SALT LAKE CITY — NBA commissioner Adam Silver pushed back on the notion that load management is a problem in today’s NBA, saying “I don’t buy into” the idea that players should simply just be playing more.
“I hesitate to weigh in on an issue as to whether players are playing enough because there is real medical data and scientific data about what’s appropriate,” Silver said during his annual news conference before All-Star Saturday Night here at Vivint Arena. “Sometimes, to me, the premise of a question as to whether players are playing enough suggests that they should be playing more — that, in essence, there should be some notion of just get out there and play. Having been in the league for a long time, having spent time with a lot of some of our great legends, I don’t necessarily think that’s the case.”
“The world that we used to have where it was just, ‘Get out there and play through injuries,’ for example, I don’t think that’s appropriate. Clearly, I mean, at the end of the day, these are human beings — many of you talk to and know well — who are often playing through enormous pain, who play through all kinds of aches and pains on a regular basis,” he said.
“The suggestion, I think, that these men, in the case in the NBA, somehow should just be out there more for its own sake, I don’t buy into.”
That said, in multiple answers during his half-hour media session Saturday night, Silver addressed the fact that fans have been frustrated this season with missing out on seeing superstar players in road markets because they’ve sat out, something that has happened throughout the campaign involving several different teams.
And he admitted, while it’s something the league is discussing with the National Basketball Players Association, that he doesn’t have a firm answer on a way to potentially fix it.
“It’s not just game play,” Silver said, “but teams deciding not to practice, teams deciding to, you know, do whatever they can to maintain players being in an optimal position to compete during games.
“This isn’t a new issue. There’s nothing particularly happening this season that we haven’t seen happening over the last several seasons.”
“I understand it from a fan standpoint that if you are particularly buying tickets to a particular game and that player isn’t playing,” he said. “I don’t have a good answer for that other than this is a deep league with incredible competition.”
Silver also suggested the idea that load management is a significant problem is, in his opinion, being made out to be a bigger deal than it really is, pointing out the NBA is on pace to set all-time records for ticket sales and season-ticket renewals.
“Even given where we are now, I don’t think the issue is quite what some suggest,” Silver said. “I mean, our stars are not missing that many games for resting. I mean, we have injuries. I think we would all agree that’s a separate issue. But sort of as a measure of single games missed, it’s not that bad.
“We may need to reset in a certain way in terms of expectations. I think there are some things around the edges we can do in talking to [the NBPA] that may create a bit more incentive for certain players. But I think there are a few prominent examples out there of certain players who have been in the league for a long time who legitimately may need on their bodies additional amount of rest that aren’t necessarily indicative of the greater league where you have literally the most competitive people in the world who want to be out there every night playing at full strength.”
Some other topics Silver addressed included:
— Madison Square Garden using facial recognition technology. Silver said the NBA’s stance on this is that teams have to comply with local laws, and he said he was unaware of MSG using the practice to target journalists.
“I would say in terms of their use of it currently directed at those who are litigating against them, as I’ve said previously, our only rules are that they comply with local law,” Silver said. “From everything we understand right now, Madison Square Garden is complying with local law. At least, so far, we have not deemed it appropriate that we should be stepping into those situations.”
— When presented with a quote from Utah Gov. Spencer Cox — who said in relation to recent anti-transgender legislation passed in Utah that “we’ve had those discussions with the NBA for quite a while. That’s really changed. They’re trying to get a little bit more out of those culture wars, as well” — Silver defended the league’s track record on human rights.
“Well, I think our track record is absolutely clear for decades about our focus on human rights issues,” Silver said. “I would say in terms of a specific issue in a state or in a market, they’re all specific to that situation. I would just say we don’t have a general policy going into it.
“I think here we’ve worked successfully, as I said earlier, with Gov. Cox on bringing this All-Star Game to Utah. I think we’ve ensured that for working directly with the Utah Jazz that certainly for all our events, whether in the arena or the fan events outside the arena, that we absolutely protect the individual civil rights of any of the participants.”
— When asked about the Celtics moving on from coach Ime Udoka and replacing him with Joe Mazzulla, and whether Boston handled the situation “appropriately,” Silver said he believed that they did.
“I think the league takes extraordinarily seriously workplace situations,” Silver said. “In the first instance, as it works in the NBA, it’s for the individual club to handle a workplace situation. I think in this case, I have no reason to believe they didn’t handle Ime’s situation appropriately. I’ll leave it at that. I think they handled it appropriately.”
— Expansion remains off the table — for now. Silver repeated the stance he has taken multiple times over the past year or two, which is that the NBA is focused on finishing up the current collective bargaining agreement talks with the NBPA then getting its new media rights deals done before again making expansion a front-burner topic.