Adam Silver: NBA’s concern with marijuana not about recreational and offseason use, but abuse and in-season use

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A couple years ago, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he saw no need to change the league’s marijuana policy:

  • First violation: No penalty
  • Second violation: $25,000 fine.
  • Third violation: Five-game suspension
  • Additional violations: Suspension of five more games than previous suspension

But he now sounds far more open to revising it.

Silver, in an interview with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

It’s something that we are talking to Michele Roberts and the players association about, about what our policy should be.

You might be surprised about it. But when I’ve talked to players about it, I think they have mixed feelings, some players. I think it’s not as much about what guys do in the summer. If they want to smoke pot in the summer, whatever. It’s legal in a lot of states, to your point. No issue. I do think there’s a little bit of concern about some of the pot smoking in-season. I think it’s a team sport, and I think part of the reason we have the rules in place, there was a time not so long ago when there were a group of players who felt – because, ultimately, the players association has to agree on any testing – that maybe there was too much pot being smoken in-season.

And, look, my personal views, whether it’s pot or alcohol, I think it’s a sedative in certain ways. It’s certainly not a performance-enhancing drug. Let me put it that way.

One of the things I’ve been talking more about in the last year is mental wellness of our players.

And look, some guys are smoking pot just in the same way a guy would take a drink. And it’s like whatever. “Smoking pot, I’m just using it to come down a little bit or I just want to relax.” No big deal. No issue. And I think it’s the reason why it has been legalized in a lot of states. And from that standpoint, if that were the only issue, maybe we’re behind the times in our program.

On the other hand, there’s also guys in the league who are smoking a lot of pot. And then the question is, why are you smoking a lot of pot? And that’s where mental wellness comes in. Because I’ve also talked directly to players who say, “I’m smoking a lot of pot, because I have a lot of anxiety. And I’m struggling.”

And if that’s the reason they’re smoking a lot of pot – and by the way, alcohol is perfectly legal, and obviously we don’t have a ban against alcohol. We don’t test against alcohol, unless we have a reason to believe there’s a problem. But we don’t want guys to drink a lot, either. And I think if we hear that a guy is drinking a lot – whether it’s the players association, the team or the league – we’re approaching that guy and saying, “Can we help you?”

First and foremost, we want guys to be in great shape. By the way, smoking isn’t great for your lungs.

I feel sometimes that, “It’s uncool that the league still tests for marijuana.” And I think that’s not exactly where the state of the science on marijuana is.

I think that, clearly to the extent it has medicinal qualities, those are things that we should be looking at. Where it’s in terms of pain relief, of course. And that’s something that’s being studied, not just by us. The NFL recently announced they’re studying that issue, as well. And we should look at it.

Last part of this, I think when we change our policy, we have to be very careful, because clearly we’re going to be sending a message to a lot of young people. And at the end of the day, I think we all agree that, whether or not marijuana is a legal substance, just like with alcohol, you still have to teach young people how to use a substance like that appropriately and responsibly and so it doesn’t overwhelm your life.

So, it’s a complicated issue.

There are plenty of unhealthy things – drinking, smoking cigarettes, eating unhealthily, spending too much time in front of screens and on and on – the league allows. It seems silly to draw a hard line at marijuana.

Who wants that?

Do fans care? The increased legalization of marijuana suggests no.

Do owners care? It seems they’re already employing a lot of players who use marijuana.

Do players care? Silver echoed former commissioner David Stern, who said the league began testing for marijuana after players complained of other players playing high. But players probably don’t want their teammates playing drunk, either. And nobody is calling for alcohol testing.

It’s the marijuana-alcohol comparison – that Silver makes himself – that really gets me. Both can be used responsibly and recreationally. Both can be abused. But the NBA prohibits only one.

Silver talks about lung health. Though he ignored that there are other ways besides smoking to get high, the NBA should care about its players’ physical health.

The league should – and does – also care about mental health. Players depriving themselves of all vices probably isn’t good for mental wellness. Those who’d prefer to sometimes indulge in marijuana – as opposed to alcohol or some other vice – are stuck either forgoing or breaking the rules. It’s not good to build the entire system around only those who are abusing the drug.

I also push back on Silver’s think-of-the-children argument. At this very moment, it is either better for the league to prohibit or allow marijuana. I don’t think the previous rule should carry much weight on the future rule. Make the determination that’s best for the league going forward. Again – as Silver said himself – young people need to be taught about responsible drinking. They can be taught about responsible marijuana usage, too. As marijuana becomes legalized, it’s a lesson that already takes greater importance, regardless of what the NBA does.

I appreciate Silver’s nuanced view. His openness to new ideas is one of his defining traits as a commissioner. But he’s also very methodical before acting. It’s hard to see any changes until the current Collective Bargaining Agreement ends in 2023 or 2024.

But given his previous statements on marijuana, this sounds like Silver gradually moving toward a relaxed policy then.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.

Watch Russell Westbrook drain two buzzer-beaters against Blazers

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The Portland Trail Blazers had to know it was not their night when Russell Westbrook knocked down a buzzer-beating step-back 3-pointer just before the half.

Westbrook wasn’t done, he had one more buzzer-beater in him at the end of the third.

Westbrook wasn’t the only guy in the building draining half-courters — for the second-straight game a Laker fan knocked down a half-court shot, this time to win $25,000.

It was a good night all around for the Lakers and their fans at home against the shorthanded Trail Blazers. They got 31 points from LeBron James, plus 27 points and 12 boards from Anthony Davis. Austin Reaves added in 22, and the Lakers took control in the third and cruised in for a needed win.

NBA plans for 2023-24 include in-season tournament (if approved)

2022 NBA Finals - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
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The NBA is planning for the inaugural version of its in-season tournament – should it become reality – to begin early next season, according to a memo sent to teams.

If the tournament is approved, 80 regular-season games for each team would be announced in August, with two more games set to be scheduled depending on which eight teams make the tournament’s knockout stage. Those games would be added in-season to the schedule.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has pushed for the past several years for the in-season event to be added. Talks have gone on about it since at least 2016, and in 2019 the league even created a proposal in which teams would play eight divisional games in the group stage, followed by quarterfinals for the top eight clubs and then semifinals and finals at a neutral site in December.

That evidently remains the footprint. Teams, in Wednesday’s memo, were told to plan for tournament quarterfinal games in early December 2023 – again, the caveat being that the event has yet to be approved.

“It’s something that I remain excited about,” Silver said in September. “I think it continues to be an opportunity within the current footprint of our season to create some more meaningful games, games of consequence, during an otherwise long regular season. … I think fans might really ultimately enjoy another competition during the season, some sort of cup competition. Certainly not rising to the level of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, yet something else significant to play for.”

Silver has often compared the notion of an in-season tournament to what is commonly seen in European soccer.

“It’s all about fan interest,” Denver coach Michael Malone said Wednesday night. “I know they do this a lot in soccer around the world, these in-season tournaments. I don’t know how it’s going to work, the details of it. But if it’s good for the game and the league supports it, obviously all 30 teams and all 30 head coaches will be on board as well. ”

The scheduling process for next season starts with teams telling the league what dates their home arena is available. The NBA wants that list by Dec. 9; the process continues for the next several months.

Wednesday’s memo included clarity on several key dates for the 2023-24 season. Training camps will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 3 for most teams, except those participating in overseas preseason games; they can open camp on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The season begins Oct. 24 and ends April 14, 2024. The play-in tournament will be April 16-19, 2024, and that means that season’s playoffs would begin on April 20.