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Thursday, February 6, 2014
How will Silver change things up?

ESPN.com

David Stern is done. Adam Silver is just beginning. How will things be different under the new commissioner? Our 5-on-5 team weighs in.



1. What should Adam Silver do differently than David Stern?


Kevin Pelton, ESPN Insider: Act as a consensus builder, rather than a decider. Stern's legendary hands-on leadership worked well for a growing NBA, and fit his personality. Silver is a different person and manager, and has to adopt a leadership style appropriate for him. I suspect that will feature more input from owners, players and even the public as Silver seeks to find the best ideas and build a consensus around them.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com: There's naturally going to be huge differences because there's only one Stern. Silver couldn't copy his mentor's management style even if he wanted to; David J. Stern was an American original. But the question I'm really asking myself when I see what you're posing here is: How does Silver quickly establish himself as he replaces a guy who was in power for so long and had such a noisy hammer? I see it as one of Silver's biggest early challenges ... and I'm certainly not going to pretend here like I've got it all figured out for him. Folks around the league are talking about how Silver will be much more collaborative than Stern was and how the owners plan to take some of the power back that they've lost over the years. Not sure that all sounds so promising. The commissioner, to me, has to be the commissioner.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss, TrueHoop: He shouldn't fret so much over how the players look to "mainstream America." The NBA doesn't have to tacitly promote fear of its athletes with a dress code and draconian fines for on-court scuffles. Stern came up in a different kind of America. Times have changed.

Michael Wallace, ESPN.com: Hold Spurs coach Gregg Popovich accountable for those embarrassing antics during the in-game interviews of national broadcast games. It's no longer funny to have those poor sideline reporters shaking in their shoes. OK, yes it is. But still.

Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: David was very focused on consolidating and using power. This is obviously in the first chapters of the commish handbook. With all of the competing factions, perhaps it has to be this way. Knowing Adam, I sense he intends to operate a little differently in that arena.


2. What problem does Silver need to fix?


Pelton: Is this where I say Seattle needs a team? I'm biased, of course, but each day that one of the nation's 15 biggest markets (No. 13 by the most recent Nielsen DMA ratings) with a history of supporting the NBA sits dormant is a missed opportunity. I don't think this issue will be resolved until the league knows the long-term fate of the Bucks in Milwaukee, but a strong early declaration of support from Silver would help ease the fears of pessimistic Sonics fans.

Stein: The perception that the NBA is completely naked when it comes to PED testing is unacceptable. I likewise fully encourage Mark Cuban to keep pushing for all of the human growth hormone research he wants to commission so we get a lot smarter about HGH and testosterone in particular, but the holes in the NBA's current drug policy are gaping. If you find yourself thinking that someone out there in this league is breaking the rules and getting away with it, you're only human. It's not completely the NBA's fault, because the chaos in the players' association since the lockout ended in December 2011 complicates the implementation of a new policy. But there's a nagging sense out there that the NBA has simply been waiting for the NFL to set its new policy and follow suit.

Strauss: Clear-path reviews. Just call it by intent, and keep the game moving. Related, there's no need to gum up NBA games with a lengthy video review process, as though (the many) possessions are as crucial as they are in football. Silver could easily improve game flow by killing video review in the first three quarters.

Wallace: Tweak the luxury tax. Although Silver inherits a collective bargaining agreement that's locked in for several more seasons, there should be a tax break provision added to reduce the punitive burden on teams that bring their core back after making the NBA Finals. Call it the Heat Amendment.

Windhorst: There are always franchises that need attention. Sacramento was solved after New Orleans was solved. Up now is the Milwaukee Bucks, where they have attendance and arena issues and an owner looking to get out. He already has been there once in the past few months to address it and that will be on his plate for the coming months.


3. What long-term issue does Silver need to focus on?


Pelton: How to manage instant replay. Silver's interest in technology implies the league isn't going backward on replay -- nor should it -- but creates the opening to find a better solution that doesn't slow the game down so much. Eliminating replays for clear-path fouls and replacing the rule with one based on a common-sense definition of intentional fouls would also speed things up.

Stein: Something tells me that I'm not going to be the only one who throws out "tanking" today. I actually find the lottery system to be more effective than it gets credit for, because you're proceeding at your own seriously high risk if you're tanking in a league where the worst record comes with only a 25 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick. But we've reached the point where tanking talk is the new bane of the league's existence on the same level of all of the conspiracy theories that have dogged the NBA since the Patrick Ewing lottery. Gotta dig into this one.

