Adam Silver open to changes

Adam Silver

BOSTON -- Adam Silver, while working for the NBA before becoming the league's commissioner, floated the idea of adding play-in games for the postseason and got some support from owners.

Now as commissioner, Silver remains "fascinated" with the idea of a tournament to determine the final playoff spots.

"By having a seven-game series, you reduce the randomness of the outcome," Silver said. "I think what's so exciting about college basketball -- and I'm a huge college basketball fan -- is the single-elimination tournament, the NCAA tournament. There, statistically, you're gonna have a lot more upsets. So, I think for us, well, I have mixed views.

"In case of certain teams where star players were injured for a portion of the season or the team didn't jell until later in the season, that team can become competitive, right? I like that idea."

Silver, being interviewed Saturday by Malcolm Gladwell at the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics, expressed an openness for a number of ideas to improve the NBA.

Though he challenged the assumption that tanking benefits teams, Silver implicitly admitted the league's current draft system has issues. He discussed Boston Celtics assistant general manager Michael Zarren pitching a wheel that assigns each team each of the 30 first-round picks during a 30-year cycle.

"I thought, 'Wow, that solves our problems,'" Silver said.

But some teams complained that potential top picks would time their entries to the NBA to join larger markets, Silver said.

Before players even reach the draft, Silver wants a role in developmental systems -- including college basketball. He said some NCAA rules "just seem ridiculous," and wants to participate in crafting conditions for college basketball players.

"We should be looking out for them," Silver said. "I accept that."

Other changes are already in the works, including testing for human growth hormone, though Silver does not believe performance-enhancing drugs present a significant problem for the league.

"I've been in the NBA for 22 years. I talk to players all the time. I talk to retired players. And I don't hear about it," Silver said. "I don't want to be naive. I mean, we don't have HGH testing in our league. It's something that we agreed we would do with the union, and we're waiting to agree what the appropriate procedures are."

Silver also said players have pushed for stricter testing for recreational drugs.

"A player would say, 'I'm not going to say this publicly, but the last thing I want to do is be a part of a team where I have teammates who are consuming whatever drugs and therefore aren't in an optimal position to contribute to our team,'" Silver said.

Beyond regulating drug use, Silver is examining other ways to optimize players' physical ability. He said some players asked the league to lengthen the All-Star break.

"That seems very sensible to me," Silver said.

Referencing a study presented at Sloan on how a lack of sleep affects professional athletes, Silver discussed steps to get players more sleep -- including reducing back-to-backs and length of travel.

"I'm fascinated with it," Silver said. "I'm generally sleep-deprived."

Silver said, unless technology improves travel time, expanding with a single European franchise remains impractical. But he added a European division could become viable.

If he could unilaterally change one aspect of the NBA, Silver said he'd raise the entry age limit to 20.

"Maybe the 20-year-old is a shorthand," Silver said. "I would just say a better integration of AAU, youth, high school, college basketball and NBA basketball. This is the sport of the 21st century. We have enormous opportunity."

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