<
>

Adam Silver wants to ease schedule

NEW YORK -- With the NBA in good economic position, no markets currently in distress and potential labor issues several years away, commissioner Adam Silver used his annual All-Star address to lay out a series of peacetime tweaks he's hoping to make over the next year.

Silver wants to make adjustments to the schedule to allow players more rest, reduce preseason games and readdress reform to the lottery system. He also said he is looking at potential changes to the playoff system that would blur the conferences but clearly stopped short of any promises on that front.

In the big picture, the league and players are spending their time haggling over the coming increase in television money and how they will manage a tripling of that revenue starting in 2016.

With that complex fight over money slowly waging, there has been little talk of any issues that would have a direct impact on the game, such as the installation of long-promised human growth hormone testing or a re-examination of the 19-year-old age limit. Despite the age limit being contractually open for renegotiation since 2011, Silver essentially admitted Saturday that it won't likely be dealt with until 2017, when the next labor talks likely will begin.

What Silver discussed that is germane to how players and fans will see next season is a move to alter the league's scheduling practices to greatly reduce the number of situations where teams must play four games in five nights. There was a surge in those situations this season, mostly because Silver responded to players' requests to extend the All-Star break to a full week.

"We'll come as close as we can to eliminating the four-in-five formula. We think we can make a dramatic reduction," Silver said. "We hear everyone loud and clearly. It's a function of number of days in the schedule."

To make it possible, Silver hinted at a possible reduction in the number of preseason games and a possible extension to the regular season. He said the league had been in talks with television partners TNT and ESPN about allowing more games to take place on Thursdays and Sundays, when the schedule is pared back for national television purposes.

Other issues Silver addressed included:

"I am a believer in the conference and division system. I think there may be some tweaks. ... There's certain Eastern Conference owners who want the status quo and Western Conference owners who say change is due. We're going to take a very hard look at it."

Adam Silver,
on potential playoff reorganization

• With a decade-long imbalance of power between the Western and Eastern conferences, Silver has responded to some pleas to change the current playoff system in which eight teams from each conference qualify. But he was realistic in noting there is little incentive for any East team to vote for any change.

"If there was a simple solution, we would've made it long ago," Silver said. "I am a believer in the conference and division system. I think there may be some tweaks. ... There's certain Eastern Conference owners who want the status quo and Western Conference owners who say change is due. We're going to take a very hard look at it."

• In October, a majority of the league's owners voted to make changes to the lottery system that would reduce the incentive for teams to finish at the bottom of the standings. However, the vote fell short of the two-thirds majority that is required to make such a change. Silver said the owners will re-examine the issue at their next meeting in April, hinting that an adjustment to the rules for 2016 could be in order.

Though he avoided putting it this way, this is essentially an anti-tanking measure.

"I personally believe we need changes," Silver said. "It's largely a perception issue so fans see that our teams do not benefit from losing games."

• Silver did not have a reaction to the players' union vetoing the league's proposal Friday on the so-called cap smoothing issue that involves managing the rise of the salary cap with the new TV deal. It's complicated -- with numerous forensic accountants involved -- and the players have no incentive to make any concessions because the collective bargaining agreement allows them to let the money flood in all in one year.

It may eventually be of interest to teams that have big salary-cap space coming in 2016, such as the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat, but it could be a year or more before this is settled.

"It's like a lot of things in business, you deal with the situation as it's presented to you," Silver said. "I don't want to act like this is a terrible problem to have. We will live with our deal."

• Silver said the process of the sale of the Atlanta Hawks is progressing but that no sale is imminent. With as well as the team is doing, there is a chance the current ownership will wait until the end of the playoffs to actually give up control of the team.

• On Friday, union executive director Michele Roberts made her position on raising the age limit to 20 clear when she said: "Be happy with one-and-done; it's not going to be two-and-done."

Silver has long advocated for an age limit of 20.

"I think it would be much better for the game if the minimum age was 20 instead of 19," he said. "I understand the other side of the issue. We haven't had the opportunity to present our side of the issue."