NBA commissioner Adam Silver defends 65-game rule for awards, ‘pleased with the state’ of play

NBA commissioner Adam Silver defends 65-game rule for awards, ‘pleased with the state’ of play


INDIANAPOLIS — NBA commissioner Adam Silver defended the league’s rule that players must compete in 65 games to be eligible for prestigious, sometimes lucrative awards.

“I’m not ready to say it isn’t working so far,” Silver said Saturday, during his annual NBA All-Star Weekend news conference. “I can tell you that the number of games that players have participated in is up this season and interestingly enough, injuries are actually down.

“Whether that’s meaningful data yet, I don’t know. I think the right time to take a further look at this rule is at the end of the season when we sort of at least have a year under our belt.”

This is the first NBA season in which players can only miss 17 games and still be considered for awards like Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, or selection to the All-NBA teams. Reigning MVP Joel Embiid is already ineligible to win the award this season because of various minor injuries, followed by surgery to repair a meniscus tear.

Tyrese Haliburton, the hometown All-Star this year, is fighting through a nagging hamstring injury to stay on the court enough to make an All-NBA team, which would elevate his contract with the Indiana Pacers from $205 million to $245 million.

Silver said Saturday that the 65-game rule, which was agreed to by the players’ union, was put in place because “we needed to incentivize players, particularly star players, to play more games.”

This season, 16 of the NBA’s top 20 scorers (basically the best players), and 35 of the top 50, have appeared in at least 45 games by the All-Star break, a significantly higher number than last season.

Per a league official, there has been a 25 percent reduction in games missed due to injury this season by star players compared to last season. There has been an 18 percent reduction in games missed due to injury among all starters.

Silver, who made his remarks in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room inside of Lucas Oil Stadium, the site for All-Star Saturday night festivities, also said he was “pleased with the state” of the NBA game, referring to the historic levels of scoring taking place in games on a nightly basis.

The league’s top-rated offense, which belongs to the Pacers, is averaging nearly 124 points per game, and the league average is 115.6 points per game — the highest since 1970. Over the last two seasons, four players have scored 70 points in a game.

“I want to dispel any notion that the league feels, or the league office necessarily feels that high-scoring games in the abstract are good,” Silver said. “I think what we want are competitive games. … The skill level is off the charts.

“Every player at every position has to be able to shoot the ball. … You’re seeing this global pool of talent coming into the league (with) some of the best athletes in the world who can frankly shoot the lights out. I think that’s partly what’s responsible for the increased scoring.”

Silver talks player issues with refs

Silver also addressed the increasingly contentious relationship between the league’s players and coaches with referees.

The flare-ups have been frequent this season, but none drew more attention than when two-time MVP Nikola Jokić, who is from Serbia, was ejected in the second quarter in Chicago on Serbian Heritage Night on Dec. 12. League sources later confirmed that the Denver Nuggets star was ejected because he called official Mousa Dagher a “motherf——,” but the challenging optics of it all sparked another round of discussion about how the game should be called.

“The communication issues sort of between players and officials — I feel that’s an area we should be able to do a better job both ways,” Silver said. “I put that in the category of, as you said, respect for the game.”

“I’m really encouraged to have (new National Basketball Players Association executive director) Andre Iguodala as a partner to talk about these issues because he’s not just a former player, (who played) 19 years with the league, (won) multiple championships, he understands the pressure,” Silver continued. “He understands the issue.

“I think there’s a real willingness on behalf of the officials as well to do better. I think this is a real area of focus for us that we’re going to be working on. … There just has to be a two-way sense of respect. I’m sympathetic to the frustration and feel it’s an area where we can make progress.”

Future of G League Ignite

Silver also said the NBA is “in the process of re-assessing” its G League Ignite franchise, the minor-league team created by the league for teenagers coming out of high school who did not want to play in college. After a successful first season, the Ignite has regressed over the last couple of seasons, as new college rules have made it possible for athletes to be paid while playing for their schools.

Silver said his focus is now on earlier development for American players, pointing to the 30 percent of NBA players coming from outside the United States.

“It’s clear that the development is very different in many of those programs outside of the United States, more focused on practice and less focused on games, which seems to be the opposite of many of the youth programs in the United States,” Silver said. “We’ve begun discussions with the NCAA. … There’s no question (top American players) are coming into the league incredibly skilled, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into being team basketball players.”

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(Photo: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)


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