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Adam Silver Is Full Of Bad Ideas Nobody Wants

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 23: NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks during the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 23, 2022 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Ed. note: All Ray Ratto blogs are by definition Rays Week blogs.


Adam Silver is at the NBA board of governors meetings, which should mean that he would be holed up at the hotel bar refusing to talk to anyone “because I have to answer your stupid questions all year long and I just want to drink without being bothered about goddamned Joe Lacob and the goddamned luxury tax for a half a goddamned hour, OK Shams?”

Instead, he is working the room of his 30 supervisor-oppressors jangling up support for his mostly unrequested and solves-no-problems-while-creating-new-ones FA Cup–style in-season tournament because he secretly wants to be Mark Bullingham, the Football Association’s CEO, and because he wishes he could exchange the Warriors for Liverpool and the Pistons for Derby County and the Knicks for Everton. I mean, he could just hunker down and binge-watch all four seasons of Unforgotten if he wants to go all BritBox, but instead he thinks the NBA needs to be more soccer-ish. This at a time when college football is now a total makeover called NFL Lite, and the NFL wants to colonize planets à la Elon Musk.

Then again, we live in a world in which California has a gambling legalization ballot measure (Prop 27 in case you’re thinking of relocating) which has dueling native tribes clogging your entertainment vehicles with ads arguing that legalization is great and awful, will solve homelessness and destroy families, will raise hundreds of millions for social issues and yank money out of native casinos and funnel them to DraftKings and FanDuel, who are the two main tribes of New Jersey. In other words, if you like to make a bet, you have to vote for and against the measure simultaneously, which is still technically voter fraud only with the protective umbrella of ballot-box intimidation.

That digression now completed, let’s return to Silver and the owners. They are tackling thorny issues like load management (hint: adding a tournament is the opposite of that), lowering the draft eligible age to 18 (hint: NIL makes the fight to see who can make a 17-year-old a millionaire a more even fight), trade requests (hint: he doesn’t like them but is powerless to stop them, and this will surely find its way to Kevin Durant’s cerebral cortex in three…two…one…) and owners pissing away money in search of jewelry (hint: Lacob is cheating the spirit of budgets, but Steve Ballmer and Joe Tsai aren’t because their teams went 0-6 in play-in and postseason games).

But the in-season tournament, which has been flogged as the future since 2019, still hasn’t convinced enough people that it does anything except make players work more at a time when players, agents, coaches, trainers, kinesiologists, and even the gambling industry are saying they should work less. OK, maybe not the gambling industry. They’d push to have players reclassified as livestock for more inventory.

Anyway, Silver is hot for this new level of competition without giving us any healthy reason why anyone would want to compete for this, save the idea that British fans believe any trophy is a good one while Americans can barely keep track of the one trophy their favorite sports play for. His suggestion—maybe a million bucks per player—would work fine for the 150 or so players who made a form of the league minimum last year, but won’t draw much interest from the marquee players who actually create the audience demand. In short, this feels a lot like weaponizing summer league, which is already too long and tedious and encourages basketball fans who fancy their opinions to talk even more shite than they already do, which seems impossible.

Now maybe there is a market for this, though God only knows where. Silver waves the play-in tournament as proof that people want more games when in fact the incentive for teams to play hard comes in the idea that losing teams don’t get to be in the playoffs (see the Clippers, at the expense of the 36-win New Orleans Pelicans) whereas the drama for players in this new scam is how to opt out. In that way, the in-season tournament also becomes that other beloved entertainment staple, the Pro Bowl.

And the owners might like it because it means more days when the employees have to turn up for work, unless they’re the good ones who would just refer management to the business fingers of their two hands in the international sign of “Thanks, but that’s a miss for me.” You want to see tanking in its most concentrated form? Have a team go down 68-49 at halftime of one of these albatrosses.

In total, then, Adam Silver’s rampant Anglophilia has gotten in the way of his good sense here. If he likes the FA Cup so damned much, he should hop the company jet and fly to one of the (I swear to the gods this is true) Extra Preliminary Round games on August 6, the same day that other leagues start. Maybe a healthy afternoon watching Sludgefield United play Fiends Provident FC will cure him of his itch. Then again, it might encourage him to do an LIV scheduling deal with the Saudis, so this could blow up just as badly. Frankly, it seems like Silver’s best choice is just to stay at the bar shooing away Howard Beck and Tim Bontemps and hoping Tilman Fertitta doesn’t spot him.