By Marc Stein | ESPN.com
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN Radio on Sunday that he favors expanding All-Star rosters from their current limit of 12.
On the first day of his second year in charge of the league, Silver added that “this is going to be the year where we have to make those decisions” in reference to proposed tweaks to the league’s current playoff format and draft lottery.
In the wake of what he described as “essentially a tie” in trying to choose between Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Portland’s Damian Lillard to replace injured Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference squad, Silver told the “NBA Lockdown: Insiders” show Sunday night that he intends to broach the subject in the near future with new Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.
Asked to reflect on what he would remember most about his first year as commissioner, with Sunday marking exactly one since he replaced David Stern, Silver said: “That I had to decide between DeMarcus Cousins and Damian Lillard. I didn’t like having to make that choice. I wish I had another slot for Damian because I think he’s deserving of being an All-Star as well.
“I rely heavily on our basketball folks in terms of where the coaches’ [voting] came out. Of course there’s a fan vote for the starters and the coaches choose the reserves. DeMarcus was very high up on the coaches’ vote, so that had a strong influence on me. Ultimately I deferred to them. DeMarcus, based on his numbers, absolutely deserves to be an All-Star. Damian … his numbers are great, too. When I look at his team’s record, I want to take that into account as well. Damian is someone who has literally been a model citizen in terms of what he’s done in the community, he’s done in Portland [and] activities he’s engaged in with the league. It was essentially a tie in my mind, so I ultimately deferred to the coaches.”
Asked specifically about expanding the rosters in the respective conferences to 13 or even 15 players, Silver said: ”I think that’s something that will get very strong consideration. I think that’s an issue that we’ll end up discussing with the Players Association. It has a direct impact on many of the player’s bonuses. There’s preset bonuses in their contracts for making the All-Star team. I think counter-balancing that is the issue of playing time. [NBA executive vice president] Rod Thorn and I were having this discussion yesterday. We said we should move to [Kentucky coach John] Calipari’s platoon system for All-Star to make sure that everyone gets [enough] playing time.
“In all seriousness, that’s one of the concerns with a larger team. We want to make sure guys get minutes as well if they’re All-Stars. I’m in favor of expanding it. I’m not sure if it’s by one or two [roster spots], but it is something Michele Roberts and I will discuss.”
Silver said that he has explained his thinking directly to Lillard and his agent Aaron Goodwin since Cousins was officially announced Friday as Bryant’s replacement.
“He was disappointed, but he understands,” Silver said of Lillard. “When I say he understands, he doesn’t agree with me, but he’s been in this league for a while now and he understands that’s how things go. I think he’s equally disappointed with the coaches because I was the third-tier as a selector. The fans and the coaches went first. I’m sure he’s going to continue to demonstrate on the court why he deserves to be an All-Star.”
Silver had an eventful first year as commissioner, dealing with the Donald Sterling saga and Sterling’s subsequent sale of the Los Angeles Clippers for a record $2 billion, followed by the Atlanta Hawks‘ racially charged ownership and front-office controversies and the unprecedented 24-game suspension Silver issued to Charlotte Hornets forward Jeffrey Taylor after a domestic violence charge.
When asked about what lies ahead as his foremost challenge in Year 2, Silver said: “It’s my hope that I’ll be able to focus almost entirely on building the game of basketball in my second year. It means the kind of things we’ll be doing in All-Star in New York, where we have a program with New York City where over the course of this year we’re going to have hands-on coaching with almost a million New York City schoolkids.
“It means also taking a fresh look at our playoff format, the lottery, things that have a direct impact on the competition. I realize my statute of limitations is going to be up soon on taking a fresh look [at suggestions for change]. I think the second year is going to be a time for action and I think, to an extent, there are ways to improve the playoff format, ways to improve the draft lottery. This is going to be the year where we have to make those decisions. Of course, with our Board of Governors, that is all of the owners, we have to decide which of those ideas are worthy of being implemented.”
On the subject of potential labor strife in 2017, when the players — under Roberts’ leadership — are widely expected to strongly consider opting out of the current labor agreement, Silver said: “I want to be a realist. I understand that it’s become a part of sports. I don’t want to tell fans that they should disregard the things that the head of our Players Association is saying. I take her at her word. Having said that, I think that when we get into full-out negotiating — which won’t be for a long time — and we continue to share our financials as we have historically and everyone takes into account, meaning both the teams and the players, how well this league is operating … I’d like to think that calmer heads will prevail and we’ll all realize that we have a great system here and that we shouldn’t screw it up.”
ESPNDallas.com’s Bryan Gutierrez contributed to this report.
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