Adam Silver will take the proverbial reins from David Stern this weekend, becoming the first new NBA commissioner in 30 years. The league is in excellent shape, but the NBA has long prided itself as a progressive enterprise, one that welcomes innovations to everything from its business model to the game itself. And just about everyone—including four-time MVP LeBron James—has ideas for the new commissioner.
"I don't know if I want to make it public knowledge right now," James said this week, when asked by Bleacher Report whether he had any suggestions for Silver. "But hopefully I can sit down with the commish, the soon-to-be-commish, and just throw out some ideas where I feel the league can be better."
James added, "We don't need major changes."
But there are some bold ideas out there. Bleacher Report writers Howard Beck, Kevin Ding, Ethan Skolnick, Ric Bucher and Jared Zwerling surveyed a spectrum of NBA stake holders—players and coaches, executives and owners, analysts and agents—and asked them to sketch out an agenda for the NBA during the Silver era.
Here are the points they hope to see Silver address:
• Eliminate tanking
"The league is kind of in a weird place right now. I think there's a lot of young talent, but there's a lot of really bad teams. I think the philosophy has to change. We have this zero-sum game, where if you're not good enough to compete for the title, then just get really (lousy). It's bad. It's bad business. I don't know how people in some of these cities can sit through a game and pay that much money to go to these games." —Steve Kerr, TNT analyst, former Suns general manager and former player
"(One thing) I would like to see addressed immediately is the tanking issue, which I think is another euphemism for not trying your hardest to give your fans the best product you can. I think it's an absolute blight on the NBA, and it has been for some time and it gets worse." —Jeff Van Gundy, ESPN analyst and former head coach
• Lighten the schedule
"I would give, some way, every team a bye week. Between a bye week and making All-Star weekend an All-Star week. Because the problem I see with the league is there's fatigue, and guys end up getting injuries. There should be a window where guys can have time off. We say All-Star weekend, but if you're competing, you never get the opportunity to have time off, because All-Star weekend is jam-packed with activity. And it puts the guys that are playing or competing in such a quandary, because now you don't want to do certain things, and you want to go on vacation. So if you make it a week, I think you almost get full participation of players." —Ray Allen, NBA player
"For the fans who are paying incredible prices to see these games, either the reduction of back-to-back games or the elimination of back-to-back games. I think it's really bad for the players, and I think it's extraordinarily bad for the fans because there's too many low-energy bad games. And I think the way you do it is you cut preseason down, the number of games—and that involves money for the owner. But let's not feel too sorry for them; they're still making millions of dollars. And you can play like two, three preseason games. … And I think (another) thing—and this would be way down the road—is starting the season later, like what happened with the lockout and go up in through July, when there's not much happening. So starting around Christmas and maybe ending a little bit later." —Van Gundy
"Perhaps a tweak in scheduling. The priority has to be the product for fans. Do we get the best product with a fourth game in five nights sequence? It shouldn't be that much trouble to eliminate that stretch without threatening the 82-game schedule." —Sam Smith, longtime NBA writer and 2012 Curt Gowdy Media Award winner from the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame
"I'd probably cut down the number of preseason games to like four and then get started, but I like everything else about the NBA game" —Clyde Drexler, former player
"An issue we face this season, and it seems to come up every year, is the number of back-to-back games our team plays. This year, we lead the NBA with 22 back-to-back games. I would like to see a system adopted where the number of back-to-back games is more evenly spread out amongst all the teams." —Rod Higgins, Charlotte Bobcats President of Basketball Operations
• Emphasize respect, integrity, the game itself
"Try to go back and regain some old-school values with our players. I think sometimes as we are reaching for the moon from that revenue-growth standpoint, franchise-growth standpoint, marketing, sponsor-centric mentality—which there’s nothing wrong with, because we are running a business here—I think we’ve lost some of the real integrity of what it is to be part of the NBA. And to be an athlete, and the respect for the game, behavior, all of those things. It might be very hard to reverse, because we live in this technological world, where everybody in the league, they will have an opinion about something. ...
