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Adam Silver press conference: Scheduling, playoff and lottery reform discussed

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver conducted his annual All-Star Weekend press conference Saturday evening ahead of All-Star Saturday Night.

There was quite the media turnout as usual for these conferences, though the volume was ratcheted up with the event in such an enormous market and 1,800 reporters credentialed for the weekend.

Silver opened by thanking the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, who are co-hosting the weekend, and the city of New York. Silver, a New York native, pegged the estimated economic impact of the weekend at $200 million, according to city officials.

Having just rounded out his first year on the job, largely spent listening to any and all ideas to improve the game, Silver acknowledged that it's time for him to starting taking action.

"It's a fantastic game, it's a great game, but there are aspects we can improve," he said.

Silver focused on three areas in particular: scheduling, the draft lottery, and the playoff structure, each of which has been a hot issue to begin Silver's tenure. Silver expressed that reducing wear and tear on players is one of his foremost immediate objectives.

"There's nothing more important than the health and welfare of our players," he said.

The league wants to eliminate stretches of four games in five nights to that end. Silver sounded optimistic the league's scheduling office would be able to come close to eliminating such situations as soon as next season. Eliminating back-to-backs isn't realistic given the schedule length, but Silver said he believes the league can make a dramatic impact on the grueling schedule in the near term.

The preseason may not be dramatically shortened, but Silver sounded as if it could be shortened a little. He cited basketball people who told him that training camps remain important, but the actual preseason games aren't necessarily as valuable as they were in the past, and he could see a scenario in which a few games are removed from the preseason slate.

One major issue facing the perception of the league is the gap in team quality between the Eastern and Western Conference. Silver has already said he knows the playoff format needs to change, but it may not be altered until 2016-17, and how those changes take place remains to be seen.

"There will be no perfect solution here," he admitted.

One suggested method for balancing the conferences was balancing the schedule. Silver didn't sound too receptive to the possibility, at least at its extremes. He pointed out that a balanced schedule would mean a greater travel load, and stood by the division and conference format. In short, changes could be coming, but the league is still exploring the best means through which to make them.

Draft lottery reform may come more immediately, though it won't arrive in time for this year's draft. A proposed lottery reform was voted down by the Board of Governors earlier in the season, and Silver said the league will bring the possibility of changes up once again at the Board of Governors meeting in April. He didn't make it sound as if a major overhaul is coming, instead wanting to correct the public perception that teams have incentive to lose.

"I personally believe we do need to make some changes in the lottery, which is largely a perception issue," Silver said.

Silver spoke about a number of other issues, as well:

  • The league is focusing on youth basketball, and Silver pointed to a pair of initiatives in particular. One is expanding the junior NBA program (for ages 7-14), which is aided by USA Basketball introducing an accreditation process for youth coaches. The other is the expansion of 3-on-3 play, something both USA Basketball and FIBA have been behind.
  • The USA vs. The World format from Friday's Rising Stars Challenge was made possible by a natural split between the players the league wanted to invite. While he's open to the possibility, Silver expressed doubt that the format would carry over to the All-Star Game, worrying it may keep deserving American players out of the game.
  • The league expects to have additional discussions with the NBPA about a potential smoothing mechanism for the substantial jump in the salary cap coming in 2016.
  • Silver continues to believe the league would be well-served by raising the age minimum to 20, which the union has been staunchly against. The commissioner was sure to point out the two sides have yet to sit across the table from each other and present their sides - something that holds true for many of the issues discussed.
  • The league plans to have the first ever exhibition game in Africa as soon as August. The game would involve a collection of players rather than two teams.

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