Adam Silver wants return to “normal,” which will not include in-season tournament next year

2022 NBA All-Star - NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
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CLEVELAND — Adam Silver, like a lot of Americans, is longing to get things back to “normal.”

That new normal likely will not be the same as the pre-pandemic normal — nor, necessarily should it be in every aspect — but as the NBA Commissioner addressed the media, he focused his remarks on returning the NBA to its traditional footing. That is his goal now.

“In terms of a post-pandemic NBA, we’re looking for something very much closer to the normal that we are familiar with, and we are beginning to see that already,” Silver said. “As most of you know, with the exception of a portion of the season in Toronto, we’ve seen full buildings. The regulations vary from city to city, state to state, but the teams have all managed to work through those issues, and fans have been eager to come back.”

When asked what this new normal specifically meant, Silver talked about the return to international games, preseason and regular season games played overseas or in Mexico. It’s about the global footprint of the NBA, which is where most of its growth in the coming years will happen.

“One of the things that we look forward to begin doing again is international travel,” Silver said. “We’re very much a global league, and the opportunity to bring teams to other continents, to other places in the world is part of how we believe we grow the sport because we can have, I think, a dramatically larger impact by showing up in those cities creating a lot of excitement around those teams. That’s one thing in particular.

One thing the new normal will not include, at least next season, is Silver’s desire for a mid-season tournament. That idea has fallen flat with fans and many players, but Silver said the success of the play-in tournament at the end of the season should open the players’ eyes to the possibility.

“Now with the in-season we’re thinking not for next year,” Silver said. “But roughly within the same footprint we operate now, maybe we can create some new competitive opportunities, find ways to enhance competition within the season, create a new cup, trophy that players are competing for.”

Here are other topics Silver discussed in his annual meeting with the media.

• Silver was asked multiple questions about the long-term fallout from the Ben Simmons/James Harden trade and situation. While the story certainly generated a lot of headlines for the league, the narrative of one All-Star player refusing to play for his team (and getting fined for it), and another top player passive-aggressively forcing his way off a team (he did eventually ask to leave) was not a good look for the league.

Silver said there is no one simple, straightforward answer to that question.

“I don’t think there will be a time in the future, at least while I’m involved in the league, where society is going to change so much that players aren’t going to express their views on where they want to play or don’t want to play,” Silver said. “But I think there’s a sense around the league that there are improvements we can make to our system…

“Again, it’s no secret that I’ve expressed my unhappiness with public trade demands. In the case of Ben Simmons I don’t think — I can’t think of a change to the system that to the extent you have a player that is willing to sit out and not be paid, which is the scenario we have right now. I don’t want to speak for Ben, but that was the posture we saw that case of a player saying that, I’m unhappy in the city, and I’m not going to play, and you had a team saying we’re not going to pay you, and there’s going to be discipline. There’s a stalemate. Ultimately, he got traded. I don’t want to pretend standing here that I have some secret idea that I know can fix that problem.”

Silver also said no other team has lodged a formal tampering complaint with the league about Philadelphia reaching out to Harden while he was under contract to another team. He said right now there is no league investigation into the situation. He also hinted, since Brooklyn and Philadelphia found ground for a trade, the tampering issue may not be as successful in this case.

• The flip side of this situation is the one with John Wall in Houston, where a player who wants to be on the court is paid not to play. It happened with Al Horford last season, and there are others.

Again, Silver said there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer here.

“I think it’s a problem when players are paid not to play,” Silver said. “In some cases, that’s by mutual agreement with the team… and it’s a hard line there because if it truly is by mutual agreement, I’m not sure the league office should be interfering.

“On the other hand, this goes back to my pay-for-performance point earlier. You have an aggregate hard cap in essence. They’re 50% of our system, the money is paid to the players. For every dollar that goes to a player that’s not producing on the floor, that’s $1 less that’s going to a player that is performing. That shouldn’t be ideal for either players or teams. Do I have a ready fix? No. I think, again, I’m hoping that those are the kinds of issues that when we sit down with the players, we can approach collectively.”

• Silver also talked about diversity in the NBA front office ranks. He said while progress has been made, there are still steps to take at the top decision-making levels with teams.

“We’ve made more progress in other areas. And in terms of CEOs on the business side of teams, we would absolutely love to see more progress there,” Silver said. “One of the things that I have learned that not only do you have to talk about it all the time, but the actual numbers, you have to speak very specifically about it and share that data, talk about it collectively and set targets and move forward there. I think that, no doubt, that’s an area we can do a better job.”