"I’ll give you an example. This year, we had 11 different uniforms. There’s the fashion police from the NBA, that lets the player know when an arm band is off or a sweatband or something. It’s just there’s so much control. We manage over 1,000 pair of shoes. Our equipment manager now becomes our most important person. I mean, it’s really good, but I’d like to see us get back to the game, just the game a lot more, and not have to make it such a spectacle. You lose a little bit of integrity in it." —Pat Riley, Miami Heat president
• Raise the NBA draft age limit
"I would hope the owners wouldn't be shy about going to the players union and saying: Hey, let's change the draft rule. Let's make it the baseball rule, or let's do two years instead of one. Let's work together so that players come into this league more prepared. And in return we'll give you guys this. We'll concede on these issues that will help you make more money or that will help the guys who stay for two years, who come out of college, maybe their rookie scale goes up. … The idea obviously is that they've got to be better prepared. I mean, the fact that the No. 1 pick in the draft (Anthony Bennett) can't even get on the floor, that's pretty scary. And if you look at the last few years, so few rookies have actually made an impact. And that's worrisome." —Kerr
"It is time to keep kids out of the NBA for at least a few years after high school. It didn't hurt Tim Duncan passing on being the No. 1 pick two times. It's not about the Constitution. Every business has the right and obligation for its customers to improve its product. Few disagree the NBA would be better with more mature and developed adults. And it wouldn't hurt college ball." —Smith
• Continue global expansion
"One of David Stern's tremendous successes—and I'm sure that Adam will continue it—has been the expansion of the NBA game around the globe. It truly is an international game. The growth that the league has enjoyed overseas—whether it be TV viewers, merchandise sales, website hits—has been incredible. The number of international players in the NBA increases each year, demonstrating the league's global reach. It would be great to see the continued growth of our game and our business internationally." —Higgins
"We don't need major changes. This game has grown from just being in America, to over almost 300 countries right now. Not a major change, but you know, the game can always be bigger. There are a lot of people who love the game that are not able to watch the game, so hopefully we can broadcast it in more countries as well." —LeBron James, NBA player
"One of the pet peeves of our organization is that the league office hasn't always taken advantage of the combined power and knowledge and capabilities of the combined franchises. There's a lot of talent in the franchises that can be garnered for the better purpose of all 30 teams. And the league working together with franchises in a closer fashion I think is important.
"I think Adam has an appreciation for it. You look at a team like ours, we're supposedly only allowed to market within a 75-mile radius. We're followed globally. And clearly working together with the league, beyond our 75-mile radius, would be in the best interests of everybody, because I think we could generate revenue." —Micky Arison, Miami Heat owner
"If there's an NBA team in Europe or Asia, how nice would that be? Even South America. I think one day there will be teams in those areas, and it's going to be certainly a global league at that point, because we have players from all over the world playing in our league. I think that trend will continue. I think Adam will continue to market and make the game a global sport." —Drexler
"I'm hopeful for just the continuation of the global vision that David Stern has created. David set the template and Adam I think will take it to another level because of the times. ... There's even more synergy in terms of new media, and how that is integrated into sports franchises and sports marketing and merchandising, etc. I just think that they're completely tied into this vision, probably more than any other sport in my opinion." —Bill Duffy, NBA agent
"In the long term, (an idea that) David Stern shared with me many years ago was that at some point in time, the NBA will start the season right after the Super Bowl…and go through the baseball All-Star Game. Play about 60 games. And at that point in time, the season will end. And then you'll start another season in Europe. You'll have 25, 30 teams in Europe, in Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, Athens, Paris. And if you are a young Kevin Durant and you want to play all year round and get paid for it, you'll play both venues. If you are Kevin Garnett and you want to win one more championship with Kobe Bryant, you're only going to play one of those venues. …
"I think if you had fewer games, you'd have a hybrid between the current NBA and college. You'd have much stronger rivalries, because you only play a team once or twice, and I think each game would be more important. And you'd be able to really export NBA basketball on a more meaningful level if you were playing in foreign countries on a regular basis with the American players. …
"I think to make the game truly global, you have to do more than show it on TV. You need to what they say in the military—you need to have boots on the ground." —David Falk, Founder and CEO, Falk Associates Management Enterprises
• Figure out the situations in Seattle and Sacramento
"We would love to see the return of NBA basketball to Seattle. We would love to get a guarantee in some way, shape or form from the NBA that will allow us to put shovels in the ground and start building our new, Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer mostly funded arena up here.
"I think that for us, up in Seattle, we just hope that Adam Silver is open to this and has a sense of urgency. Because we have a sense of urgency up here with our arena deal hanging in the balance. ...
"The fans up here are still rabid fans of NBA basketball. The ratings are still good in our area. And just because we were wronged by all the powers that be, from the politics of the NBA to the owners, we still have not given up our love of the game." —Jason Reid, Director of Sonicsgate
"Keep an eye on Sacramento and make sure that arena gets built, but that's about it. It's hard for me to say what I'd want him to address because I'm so tied to David and Adam that I don't know of anything that they haven't already focused on." —Tim Leiweke, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, owner of the Raptors
• Support Tennessee tax reform
"Support repeal of the unconstitutional Tennessee privilege tax, against the wishes of the overreaching Memphis Grizzlies." —Ron Klempner, Acting Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association
• Get a good TV deal
"Clearly the No. 1 item on the agenda is the new television deal. And obviously based on his background and knowledge, (Silver is) very well-suited to be leading that effort."—Arison
"Negotiating the TV package will be Adam's next great challenge, but I don't think he could be more ready to take over." —Leiweke
• Allow offseason minicamps
"What I'd like to see changed is the amount of time that we are able to work with our players during the offseason. Obviously this is something that would need to be collectively bargained with the players association, but I think it is something that would benefit both the players and the teams. As it stands now, from a few days after the season ends until the start of training camp, there are no official or organized workouts with the players. This is unlike the NFL, which has offseason workouts and mini-camps.
"As a result, you can go up to five months without seeing some of your players since anything they do with teams in the offseason is voluntary. It would help players with their physical conditioning, as well as their on-court basketball skills if there was more opportunity to work with them. ...
