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Adam Silver talks anthem, sports betting, the Sixers and more in annual NBA Finals address

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media before Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals Thursday night in Oakland, Calif. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

OAKLAND, Calif. — Speaking before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Commissioner Adam Silver said there have been no discussions with the National Basketball Players Association about changing the league’s policy regarding the national anthem, and said that the NFL is in “a very different situation” than the NBA when it comes to the rule.

“In terms of the anthem policy, of course I’ve watched what the NFL has done,” Silver said Thursday evening. “I feel that they’re in a very different situation than the NBA is in. Of course, we’ve had a rule on our books that precedes David Stern. It was put in place by Larry O’Brien in the early ’80s.

“From my standpoint, it’s been about respect — respect for the institution, respect for the fans, respect for the country that these players are playing in. In the case of the NBA, of course, 25 percent of our league is comprised of players who aren’t American. So it’s hard to say in the case of the NBA it’s about patriotism when a quarter of our players aren’t even American.

“But we’ve viewed it, and we collectively have viewed it, as a moment of unity in our arenas. Frankly, it’s been a different dialogue in the NBA than it’s been in the NFL. Again, I’m only an observer in terms of what I see and read about what’s happening in the NFL. But our emphasis at least has been on constructive activities in our communities. There has been no discussion with our Players Association about changing our existing rule.”

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That answer came as part of a question not only about the anthem policy, but about the video of Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown being tased by police that was released last week.

“I saw the video for the first time when the public saw it,” said Silver, who also said he’d spoken to Brown and his father, a retired Chicago police officer. “It’s horrific. I think for any of us, regardless of the fact that he’s an NBA player, it was difficult to watch. It’s painful.

“I will say that as a result of whether it’s police officers wearing cameras on their body, the transparency that the Internet now provides through that sort of distribution, I think in my sense it’s not necessarily the case that society has changed in the last few years; it’s that now that in a very positive way, people like me who aren’t subjected, frankly, to that kind of treatment, are becoming much more aware of how a certain part of our society views law enforcement and their interactions with law enforcement.”

During the half-hour news conference, Silver also touched on a number of other issues, from the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting for a fourth straight time in the NBA Finals, to gambling, to the possibility of a hard cap.

But given the events of the past few days, it wasn’t surprising that one of the first answers Silver gave was to a question about the status of the investigation into the possible links between Twitter accounts and Philadelphia 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo, an investigation the team announced Wednesday after the accounts came to light in a story published by The Ringer on Tuesday night.

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Silver said it wasn’t something the league wants being discussed on the eve of its championship series.

“It’s not necessarily something we want to be talking about, but it’s the reality of this league,” he said, adding he knew nothing beyond the fact that an outside law firm was conducting the investigation, and that it had begun.

In regards to gambling, in light of Delaware’s plans for sports gambling to come next week, Silver said the league is still in discussions with states about access to information on people placing wagers, to know who is doing it.

“What we can do is going to depend in large part on the quality of the information we can get from these states,” Silver said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to know name and Social Security number for the person placing their bets. But if we can get aggregate information, for example, and we can look at trends, it will put us in a better position to detect any aberrational behavior.”

He added that the league is still negotiating with different entities over the possibility of receiving a so-called “integrity fee” to help them monitor gambling activity.

In the wake of a season that has included several notable players missing significant time due to injury, Silver was asked if there’s any thought about shortening the schedule from 82 games. While he did say 82 games “wasn’t a magic number” he didn’t make it seem likely it will change anytime soon and rejected the notion that fewer games would automatically lead to fewer injuries.

“But I do mean this most importantly, and we talk to the Players Association a lot about this, if we had any data, hard data suggesting that a season that was 75 games or 72 games instead of 82 games would reduce injuries other than just playing fewer games, we’d be taking a hard look at shortening our season,” Silver said.

“We just don’t have that data right now.”

Silver also said, when asked about the possibility of expansion, that it isn’t in the league’s plans at the moment. He also congratulated Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis on the Capitals making it to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Specifically talking about a team being in Las Vegas, where the Golden Knights are playing the Capitals in the NHL’s championship series as an expansion team this season, Silver said the league “already feels it has a team there” because of the massive production that the NBA’s annual summer league — which this year will feature all 30 NBA teams for the first time — has become.

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