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Adam Silver: Is the NBA ready for the Commissioner to be the Villain?

Will Commissioner Adam Silver be the NBA’s Bad Guy?

Unlike his predecessor David Stern and NFL counterpart Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has maintained a relatively positive image from fans, media, owners and players of the league he governs. Stern became a villain after trying to change the material of the basketball without the players’ consent and institute a dress code to clean up the NBA’s image. These days, Goodell and his league can’t escape the spotlight due to drug scandals, domestic abuse incidents, political protests and declining TV ratings.

However, Silver has brought forth a great time for the NBA. Last season, Silver negotiated labor peace well before the C.B.A. expired despite rumors of work stoppage coming. Plus, the NBA is profitable as ever thanks to fat TV deals with ABC and Turner Broadcasting. Basketball continues to evolve abroad too. There’s already talks about having more preseason and possibly regular season games in China and Europe.

The NBA Commissioner listened to the players over the years too. Players are signing contracts for more money than ever. Back-to-back games and three games in four nights have been cut back. Silver finally did something about tanking, resting players and the All-Star game via his latest round of reform.

Silver played his role in maintaining the social conscious of the NBA also. Last year, he moved the NBA All-Star game due to a controversial bathroom law in North Carolina. In his infancy as a commissioner, he banned former Clippers owner Donald Sterling after Sterling was caught saying racist remarks on the phone.

Nonetheless, Silver faces his biggest challenges in the upcoming season. Is the NBA Commissioner ready to become the Villain of the Association? Here are some issues where Silver is already the villain and some future challenges where he could become the bad guy of the NBA.

The White House

The Golden State Warriors opted to not attend the White House despite the tradition of professional teams visiting the Nation’s capital after winning a championship. President Donald Trump revoked the invitation immediately due to Steph Curry’s hesitation about attending and LeBron James called the President a bum afterwards.

The NBAPA released a statement supporting the players’ words and taking a subtle jab at the President’s “Make America Great, Again” campaign. Meanwhile, Adam Silver and the NBA took the middle ground.

This is a pretty soft statement from the league that gets credit for being progressive. Silver and the Association are only ‘disappointed’ that the White House uninvited its greatest Champions after a few tweets? James and Warriors coach Steve Kerr are some notable NBA players who have taken stances against the President’s administration but all Silver can do is deflect from the issue?

I guess it is hard picking between your job’s best asset and your country’s highest office. However, Silver could have said something more than crediting the NBA’s active community roles and voices. When were those ever in question?

The National Anthem

Adam Silver already drew his line in the sand by releasing a statement about potential protests during the National Anthem. The Commissioner released a statement reminding NBA teams, players and officials that they were required to stand for the national anthem. Silver sighted the Anthem as a platform to show respect for America as even non American players respectfully stand.

Commissioner Silver said standing for the Anthem had been a rule as long as he had been involved with the league and the NBA could issue discipline if it came up. He urged his players to create PSAs and find other ways to get involved with their communities, rather than peacefully protesting during the National Anthem.

Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith smugly tweeted about the memo. Lakers great Kobe Bryant went on record saying he would kneel during the anthem if he was still playing. On the other hand, Steph Curry said he plans to stand for the National Anthem as protesting would be counterproductive.

Either way, you’re never a winner when you’re on the opposite side of Kobe Bryant on a basketball issue. Generally, people will always take the side of the Mamba.

Players’ Rest

Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press

Speaking of NBA alum, Silver could piss off a lot of old NBA stars if he keeps evolving playing conditions for the players.

This year, Silver shortened the preseason and started the NBA regular season earlier. The Commissioner already disrupted the amount of times teams play on short rest. Now, he even has the right to fine a team up to $100,000 for resting star players during games.

Plus, there’s talks of shortening the regular season all-together. Silver went on record saying there is nothing magical about the number of games currently played, 82. This might be true except for the fact that teams have been playing that many games for 50 years.