"If there were offseason minicamps, it would allow coaches to implement their game plans earlier, lessening the learning curve during training camp. ... Right now, we leave it completely on the players' shoulders, when it would be more beneficial to everyone to share in the responsibility." —Higgins
• Adjust the court and clock to keep up with the times
"This probably is unrealistic because of the cost of losing some seating, but the court should be widened. It was created at 94-by-50 when the average player was 6 foot. The players are so much taller and with longer arms. It would help the flow of the game with automatically better spacing and enhance the skill required to play." —Smith
"I think you may eventually have to widen the key area. Guys are getting so big and so athletic that you've got to widen that area a little bit." —Drexler
"The 24-seconds shot clock was invented in 1954 on a math formula based on the number of possessions. The game is so much faster now. Do we need 24 seconds?" —Smith
• Streamline video replay
"It takes forever. We're on the right track, I think, in terms of using it and making it an asset. … We've spent years trying to improve the pace of the game and make it more enjoyable for the fans, and yet we're constantly having these long replay reviews that take way too long. So whether it's a centralized location, a command center for the league in New York or just streamlining the rules. … There's going to be human error in officiating, regardless, so let's review only the most basic, necessary plays." —Kerr
• Fix salary structure issues
"I loved Kobe's argument when he signed his extension, that all of a sudden stars are just expected to take a pay cut? And yet the Lakers aren't able to put any pieces around him, because he won't take a pay cut? That just doesn't seem right—it doesn't seem fair. These are the guys who drive the league. LeBron and Kobe, they drive the league, they deserve every dollar they get. And yet we have this system where they're penalized for taking what they've earned. And I don't know what the answer is." —Kerr
"The max (contract) I think was one of the most poorly thought-out decisions by the owners. I think it's cost them way more money than if they didn't have a max. … If you look at how it was before you put all these rules in, in the generation of Jordan and Bird and Magic, there aren't three major players out of the top 50 that became free agents. Michael didn't become a free agent from '84 to '96. Clyde Drexler never was a free agent. Joe Dumars was never a free agent. Isiah Thomas was never a free agent. Barkley was never a free agent. John Stockton was never a free agent. They were never free agents, because every time they see some guy that they didn't think was as good as them making more money, they'd go and re-up, which saved the owners millions of dollars. And it kept the stars in small markets in the small markets, because it didn't allow them to become free agents." —Falk
• Increase revenue sharing
"I would like to increase revenue sharing. If we're going to make this truly a league of parity, there needs to be better revenue sharing amongst the owners. That will distribute players, which will help all players across the board, and I think make our game better and make it a higher-rated game. Versus a game that is dependent on big stars in big markets to drive eyeballs. You just look at the NFL level, and that's exciting every year to see different teams to have a chance to win it. And that's not a reality of our game right now." —Shane Battier, NBA player
"We found a way to get the small-market and large-market teams from being on opposite sides of the fence in the last deal, but I foresee there being more discussion on that subject." —Joe Lacob, majority owner of the Golden State Warriors
• Take a more active role in development of pre-NBA players
"I would really like to address the construction of the minor-league system. We're a big proponent of it. But you only get to protect a certain number of players. It should be a place where you can develop all kinds of personnel to integrate with your NBA organization and not risk losing them." —Lacob
"Anything they can do to wipe away the youth AAU culture and the way it's going. First of all, there are just so many games. What you have is kids playing on multiple teams, traveling around the country, and just playing and playing. The playing is definitely good, but what they're missing is the development, the training, the footwork, the basics of the game. If you talk to any high school coach, they will tell you they hate the way their kids in the offseason just play games the whole summer. ...
"The training part in the NBA, to me, is very solid, but what's happening is with the guys that come up through the AAU ranks and the college stuff. We had talked years ago with Adam Silver about this. We had a meeting actually in New York at his office. They were tooling around with NBA academies, so from my perspective, I would love the NBA to take a platform like ours or a similar one and try to get more into the youth markets. It would be very successful. ... I think that they can reach (young players) earlier; that would be my biggest thing. I think that would help the NBA's young guys coming into the league. There are more one-and-dones these days." —Joe Abunassar, NBA trainer
• Eliminate flopping
"Find a new way to discourage flopping that doesn't involve dipping into the players' wallets." —Klempner
• Just stay the course
"What I'd like to see from Adam Silver as the new commissioner of the NBA is to continue the efforts at keeping the on-court product as entertaining and exciting as it's been, which has generated so much passion and loyalty among our fans. I also hope he continues the growth and development of our game off the court, and to continue to develop the relationships he's established with the owners and other team executives and players over the past years. In general, to continue the great legacy of David Stern, while also creating a new one of his own." —Jeanie Buss, President and part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers
Note: Howard Beck conducted interviews with David Falk, Steve Kerr, Ron Klempner and Jason Reid; Ric Bucher with Joe Lacob and Tim Leiweke; Kevin Ding with Jeanie Buss and Sam Smith; Ethan Skolnick with Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Micky Arison, Pat Riley and LeBron James; Jared Zwerling with Joe Abunassar, Clyde Drexler, Bill Duffy, Rod Higgins and Jeff Van Gundy.
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