Washington: Borrowing from European football, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said on Thursday that his league should look at replacing the All-Star Game with an in-season knockout-style tournament and a shorter season schedule.
The 57-year-old sports supremo, who has spent more than five years running the $9 billion league, told The Economic Club of Washington the move could create new excitement and solve some headaches.
"In international soccer, they play for different cups throughout the year," Silver said in wide-ranging comments about the NBA. "I've said to our teams, maybe we should shorten the number of games and play a tournament during the season.
"I'm only saying we have to look at other concepts."
The NBA All-Star Game once offered greater national and leaguewide exposure and a rare uniting of greats in an era before US Olympic NBA squads and communications that allow anyone to watch any team from anywhere.
But with teams and players wary of injuries in an exhibition, the game has evolved into a highlight show of dunks and shotmaking.
"If they and their teams don't really want to play an exciting All-Star Game, we've got to come up with a new concept," Silver said.
A knockout tournament could let the NBA sustain record television revenues with a reduced schedule and give teams a new prize to seek, even though stars might not get as much of a break.
The NBA has had an 82-game schedule since the 1967-68 campaign.
"As a league, we may need to revisit the number of games we play," Silver said. "Maybe that's too many games."
Silver also looks to Europe for models on US gambling, which is growing after the Supreme Court allowed states to legalize sports betting.
"They have much better controls than we do," Silver said. "I think we're better off with a (national) framework. I think it's better being transparent, regulated and controlled."
Silver wants an "integrity fee" from businesses that will profit off NBA betting, considering it adds a new dimension to the challenge the league has of safeguarding the integrity of results.
"They are now imposing a set of requirements on us and expect us to control the product," Silver said. "As a business matter, yes, I think we should share in the profits."
NBA averages: $8 mil, 7 years
The average NBA player made $8 million this season and has a seven-year career, Silver said, adding that top-salaried NBA All-Stars average 13-14 seasons in their careers.
"You should be set for life," Silver said, noting the NBA helps with pension plans, counselling and health insurance for every NBA player.
More top US players seeking careers overseas are turning to China than Europe to develop their skills, Silver said.
"More top players are making better money in China now than in Europe," he said, noting that in European hoops hotbeds Greece, Italy and Spain: "The economics are not that great."
Silver compares the NBA's huge China fan base to US sports fans taking a greater interest in European football telecasts, saying, "They want to see the best."
Controversial social media comments by such NBA stars as LeBron James and Stephen Curry don't worry Silver, who wants league players to be true to themselves.
"I don't encourage them to be controversial. I encourage them to be genuine about their views," Silver said. "These are multi-dimensional people. Social media allows them to show who they really are."
More 3-pointers no worry
NBA teams play to 93 percent arena capacity, Silver said, a sign of strength with Forbes magazine in February valuing the average NBA club at a record $1.9 billion.
Concerns over teams deliberately losing games to boost their chances at a high NBA Draft pick don't worry Silver, who notes clubs that deal away top players for salary cap room are likely to lose more often.
"To me, 'tanking' suggests the coaches and players are in on it," Silver said. "The euphemism is 'rebuilding.' It's a legitimate way to say to players, 'We'll get better.' It's clear some teams still think it's better to go through a rebuilding program."
He doesn't see the rise in 3-pointers as a worry, saying it rewards players who work harder to become more accurate shooters.
"It has opened up the game in many ways to players who weren't as physical," he said. "If you have aspects of the game where you're rewarded for how much effort you're putting in, that's good."