Adam Silver says NBA monitoring ‘serious’ tanking issue, sources say

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in recent comments to Phoenix Suns employees, addressed possible solutions for tanking while noting that he understands why teams would do it when a “one-in-a-generation player” is set to enter the league, sources say. who were present.

Calling it a “serious issue” that has sparked “hundreds” of meetings, Silver’s comments came this week during a question-and-answer session in the Suns arena, where Silver also apologized several times. repeated on behalf of the league office from a large group of Suns employees for malpractice at the direction of majority team owner Robert Sarver.

During the session, an employee asked Silver questions about tanking, a topic that is expected to largely dominate league conversation with 7-foot-4 French phenom Victor Wembanyama — a potential franchise-altering prospect — who expected to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.

“We notified the crews,” Silver told employees. “We will pay particular attention to the issue this year.”

Speaking of a concept in European football, Silver told staff that the league had considered relegation as a potential solution to ensure that underperforming teams were given an incentive to compete. But the commissioner then said relegation would be “destabilizing” in the NBA.

In such a scenario, Silver told employees, relegation would essentially mean demoting the worst G League team(s) while promoting the best G League team(s) to the NBA.

“It would disrupt our business model so much,” Silver told employees. “And even if you took two teams from the G League, they wouldn’t be equipped to compete in the NBA.”

In an effort to help reduce tanking, the NBA flattened lottery odds in 2019, so now teams with the three worst regular season records each have a 14% chance of winning the lottery. (Before that, the team with the worst record had a 25% chance, the second-worst team had a 19.9% ​​chance, and the third-worst team had a 15.6% chance.)

Still, Silver told employees that tanking remains an issue this season.

“It’s something we have to watch out for,” Silver said. “A repechage is, in principle, a good system. But I understand, especially when it feels like a one-in-a-generation player is coming, like we did this year.” Silver did not mention Wembanyama by name, sources present said, but added that the league will adapt if necessary.

“Teams are smarter, they’re creative, and they react — we move, they move — so we’re always looking to see if there’s a better system yet,” Silver told employees.

Silver also addressed a question about league expansion, which he told Suns employees the league will take a closer look at once it completes its upcoming television rights negotiations. (The NBA’s current TV rights package, a nine-year deal with ESPN and Turner Sports, is set to expire after the 2024-25 season.)

“In order to assess the teams coming in, we need to know where we are from a media perspective; that’s obviously our most important form of revenue overall,” Silver told employees.

But Silver also referred to the “potential dilution of talent”, meaning that adding more teams would weaken the overall product.

“None of us remember going into a season where there was a perception of so much competition, but, regardless, the goal is to have 30 competitive teams, not 20, or whatever. either, so think we’re paying attention to the dilution factor,” he told employees.

Still, Silver said the league was doing well overall and there was no shortage of strong candidates for new teams in new cities, though he didn’t name any specific city. Las Vegas and Seattle are considered likely candidates for new NBA teams if the league expands.

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