• One area of change Silver suggested — which became a debate on Twitter for a while — was reporters returning to the locker room. Reporters being allowed in locker rooms to talk to players during specific windows (pre- and post-game) were written into the rules pre-pandemic, but went away with health and safety protocols as COVID raged. Silver said he wasn’t sold the practice should return.

“I also think it’s a bit of an anachronism to have reporters in the actual room where players are dressing,” Silver said. “I think it’s different now. I think there are different expectations of privacy, but at the same time I recognize we have to create an environment where you all can do your jobs. I think it’s something, there is an association that you are all members of, that we should sit down and work together.”

Silver focused a couple of times on media watching players dressing and there was quick pushback to the league on that front — trust me, nobody is in there watching players dress. Nobody cares about that, it’s about game and other stories. Silver later walked that part of his comments back in a clarification.

At its heart, this is a debate about teams and players trying to control narratives, especially ones they don’t like. It’s also not a debate that should be litigated right here, right now, but this is going to be an ongoing issue under the surface of the league for a while.

Giannis Antetokounmpo says of Evan Mobley, ‘He can be better than me’

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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Evan Mobley hasn’t taken the leap forward in his second season many expected, partly because he has to adjust to playing with a new, dominant backcourt in Cleveland of Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland. Mobley is getting nearly five fewer touches a game and is not getting the same chances to use his off-the-bounce skills (73% of his shots this season come off zero or one-dribble) as he did when he was a rookie.

That doesn’t mean his superstar potential has gone away. Just ask Giannis Antetokounmpo, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer did.

“He can be better than me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com in an exclusive interview while walking out of Fiserv Forum… “I don’t see why he can’t. It’s up to him. I will always try to improve. Every day. But he has the skill set to be a very, very good player. He’s 7-feet tall. He can move really well. He can shoot. He is very smart. As you said, he watches tapes of other players, which is very, very good for a young player. If he takes this seriously, he is going to be great.”

Better than Giannis? What could possibly make him say that?

“I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo told cleveland.com. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”

One of the players Mobley is known to study on tape is Antetokounmpo. Of course, mirroring the force and athleticism Antetokounmpo plays with is next to impossible, but Mobley has the skill set that could see him become a shot-creator and scorer on the wing with the ball.

The Cavaliers don’t need him to be that with Garland improving and Michell being better than advertised. Cleveland has a top-five offense and hasn’t had to turn to Mobley for more scoring and shot creation. But that can change, especially come the playoffs against the strong defenses of teams such as the Bucks and Celtics. Ultimately, how far these Cavaliers can go in the postseason over the next few years could come down to the growth of Mobley on the offensive end.

Antetokounmpo believes Mobley could be special in that role, which should give fans in Cleveland even more hope.

 

Watch Giannis throw down career-high nine dunks, score 38 in comeback win over Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks taught the Cleveland Cavaliers a lesson in playoff-type intensity well before the start of December.

Antetokounmpo scored 38 points and the Bucks capitalized on a 23-2 run in the first eight-plus minutes of the third quarter to rally past Cleveland 117-102 on Friday night to snap the Cavaliers’ four-game winning streak.

Milwaukee came back from a 16-point deficit by outscoring the Cavaliers 35-10 in the third period. The Bucks hadn’t outscored a team by such a wide margin in a single quarter since Jan. 4, 2019, when they outscored the Atlanta Hawks 43-14 in the opening period of a 144-112 victory.

“We had a little bit of luck on our side and were able to knock down some shots and get downhill and were able to get that momentum and keep it going,” said Antetokounmpo, who also had nine rebounds and six assists. “I think it started from our guards defending the pick-and-roll and Brook (Lopez) just contesting every shot on the defensive end.”

The Cavaliers hadn’t scored less than 15 points in any quarter this season before Friday.

“They turned it up to a level that we haven’t seen, that we haven’t experienced,” said Donovan Mitchell, who led he Cavaliers with 29 points. “That’s playoff basketball, and understanding that they’re going to turn up the physicality (and) everything has to be sharper, everything has to be more precise.”

Darius Garland added 20 for Cleveland. After combining to shoot 14 of 26 and score 38 points in the first half, Mitchell and Garland went 4 of 16 for 11 points over the final two periods.

Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen played only 12 minutes and scored one point before leaving with a hip injury.

The Cavaliers lost for the first time since their last visit to Milwaukee, a 113-98 Bucks victory on Nov. 16.

“We were trying so hard, and we were like running in quicksand,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of the second-half struggles.

Jevon Carter scored 18 points and Bobby Portis had 14 for the Bucks.

After trailing 63-52 at halftime, the Bucks turned the game around in the third quarter.

“It felt like us again,” Portis said. “I feel like for the last couple of games, we haven’t felt like ourselves, for real, missing a lot of shots and just not playing how we play.”

