Q & A With NBA Commissioner Adam Silver
Author: Kevin L. Chouinard
Hawks.com was able to sit down with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 as he attended our Martin Luther King Jr. Day Game against the Orlando Magic.
We asked Silver about how special it is to be in the City of Atlanta on King Day, his thoughts on the team, the newly renovated State Farm Arena and the NBA.
Q: What does it mean to you to be in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Day?
A: It's a very special day for me. Martin Luther King Day has always been a special day in the league, essentially since the holiday became law. It has been a day in which we've played and honored his legacy. We have eleven games today, five on national TV, and it's particularly special to be in the community in which he was born. I also had the opportunity to talk to Ambassador Young before the game, and it's like literally touching history. We've met a few times before, but it just felt very appropriate to be able to have a conversation with him before today's game.
Q: The Hawks have a first-time head coach Lloyd Pierce. What are your initial thoughts on the job he's doing and just him as a person?
A: I think Coach Pierce is doing a wonderful job with this team. He's got a very young team. Players are coming into this league increasingly at younger ages, and it requires a special coach to be able to manage those young players. I think he's the perfect person for that. He and I also had a chance to talk before today's game and I've been immensely impressed with him. I think he also understands that the role of a coach in this league these days goes well beyond X's and O's on the floor. He has to build character and help young men mature. And as I said, it's early days, but all indications are that he's doing a wonderful job.
Q: You looked like you got a tour of the arena with Tony Ressler before the game. What were your impressions of State Farm Arena?
A: I did. Tony Ressler and Steve Koonin took me throughout the arena and I was incredibly impressed. It was a very complete tour. We saw every aspect of the transformed building and I had been here a lot in the old days. They just improved in every possible way.
I'll begin by the fact that light is now coming into the building. I think that it changes the feeling when there's natural light. There's enormous innovation. When you look at the Courtside Club that is at floor level; I haven't seen that in any arena. The new smaller more flexible suites are very much in tune with what modern fans want, and what we see is that, increasingly, coming to a game is a very social experience. People want that ability to meet people, to move around and talk to lots of different people, and to eat great food. I know that there have been huge upgrades in the quality of food and the variety here. There are many new restaurants and bars. And having now just sat in the seat watching the game, I can say that it has great sightlines. It is truly state of the art in every way.
Q: Do you have a wish list for what would go around the arena in terms of redevelopment of the area?
A: I don't personally have a wish list, but I know that this is something that Tony Ressler and his brother, who is a developer, do for a living. On several occasions, Tony has presented to me and other NBA owners his vision for development of The Gulch and it's quite spectacular. And it's long overdue in Atlanta. It is something that I know has been talked about for many, many years, but Tony combines both the vision and the ability to execute. I think it's going to change the character of downtown Atlanta, but it will also make coming to a Hawks game a very special experience as well. And we've seen this in many other communities. It began in a city that Tony is very familiar with, Los Angeles, where he also has a home and a development. Surrounding the Staples Center is the so-called L.A. Live. It has been transformational, and it's a place where people come hours before the game to socialize, to eat, to drink and hear music – and then go again to after the game. I think we're going to see something very similar here in Atlanta.
Q: This is the first year with the new lottery format. Are you seeing what you wanted to see out of it?
A: We'll see. We knew that the teams are very sophisticated in that draft picks are so critically important in this league that teams are going to enter into rebuilding stages of development. What I really want to see is teams not stay in rebuilding mode for multiple years. I understand that for any team it's going to make sense to break down an existing team which has peaked and then to look for younger players. And that appears to be what the Hawks are doing right now. It can be a very sensible strategy. I think by flattening out the odds for the top three picks I think we clearly can disincentivize teams from sort of needing to try to calibrate their record at the end of the season. I'll leave it at that, you know, where the odds can move based on a single win or loss. So we're past that but the real test in terms of a lot of reform is how teams perform and behave over a number of years. So we'll see. I recognize that short of a relegation system like they have with European soccer that you know there is always going to be an incentive with these really smart people that operate our teams at certain points to rebuild. I accept that, but you just don't want to see it go on for too long. Not just because I think it games the system, but I think it's unhealthy for the players in the league
Q: Since it is MLK Day today, how important has NBA Cares been towards community development to give back to give back to the communities in which these teams serve as well as the people themselves?
A: I think that NBA Cares has become part and parcel with the identity of this league. NBA Cares may be the way it is branded these days, but this is something that started long before my involvement in the league. Whenever I hear clips of Dr. King's 'I Have A Dream' speech, I think of the fact that Bill Russell – someone who I have come to know well – was standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963 when that speech was given. So community involvement in social activism is certainly nothing new in this league. One thing, though, that I'm really pleased to see is that this new generation of players in the league understands it is part of being an NBA player. Now, not necessarily to be politically active – that's a very personal choice – I want them to feel safe, if that's what they choose to do. But more importantly, the fact they choose to become engaged in the communities around them in a positive way, they see that as part of the responsibility of playing this league and it's something that's passed down from generation to generation. And while we play a lot of games on MLK Day and that gets a lot of attention, it probably doesn't get as much attention that all 30 teams are doing things in their community. We celebrate this holiday, and it ranges from basketball clinics and tournaments to essay contests, work in the community and projects that are completely unrelated to basketball. NBA Cares partners with community schools, and as we see today, the players on every team are wearing shooting shirts with part of the text of the 'I Have a Dream' speech on it, so it moves me. I think it's very special for everyone who is involved in this league.
Q: It was news reported a few days ago that Turner is down 22 percent in the ratings? How much of that do you attribute to LeBron going out West and, obviously, that he has been out for a month?
A: There is an ebb and flow always of ratings. I think when you look at the numbers, there's no question that part of it is attributed to our most popular player moving West. With that earlier East Coast time slot at 8:00, we knew it would be impacted by him going West. But these things work out over time. Our ratings were up on Christmas Day. You know they're not down on ESPN in the way that they are on TNT. So it's sometimes just a function of the other games they get as well. There's certainly no one at either Turner or the NBA who is concerned about it. It's something where we all have confidence in the game, and even just watching two young teams today like the Hawks and Magic, there's so much young, exciting talent on the floor that I feel really good about NBA basketball. I know our fans are responding to it as well.