Silver: NBA ‘star players’ just not playing enough

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NEW YORK — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that while there was no specific discussion of the impending arbitration between Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers, he said his bigger concern moving forward is “a trend of star players not participating in a full complement of games,” and hopes the league and the National Basketball Players Association can address it.

“I’m not standing here saying I have a great solution,” Silver said at a press conference here in midtown Manhattan following this week’s two-day meeting of the Board of Governors. “Part of the issue is injuries. One of the things we have focused on at the league office and we’re spending — we had begun to spend a lot of time on pre-pandemic — are there things we can do in terms of sharing information, resources around the league to improve best practices, rehabilitation?

“The other way we can get at it, in terms of player participation, is creating other incentives. The Play-In Tournament, I thought, was a beginning of creating renewed incentives for teams to remain competitive and be fighting for playoff position. It may be through in-season tournaments and changes in format where we can get at it.”

Silver went on to say that there is even a possibility of looking at changing the 82-game schedule. While he hinted at it in earlier portions of his answer, he’s done little to hide his desire over the creation of an in-season tournament, and also said Wednesday that he’s happy with the way the play-in tournament has played out over the past two seasons since it was introduced.

“I also have said in the past, if we have too many games, that’s something we should look at as well,” Silver said. “It’s something, as we sit down and we’re looking at new media deals and looking at a new collective bargaining agreement, we will be studying. There wasn’t any banging of the table or anything like that. From my discussions with players, they recognize it’s an issue, too. The style of the game has changed in terms of the impact on their bodies. I think we’ve got to constantly assess and look at a marketplace going forward and say, what’s the best way to present our product and over how long a season?”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks and Ramona Shelburne reported over the weekend that Simmons has filed a grievance to challenge the nearly $20 million of salary withheld to him by the 76ers this season.

The grievance — which will now go to an arbitration process — could have larger league implications amid future issues of mental health matters and NBA contracts.

Silver said the league would not have direct involvement in such arbitration, and that the league would remain on the sidelines during litigation.

Other topics Silver touched on included:

* Silver said that, despite anti-LBGTQ legislation being passed recently in Utah, the NBA has not discussed moving next year’s All-Star Game, and doesn’t anticipate doing so.

When asked what the difference was between this decision and the decision to move the Charlotte All-Star Game a few years ago over a similar bill, Silver said, “Every situation is unique. In the case of 2017 and HB2 in North Carolina, we were working directly with the team there. It appeared to us that there was an opportunity to have a direct impact on that law, working with the larger business community.

“It’s our collective view that we can continue to operate in Utah, and frankly don’t want to be in a position where we’re chased from state to state around the country,” he said. “Times have changed. There are different issues going on now in the country than there were in 2017. I personally don’t like the trend. We also are mindful as a league that we look for opportunities to unite people rather than divide them.

“I would just say I have tremendous respect for (Jazz owner) Ryan Smith. I think he stood up against this bill. We’ve joined him in opposing this bill. But we also want to be realistic, too, in terms of the impact we can have. In the case of HB2 in North Carolina, I think it was our collective view, we working with the Hornets, that we could have an impact on that legislation. I think in the case of what’s happening in Utah right now, that bill is established.”

* When asked if there was an update into the investigation into the conduct of Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver after ESPN’s investigation last fall, Silver said there was not one, and would not share a timeline for when it would be completed.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Silver said. “I mean, these type of investigations do take a lot of time. You want to ensure that you gather all of the facts and you also want to ensure that you protect the rights of the accused. So we want to err on the side of being very complete. We’re certainly closer to the end than the beginning, but it’s hard to put a precise timeline on it right now.”

He gave a similar answer when asked about the league’s involvement in the lawsuit former Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson has filed against the team.

“Our only involvement right now is to monitor the situation. Generally, as you might imagine, within an executive committee, there is a report of council to our owners,” he said. “But for the most part, our teams leave to the league office to oversee investigations, and that’s how it’s always been.”

* As far as tweaks to the game itself, Silver reiterated he’s very happy with the play-in tournament, and expects it to remain part of the league moving forward, though he did say it could have some tweaks done to it.

He also added that the idea of eliminating the “take four” — a foul given to intentionally stop fast breaks before they get started — could happen by as soon as next season, though there are hurdles that remain before it could be changed.

“That is something, as you know, we’re very focused on and considering making a change for next season,” Silver said, referring to eliminating the take foul. “We still have some work to do with our competition committee. We’ll be meeting with the board again in July, which would be a possible time to change that rule. But as we’re seeing sort of a pretty dramatic increase in take fouls, we don’t think it’s a great part of our game. International basketball has another way of getting at it, but that is something that potentially we’d like to tweak.”

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