NBA commissioner Adam Silver is merely playing by Las Vegas rules here. When you’re already beating the house, ahead in the game, you can afford to roll the figurative dice.
Now, these are terrible, high-risk rules. They’re the sort of rules that send you spiraling toward Gambler’s Anonymous after a while, but these are the way things go in Las Vegas more often than not. The city of Las Vegas thanks you for adhering to these rules.
Silver, rightfully beloved after just five months on the job, spoke to assembled media on Tuesday, addressing several league issues as the Las Vegas Summer League ran up and down the Thomas & Mack Center court. One talking point, initiated by Silver, circled around a proposed midseason NBA tournament, not unlike the ones already utilized by European football leagues.
The reasoning? As relayed by NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner, the NBA’s competition committee is buoyed by a slight increase in Summer League attendance, which is apparently the impetus behind turning the league on its ear in order to stop everything and fly out to Las Vegas in mid-February for some ham hock tournament. From Aschburner’s report:
The popularity of the summer league in Las Vegas – with attendance up 25 percent, Silver said – has the league open to ideas for a greater role in the nation’s gambling capital. One possibility, mentioned without details as a brainstorm from the competition committee: A midseason tournament of some sort.
The obvious starting point here, before delving into made-up specifics about a hypothetical tournament, is the league’s collective bargaining agreement. A tournament like this would have to be agreed upon by both the league and its players, with the players getting proper compensation for the extra work. Work created to make the league and its team owners more money than they’re already gobbling up.
Beyond that? Yeah, it’s still a silly idea.
Despite a staid set of standards down the stretch of his run, former commissioner David Stern was hardly the most orthodox commissioner, as he was constantly tinkering with his league in ways that went beyond obvious expansion or TV rights connections. A mention like this seems right out of Stern’s playbook – musing aloud about European expansion or all manner of unrealized projects just to excite potential sponsors and encourage financial backers to offer the ways and means of making things like this happen.
Musings like this from Silver take the focus away from what could actually help the league with both its on-court product and off-court coverage. The NBA needs an expanded season, not in terms of games played but the space between the season’s beginning and end.
Its All-Star “break” is a joke, squeezed into a four-day weekend that demands mandatory participation from its players on Friday (in both press and charitable events), the Saturday and Sunday events, and the Monday travel day in order to make it back to shootaround on Tuesday in anticipation of that evening’s games. It’s true that not all NBA players are asked to come out to All-Star weekend, and that the accommodations surrounding these appearances are of the highest order, but there’s a reason why players are dragging their heels for a good chunk of a season that starts with international exhibition games in October and ends for its top stars in mid-June.
To cram some needless tourney – no specifics have been outlined, thus far – into an 82-game season is just another money grab for a league that wants to put advertisements on the jersey that you just spent hundreds of dollars on to give to your son or daughter on their birthday.
The NBA would do well to push back its draft, as the NFL does, in order to ramp up the hype and give teams and potential draftees more time to suss out their options. It would do well to delay free agency so that the league’s news cycle doesn’t turn into a dead zone between late July and October. It would truly do well to extend the calendar cycle of the season, starting games around the same time the NHL does in order to give players an actual break during mid-February.
It would not do well to create a pointless tournament, with whatever trumped-up basketball-related payoff, during the middle of the season. A 25 percent increase in attendance at Summer League games is not a reason to add more to the workload of players that we’d prefer not to see cramping up as they play deep into June. For the fourth year in a row. With an Olympics turn and basketball “World Cup” tossed in every other summer.
Adam Silver learned well from his predecessor. He has us talking about something that doesn’t exist and probably won’t ever come to fruition, all to stir up more headlines and offers from corporate sponsors.
We’ll take the bait and address his musings, if only to attempt to warn the NBA away from an idea like this.
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