Strauss: The NBA was penny-wise, pound-foolish in moving teams to the cheapest arena situations. It was part of a dynamic where smaller markets beat out bigger markets because they were more desperate to pay for arenas upfront. In the end, this hurt the NBA. TV rights exploded, making big-market television money more valuable than ever before, and the league was less popular for having fewer teams in places where people live. Maybe Silver can be the commissioner who gets a second team in Chicago, a second team in the Bay, and of course, a team back in Seattle.

Wallace: The schedule. Eliminate back-to-backs, and stretch the season through the end of July, even if that means starting the season as late as December. There's a way to capitalize on the summer void of sports (other than baseball) until NFL and college football training camps get going.

Windhorst: There are two significant unresolved items from the 2011 CBA that have not been handled, and the league has gotten off the hook by pointing to instability at the union. The age limit and HGH testing are two items that could have a significant impact on the league, which needs to take them up. They have been in the backseat on HGH, waiting on the NFL. It would be good for the NBA to take a stand.


4. What long-term opportunity does Silver need to focus on?


Pelton: The NBA's overseas presence. This was a major issue for Stern, certainly, and one of the most obvious areas of growth during his tenure. Stern misstepped at times by going into foreign markets too forcefully. As the NBA considers involvement in international leagues and potential expansion into Europe, it will need to work in concert, not competition, with existing leagues.

Stein: I've said it before and will keep saying it. Let's please, please, please move All-Star Weekend to a major European city like London, Paris, Munich or Madrid. Add a couple of days to each side of the All-Star break so everyone who doesn't snag an All-Star Weekend invite gets more time off ... and so everyone who does get the call finds themselves with ample time to get to and from an exotic and energizing new locale that will make All-Star Weekend sexy again. Everybody wins.

Strauss: He should find a way to quell tanking while making the draft more of an event. An auction draft is one way to do this, but there are other strategies (See: NBA Wheel idea). Unfortunately, I see this as a "long-term" opportunity because certain owners will resist.

Wallace: Award franchises to Seattle and Las Vegas. Obviously, the league's 30 current owners would ultimately have a huge say in expansion. But the NBA essentially owes Seattle a team at this point, and Vegas would be one of the most intriguing markets in the league. Stern seemed reluctant to push for teams in either locale.

Windhorst: To focus on home. With the challenges football is having with the attention on long-term injuries, a window of opportunity could be opening up for increased popularity at home. Much has been invested in China and Europe, with limited returns, in the past decade. Focusing on growth in the target market and revenue base by reaching out to people who have been turned off by football could end up being a much smarter long-term move than dreaming of putting teams in London.


5. What's one new idea you have for Silver?


Pelton: Wednesday's wacky Lakers-Cavaliers game highlighted that there's already a rule in place that awards teams a technical foul for each foul past six instead of disqualification when only five players remain available. I would suggest replacing the foul-out with a similar rule so that star players never are forced to watch the end of the game from the bench due to fouls.

Stein: It's not necessarily new if you've been on Stein Line Live or my Twitter feed, because I've made this argument before, but I still find myself intrigued by the notion of shortening the regular season from 82 games to 58. I know the owners will fight this with every ounce of energy they can muster, all because of the revenue they'd lose, but think about it. Each of the 30 teams would play the other 29 twice, once at home and once on the road. This switch would address concerns that the season is too long and end the longstanding imbalance between the West and East because you could finally choose the 16 playoff teams based purely on record without worrying about conferences or divisions or weighted schedules. All I'm saying is: Let's examine it seriously. Maybe it's too drastic a change, given what a shortened season would do to individual players' stat totals and their corresponding historical pursuits. It might finally be time to look again at court size, too, because modern players are far bigger/stronger/faster than they were when the game's original court dimensions were established.

Strauss: The NBA might be wise to end college basketball as we know it. I often read that the NBA has a "free farm system," but it's not true. A free farm system doesn't often play games during your games and rival your sport in popularity. And yet, the NBA is helping out a competing business with the age limit. Maybe Silver should starve his competitor out by paying the top 100 or 200 high school recruits according to some kind of smaller rookie scale. Get them in the fold, out of the college system, and watch the NCAA try to maintain buzz without talented one-and-dones to promote.

Wallace: Maintain the conference alignment structure, but tweak the playoff format to ensure the best teams make it to the postseason. The top six teams in each conference automatically qualify, but the final four sports go at-large to teams with the best four remaining records.

Windhorst: Improve the League Pass product. It lags behind its competitors and there is so much room for growth there in terms of quality, access and array of products. It operates in the past decade, for the most part. This is in Silver's wheelhouse and there are TV talks coming up. It's time for a major upgrade to this operation not just to increase revenue, but to better serve the premium fans who want a broader experience.