union. Ultimately it’s up to them to decide what’s in the interests of the player’s association. I have a feeling there’ll be additional discussions.
The concept of “cap smoothing” is designed to avoid potential negative ramifications of the windfall when the salary cap increases from its present $63 million to the range of roughly $80-$90 million in the first year of the new television deal.
“I don’t want to act like it’s a terrible problem to have,” Silver said. “We’re thrilled that based on the interest in the NBA we’re able to command these big increases in the television market. We will live with our deal. It was structured in a way where 51 percent of our revenue in essence gets paid to our players.”
From the player’s perspective, it’s a concept that National Basketball Player’s Association executive director Michele Roberts believes could hurt older players or fringe players.
Among the potential negative consequences is that a significant increase in the cap would give the larger markets such as New York and Los Angeles an easier opportunity to undo past missteps with the luxury taxes.
Also addressed by Silver were issues such as scheduling and the reduction of back-to-backs. This season, teams are averaging about 20 back-to-backs and Silver would like to gradually reduce those along with playing four games in five nights.
“One of things we’re hoping to address for next season is to come close as we can to eliminating the four games in five nights,” Silver said. “It’s a math formula at the end of the day in terms of the numbers of days in the season and the number of games we play but we think we can make a dramatic reduction there.”
One of the possible solutions could be starting the season earlier in October, having more games on Thursdays and Sundays and having arenas create more possible open dates in the events schedule.
“We hear everyone loud and clearly, certainly our players, certainly our teams, that there’s nothing more important than the health and welfare of our players. Ultimately, we want to see our players get appropriate rest and playing at the highest level.”
Additionally, Silver discussed the proposed changes to the draft lottery to further discourage teams from tanking. A proposal was passed by half of the owners at the October Board of Governors meeting, but three-fourths of owners (23) must approve any such measure and Silver will re-visit it at the April meeting.
Under the original proposal the first six picks would be determined by the lottery system. Currently, the first three picks are determined by the lottery.
“We believe we’re going to need to take a fresh look at the Draft lottery,” Silver said. “I don’t think the system is as broken as some may suggest but it’s going to require a tweak.”
Another hot topic was adjusting the playoff system to ensure the best 16 teams get in, instead of the current format where the top eight from each conference qualify. That talk intensified, recently, given that both Charlotte and Miami would make the playoffs at 22-30. In the West, meanwhile, two teams above .500 — Oklahoma City and New Orleans — would not qualify for the postseason.
“I understand the notion of that we should have the absolute 16 best teams competing in the playoffs, seemingly regardless of conferences and divisions,” Silver said. “I am a believer in the conference and division system.”
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.