NEW ORLEANS – In a sign of how well things are going these days for the NBA, one of the big subplots to 2017 All-Star Weekend dealt with the purported view by one of the players here that the Earth is flat.
It also set up the best line so far through Saturday night’s events, courtesy of commissioner Adam Silver.
Silver was asked about Kyrie Irving’s comments in a recent podcast with Cavaliers teammates Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye, alleging that people have been bamboozled to think the world is round. “If you really think about it from the landscape of the way we travel, the way we move, and the fact that – can you really think of us rotating around the sun and all planets aligned, rotating in specific dates, being perpendicular with what’s going on with these planets?” the All-Star point guard said in the recorded discussion that went public Friday.
In the void for legitimate news involving, say, labor negotiations or additional tweaks to replay reviews, Irving’s comments only had to vie for attention with the Knicks’ ongoing Phil Jackson-Carmelo Anthony, James Dolan-Charles Oakley soap operas. And when it came up at Silver’s annual All-Star media availability, the commissioner smiled and was ready.
“Kyrie and I went to the same college (Duke),” Silver said. “He may have taken some different courses.”
Irving, when asked after the Eastern Conference All-Stars’ practice Saturday at the Superdome, didn’t retract his comments Saturday but did hint that he was making a statement about how controversial views get reported and spread nowadays in these shaky media times.
“In all seriousness,” Silver said, “he was trying to be provocative and I think it was effective. I think it was a larger comment on the sort of so-called fake news debate that’s going on in our society right now.”
Among the other topics that came up during Silver’s news conference:
* He thanked civic leaders in New Orleans and Pelicans owners Gayle and Tom Benson for their willingness and ability – on short notice – to host the city’s third All-Star Weekend since 2009. The league needed a new home after moving the event from Charlotte, N.C., in protest of that state’s “HB2” bill in how it relates to transgender bathroom use. New Orleans, a major tourism and convention hub, is one of the few U.S. cities boasting sufficient hotel accommodations on what amounted to barely six months’ notice.
* After failing to negotiate a compromise with former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that might have satisfied the NBA, Silver has talked with new Gov. Roy Cooper (who ran an anti-HB2 campaign) about the prospect of staging the 2019 All-Star Weekend in Charlotte. “I’m not ready to draw bright lines,” Silver said.
* That includes Texas, where legislation related to transgender bathroom use also is being considered. He said the NBA will monitor the situation, although no Texas market has been mentioned for an All-Star Game in the immediate future.
* Asked for further comment on the White House travel ban – which the NBA said it would study for impact on its players, before the executive order was struck down in court – Silver said a league in which 25 percent of the players were born outside the U.S. would have to be concerned. “I don’t have access to the same intelligence obviously or security information that people in the government do,” he said, “but we are a business based on global mobility.”
* Extending the NBA schedule next season, Silver acknowledged, is an attempt to deal with the controversy over coaches resting otherwise-healthy players. Fewer back-to-back games might mean more stars participating in marquee games and perhaps overall. But Silver added that research has convinced the league of a “direct correlation” between fatigue and injuries.
* Silver responded to a question about his role mediating the Dolan-Oakley situation earlier this week but said neither side came out of the meeting with any assurances. Regarding Oakley’s continued grudge against the Knicks owner in the wake of his forced removal by security personnel, Silver said: “I hope at some point he does decide to return to Madison Square Garden, but ultimately that’s his decision.”
Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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