NEW ORLEANS — New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is not an NBA revolutionary. He was David Stern’s right hand man for a decade, if he felt strongly about something it’s already been dealt with. However, there has been one consistent topic Silver has brought up in the two weeks he’s been in the big chair:
Raising the NBA age limit to 20.
Nobody — not NBA people, not colleges, not fans — likes the current one-and-done rule. It was a compromise that kept NBA scouts out of high school gyms, which was the owners’ goal at the time. What NBA owners really want is players to spend at least two years in college, and Silver works for the owners. He made his case for the higher age limit again on Saturday when he spoke to the media during NBA All-Star weekend.
“It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league,” Silver said. “And I know from a competitive standpoint that’s something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders as part of college programs.”
If one were cynical (and I am), one would suggest that the NBA owners like the idea of letting the colleges develop their players a little and build them up as big name stars — all not on the NBA owners’ dime. Let somebody else develop the product you want to sell. Of course, players who want to get paid could choose the D-League or Europe and get paid, but this remains a restriction of someone’s right to work. As a side note, look at the All-Star rosters this weekend and you see most of the guys came straight out of high school or were one-and-done.
One key argument in favor of it is teams would love players to mature a little more before they get to the league. College forces players to get to practice on time, think about nutrition, get to class keep up with their studies (at least in theory), do laundry and the like. The players also have to deal with authoritarian coaches (in college the coaches have the power, in the NBA it’s the players). College forced a lot of us to grow up and the NBA would prefer that the guys they draft know how to get to practice on time or manage their money a little better, rather than have the coaching staffs feel like they need to be baby sitters.
Silver said at several points Saturday that the NBA needs to be a steward of the game and he tied that into his age limit push.
“So I think from a college standpoint if those teams could have an opportunity to jell, to come together, if those players had the benefit to play for some of these great college coaches for longer periods of time, I think it would lead to stronger college basketball and stronger NBA ball as well,” Silver said.
Silver could only put the higher age limit in place as part of a negotiation with the NBA players’ union, which has been without an executive director for a year (Billy Hunter was ousted at the All-Star Game a year ago). So there have been no talks.
The players union might be willing to concede on the age limit (the guys in the union would like to keep their jobs with reduced young challengers) but they will want something else from the league. It’s a negotiation.
While the players’ union met and talked with potential candidates Saturday in New Orleans, it appears it may be a while before anyone is put in that executive director role. Until then issues such as the age limit or Human Growth Hormone testing (or a host of “B” list issues) are discussed in a serious way.
But when they are, know Silver will be pushing for a higher age limit.