Adam Silver: Age limit top priority
NEW YORK -- Armed with majority support from owners and saying "we're ready to go," NBA commissioner Adam Silver made it clear that pushing back the league's age minimum to 20 is at the top of his priority list.
The league's owners hosted NCAA president Mark Emmert to discuss the issue as part of their annual two-day spring meeting this week. Any changes wouldn't be in place by next season because the league is waiting for the players' association to name an executive director before formally starting negotiations. But it's clear there's a growing momentum to force this occasionally divisive issue through soon, possibly in time for the 2016 draft.
If we're going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel in those negotiations goes to the treatment of players on those college campuses and closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their expenses. We haven't looked specifically at creating a financial incentive for them to stay in college. That's been an option that has been raised over the years but that's not something that is on the table right now.” -- Adam Silver, NBA commissioner
Silver, who was presiding over his first board of governors meeting since taking over from former commissioner David Stern in February, said the league and the NCAA have discussed creating some programs and provisions to help players stay in college longer as part of a way to get the union to accept the changes.
When the league and the players' union signed the collective bargaining agreement in 2011, it was agreed that the current one-and-done college rule could be revised at any time. The players' union recently named Sacramento mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson to head a committee to name a new leader by the start of the 2014-15 season.
"If we're going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel in those negotiations goes to the treatment of players on those college campuses and closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their expenses," Silver said. "We haven't looked specifically at creating a financial incentive for them to stay in college. That's been an option that has been raised over the years, but that's not something that is on the table right now."
In addition, Silver said Emmert and the team owners talked about other ways to potentially ease a player's transition from college to the NBA. This could include changes in officiating and game play, such as reducing the NCAA's shot clock, which is 35 seconds compared to the NBA's 24.
Some have suggested that players who must wait two years to enter the draft would be better off playing in other professional leagues such as the NBA Development League, which doesn't have an age limit, or going overseas.
"I'm reading and listening to college players and the other side saying development may be better outside the NBA or the environment isn't ideal in college," Silver said. "I think those are all things we have to look at."
Here are some other issues that came up at the meeting:
• Silver said owners discussed possible changes to the draft lottery and the current playoff system. There has been a growing sense of a need to change the way draft position is established to discourage teams from attempting to lose games to enhance draft or playoff spots.
Owners presented a number of options, including changing the odds, the so-called "wheel" that would rotate the No. 1 pick to all 30 teams over 30 years and a play-in tournament to determine draft order. But Silver said there was no consensus on which direction to take and that it will be studied by the league's competition committee at its annual summit over the summer. The owners did not discuss a timetable for potential changes.
NBA president Rod Thorn presented playoff seeding options and the idea of abolishing conferences when it comes to picking the 16 playoff teams. In 11 of the past 14 seasons, the ninth-best team in the Western Conference would've been a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Silver has hinted recently he'd consider removing conference designations but said this was also headed to the competition committee for study.
Silver, however, is very influential with that committee. Last year, before he became commissioner, he was a driving force in getting the competition committee to change the NBA Finals format from a 2-3-2 format to 2-2-1-1-1. But it's hard to read exactly how hard Silver may push for making these potentially sweeping adjustments.
"These are issues that needed to be viewed in committee process," Silver said. "As travel becomes easier, it opens up windows of opportunity for change. The league is doing so well right now, I want to be very deliberate and cautious about making any changes."
• Silver said he hopes an owners' vote on the sale of the Milwaukee Bucks from Herb Kohl to hedge fund magnates Wes Edens and Marc Lasry can happen within a month. Edens and Lasry (who owns a small percentage of the Brooklyn Nets) agreed to pay $550 million for the Bucks plus $100 million toward the construction of a new arena this week. As part of the deal, Kohl agreed to gift $100 million to the city of Milwaukee for the arena.
The Bucks' current lease at the Bradley Center expires in 2017, and $200 million to $300 million more probably will need to be raised for a new arena, likely with some form of public financing. It isn't clear where that money will come from, but Silver said he was confident that the Bucks would not relocate.
"Kohl put in place provisions to make sure the team stays in Milwaukee," Silver said.
• San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt stepped down as chairman of the board of governors because of personal reasons. Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, who had been chairman until Holt took over this past fall, agreed to step in on an interim basis.
• League owners approved the sale of a minority share in the Oklahoma City Thunder to George Kaiser, who is the primary owner of GBK Corporation, an energy company. He bought the shares of Tom Ward, the former CEO of Sandridge Energy who was fired from his position last year.
• The NBA and USA Basketball announced a partnership with the Department of Defense to support armed forces members and their families. It will create a full schedule of events across the world including USO tours, exhibition games, clinics, open practices for military members, speaking engagements and game tickets. It will include NBA and WNBA teams as well as Team USA.
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