Milwaukee has the best record in the NBA, Denver has its coaching staff at the All-Star Game and Sacramento is in position to end the league’s longest current playoff drought.
Overseeing a league that has wanted competitive balance, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver likes what he’s seeing on those fronts.
But he acknowledged during his annual address at All-Star Weekend that there are still ways for the league to have more top-to-bottom competitiveness.
“You can point to teams like Milwaukee, teams like Oklahoma City, what’s happening in Denver now and Sacramento as signs that the system is working better than it has historically,” Silver said Saturday. “I’d say we still have work to do, though. … We can still come up with a better system to create more competition.”
While Golden State is still widely believed to be the favorite for what would be its fourth title in five years, the Bucks have been a success story all season in the East. Denver was leading the Western Conference two weeks ago, which is why Michael Malone and his staff will coach the All-Star Game on Sunday. And the Kings haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006 and weren’t picked by many to be postseason-bound this year.
Those are the examples Silver likes of a balanced system.
“I look at the NFL, which among sports leagues, probably has the best parity and the best system in terms of creating competition than any league I’m familiar with,” Silver said. “Yet the New England Patriots have been in the Super Bowl nine out of the last 18 years. And I don’t think anyone points to that as a sign that the system isn’t necessarily working. What people recognize is you want parity of opportunity.”
In some NBA cities, that opportunity is already gone this year.
There are four teams — Chicago, Cleveland, Phoenix and New York — who are on pace to win less than 25 percent of their games this season. The last time the league saw so many teams fail to win more than 20 games in the same full season was 1997-98, when six teams went 20-62 or worse. The NBA has tried to combat tanking by changing the odds of winning the draft lottery in an effort to discourage teams from all-out trying to lose.
Silver remains unsure if that’s enough to solve the issue entirely.
“We’ve seen this in other sports as well,” Silver said. “There’s a mindset that, if you’re going to be bad, you might as well be really bad. I believe, personally, that’s corrosive for those organizations, putting aside my personal view of what the impact it has on the league overall. But, again, we’ll see how this pays out.”
In other topics addressed by Silver:
Silver said the NBA is “doing a good job enforcing our rules” when it comes to tampering, though stressed that tampering and trade demands — such as the one where it became known that Anthony Davis wants to leave the New Orleans Pelicans — are very different things.
“I recognize that there’s very little I’m going to do to ever stop that completely,” Silver said.
Silver said he would rather trade demands not be made, or at the very least not become publicly known. But he also said that given the way the current collective bargaining agreement is written, there are “unintended consequences” — such as the Davis situation.
DIRK AND DWYANE
Silver added Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade to the All-Star Game to pay tribute to their careers, and that he didn’t think about using that option annually going forward. He said he likes having the flexibility to do so, though did not say when or if it will happen again.
Silver said Dallas owner Mark Cuban, who pledged to give $10 million to women’s groups after an investigation showed a long-caustic workplace culture within the Mavericks’ organization, is “absolutely meeting his commitment.”
“He’s told me he’s doing far more beyond that,” Silver said. “That is his personal decision and not something he’s seeking any publicity around, so I won’t talk more about that.”
Silver also said he thought the Mavericks are remaining committed to ensuring such situations do not happen again.