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Adam Silver displeased by trade requests from NBA star players

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is gearing up for another round of labor negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association. (John Minchillo/AP)

LAS VEGAS — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that the league has entered “the very early stages” of labor negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association. Both sides can opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement in December.

In a wide-ranging news conference following Board of Governors meetings at the Las Vegas Summer League, Silver said that he expected issues such as trade requests, the age limit, load management and the length of the 82-game schedule to come up during the next round of talks.

The commissioner touted the NBA’s “upbeat” meetings and strong financial rebound from the pandemic — noting a record $10 billion in revenue for the 2021-22 season — and said he anticipated that the upcoming 2022-23 season would unfold on its standard schedule despite the pandemic’s lingering presence.

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But Silver stressed that he wasn’t pleased by ongoing trade requests registered by prominent players such as Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, adding that he didn’t want “the game to be a sideshow” to off-court intrigue over player movement.

“We don’t like to see players requesting trades and seeing it play out the way it is,” Silver said. “The basketball was fantastic this past season. I don’t want to be naive, but I would love the focus to be on the play on the floor. … This needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players. The expectation is a return that they will meet their end of the bargain.”

Because a single trade request such as Durant’s can impact his teammates and the players on rival teams who might be traded for him or even mentioned in rumors, Silver argued that the NBA and NBPA should share a “mutuality of interest” in “having more stability.”

Meanwhile, the NBA’s age limit — which has stood at 19 since 2006 — will be reassessed in the upcoming talks. Though Silver preferred increasing the age limit to 20 when he succeeded David Stern as commissioner in 2014, he said he now believes it should drop to 18 because of “societal changes” and the NCAA’s implementation of name, image and likeness rules.

“I think that [lowering the age limit] will be the right thing to do,” Silver said. “I’m hopeful that that’s a change we make in this next collective bargaining cycle.”

During a meeting of the NBA’s technology partners Monday, Silver decried the strategic resting of players and questioned whether it produced real health benefits. Singling out San Antonio Spurs executive R.C. Buford for popularizing the practice, which has become known as load management, Silver argued that there was “nothing more frustrating for our fans.”

Yet the Board of Governors voted Tuesday to permanently incorporate the play-in tournament into the league’s postseason schedule. Adopted in 2020 and expanded in 2021, the play-in tournament features eight teams competing for the final four spots in the 16-team postseason field. The league is weighing a possible midseason tournament as well, further adding to the burden placed on players.

“I’m not looking to shorten the season, but it’s a conversation we should all have,” Silver acknowledged Tuesday. “What’s optimal in terms of number of games on a player’s body? Let’s be realistic about that.”

The commissioner added that the next labor talks could produce language that adds “additional incentives” into a player’s contract based on the number of “games played and the results of those games.”

In a more immediate development, the Board of Governors voted to increase penalties for “transition take fouls,” intentional fouls committed to prevent a fast-break opportunity without making a “legitimate” play on the ball. Last season, defensive players committed more than 1,700 take fouls, a year-over-year increase of 55 percent, according to league data.

The league’s new approach, which will be implemented in the 2022-23 season and has been used in the G League since 2018, grants a free throw and possession of the ball to the offensive team if a defensive player commits an intentional foul in transition. Under the old rule, the offensive team simply retained possession.

If a defensive player commits a transition foul while attempting to make a play on the ball, he will still be assessed a common foul. Take fouls also still will be allowed during the final two minutes of regulation and any overtime periods so that defensive teams can stop the clock while attempting a comeback or committing a foul to prevent their opponents from hitting a game-tying three-pointer.

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The rule change follows last season’s crackdown on “non-basketball moves” by offensive players seeking to draw contact from defenders with “abrupt, overt and abnormal” actions such as leg kicks, sharp leaning or sudden stops.

The NBA and NBPA also agreed to institute a joint fund to provide annual payments to approximately 115 former American Basketball Association players who were not otherwise eligible for the NBA’s pension program.

To qualify, the former ABA players needed to have played three years in the professional league, which existed from 1967 until its 1976 merger with the NBA. The new payment program will grant $3,828 per year of service to each eligible player annually.

“Our players have a genuine sense of appreciation for those who paved the way and helped us achieve the success we enjoy today,” NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “We have always considered the ABA players a part of our brotherhood.”

  • Silver said the NBA and WNBA are “doing everything in our power” to bring home WNBA star Brittney Griner, who remains detained in Russia after her February arrest. Griner’s case was highlighted during the NBA Finals and at WNBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago. “Her wife was quoted the other day as saying she is satisfied with everything the Biden administration is doing right now,” Silver said. “I honestly don’t know what more we can be doing.”
  • After moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of the NBA’s opposition to North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” the league will not weigh a state’s abortion rights laws when it selects future host cities. “The greatest impact we can have as a league comes down to how we treat our own employees and our own values as opposed to moving into other communities and dictating to them what their position should be on these issues,” Silver said.
  • While Silver did not provide a specific update on the league’s investigation into the Phoenix Suns over allegations that owner Robert Sarver used racist and misogynistic language, he noted that the investigation was in the “last stage.”

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