Jrue Holiday, who committed three fouls in the first 1 1/2 quarters, scored his first points of the game in the opening minute of the third. He followed that up with a 3-pointer.

Carter then found Antetokounmpo for a dunk, though Antetokounmpo missed a free throw that would have given him a three-point play. Mitchell scored to extend Cleveland’s lead to 65-59, but a Brook Lopez 3-pointer and an Antetokounmpo dunk cut the lead to one.

Lopez then recorded one of his six blocks to set up an Antetokounmpo 3-pointer that gave the Bucks their first lead of the night with 7:19 left in the third. The Bucks eventually led by as many as 22.

“This is a great lesson for us,” Bickerstaff said. “We played against an established team who knows where they need to go when they need to take it to another level. That’s what we’re learning. They took the game to playoff-level physicality, and those are things we have to learn how to compete against.”

Watch Bam Adebayo score 38, lift Heat to win over Wizards

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MIAMI — Bam Adebayo scored a season-high 38 points and the Miami Heat beat the Washington Wizards 110-107 Friday night.

Caleb Martin added 20 points and Kyle Lowry finished with 13 points while Tyler Herro had 11 points and 10 assists for the Heat, who won their second straight at home against Washington after their 113-105 victory Wednesday.

Adebayo’s two free throws with 1:37 remaining put Miami ahead 105-104 lead then extended the advantage on a short jumper with 38 seconds left.

“It was one of those things where my teammates gave me the ball and I was taking advantage of the mismatch,” Adebayo said. “They were shots (Washington) let me have.”

Adebayo has scored in double digits in all 18 of his appearances this season. He’s had double-doubles in half of those games; Miami is 6-3 in those contests.

“He had a lot on his shoulders, really the last several games with a lot of different lineups and everything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You need that stability from your leaders. I think at some point we’ll print up these shirts, `Mr. Reliable,’ and I’ll wear them, probably.”

Lowry also had eight assists, seven rebounds and a four-point play with 3:15 left for a 103-102 lead – the 11th of what would be 13 lead changes on the night.

And it was another close game for the Heat, who are already 4-3 in games decided by three points or less this season.

“That’s what’s happened really for, it seems like several weeks,” Spoelstra said. “It just feels like every single one of these games is going down to the last possession.”

The Wizards cut the deficit on Bradley Beal‘s dunk before Martin made two free throws with 12.5 seconds for the final margin, then hounded Beal defensively on the game’s last possession and forced the Wizards’ All-Star into a miss to end the contest.

“I take pride in trying to make stops,” Martin said. “Those are the types of situations you dream about, game on the line against a guy like Bradley Beal with the ball late shot clock. I just tried to make it as tough as possible.”

Beal and Kyle Kuzma finished with 28 points Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points for the Wizards.

“We did enough throughout the course of the game to put us in position to win,” said Beal, who returned from a one-game absence because of a quadriceps contusion. “We had several leads and ended up giving up those leads late. It was a matter of us getting stops at the defensive ends.”

Heat leading scorer Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) missed his fifth straight game because of right knee soreness while shooters Max Strus (right shoulder impingement) and Duncan Robinson (left ankle sprain) also sat out.

The Heat rallied from a 12-point deficit late in the first quarter and cut it to 59-56 at halftime.

“Obviously, we had shots late that were makeable to keep them at bay,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.

Another Hornets injury: Hayward out indefinitely with fractured shoulder

Philadelphia 76ers v Charlotte Hornets
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The basketball gods have not been kind to the Hornets this season. LaMelo Ball missed the start of the season with a sprained ankle, got back and played just three games before re-injuring it by stepping on a fan’s foot while chasing a loose ball out of bounds. Miles Bridges will not be with the team. Cody Martin had his knee scoped and is out, and Dennis Smith Jr. is out with a sprained ankle — and that’s just the guys out right now.

Now add Gordon Hayward to the list. He is out indefinitely with a fractured shoulder. Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news.

Hayward will be evaluated week-to-week his agent, Mark Bartelstein, told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Hayward’s wife called out the Hornets for playing her husband when he had a broken bone.

Hayward has a long history of injuries and has battled shoulder issues all season. There had been hope in Charlotte that he could stay healthy long enough to contribute to some wins and build up some potential trade interest (his name came up in Russell Westbrook scenarios, for example). In the 11 games he played, he averaged 16.3 points and shot 38.1% from 3. Of course, a trade was always a longshot because Hayward is owed a fully guaranteed $31.5 million next season, no team was taking that on without sweeteners.

With him injured, a trade is out of the question (other than part of a salary dump).