Changing the number means changing the context for future records. It means alienating a bunch of NBA players who paved ways for the fat contracts that players are now earning. You want this generation’s players to play less and get paid more?

Adam Silver cited the evolving knowledge on the importance of rest for players. This makes sense but it really comes down to the NBA’s broadcasting partners losing money when injuries and rest prevent players from appearing in nationally television games.

Either way, Silver can only change so many traditions before the backlash gets too real. Changing the amount of games may piss off too many NBA alumni and purists for Silver’s own good.

Re-structuring Conferences

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA All-Star game was broke so they tried to fix it by announcing that the team would ditch the traditional East versus West format. Now, there is talk the league could erase conference seeding in the Playoffs too.

Commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA will continue to look at reformatting the playoffs. This includes making it a 1-16 seeded tournament without the restrictions of East versus West. Silver said that would mean the NBA would have to make a more balanced schedule so teams play each other a fair amount of times too.

Again, this sounds fair. However, it again changes the context of history. How many ninth seeded and tenth seeded teams in the West could have made the playoffs in the last decade if they adopted this format earlier? What would Michael Jordan and the Bulls have done if he had to play the Los Angeles Lakers more times in the regular season and sooner in the playoffs?

Obviously, travel restrictions are better these days so the NBA does not need to be limited by geography. A change like this could make the league far more competitive too but we won’t know until it happens. Regardless, Silver’s stance against conferences could easily define his term as commissioner.

The NCAA Scandal

NCAA Basketball

NCAA.com

Let’s not pretend the NBA isn’t a stakeholder in the NCAA basketball scandal. College basketball basically operates as a minor league for the NBA, at least for players fresh out of High School who must wait a year to play in the NBA under current rules. Sure, these college aged young men can play oversees or in the G-League (A player still has to wait a year out of High School for the developmental league) but none of those leagues operate to the popularity and scale of the NCAA.

Silver said the NCAA scandal that led to 10 different coaches being charged was disconcerting. The NBA Commissioner needs to do something about this besides being troubled about it. Thus, there will come a point when Silver and the NBA have to take a stance against the bribery that happens in college basketball.

Will they make the draft age higher so players are at Universities for more than a year and both players and coaches are held accountable for their actions? Will the NBA lower the age so players who should be pro don’t waste their time violating NCAA policies?

It remains to be seen what the NBA will do. However, they have a big stake in amateur and youth basketball. Adam Silver has got to get the sport in order from the top-down.

Adam Silver’s tough few years

adam silver

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

A few years ago, Adam Silver took the time to great all of the available Clippers staff, interns and employees in the meal area on the opening night of the 2014-15 season. I had already ate so I was busy doing my intern duties. I didn’t have the privilege of meeting Silver but many of my fellow interns did. They all praised Silver for being very personable despite their small role in the Association.

At the time, Silver was relatively new to his role as commissioner and the Clippers were beginning the Steve Ballmer ownership era. It made sense for him to be there but he did not have to shake everyone’s hands who happened to be eating team dinner. I don’t know if Silver made that a tradition and makes himself regularly available to all NBA staff and interns throughout the season. However, it illustrates how well received Silver has been in first few seasons as the Commissioner.

Now, Silver’s alliances are made and he faces times where he must continue to take tough stances. He already took a stance on NBA expansion, hiring coaches as executives and he was even the first Pro Sports Commissioner to accept legal sports gambling and Daily Fantasy. This is on top of the moves against tanking and players’ rest.

Clearly, Silver is not afraid to make decisions or take his own stance. Beginning this season, NBA fans, owners and players are going to start seeing him make more unpopular decisions. Will popular opinion place him in the company with Stern, Goodell and other unpopular leaders of American Sports leagues?

Adam Silver has distanced himself from an unpopular reputation, but he can not please everyone. Is Silver ready to become the NBA’s bad guy? Or can he continue building a legacy as Pro Sports’ most popular commissioner?