NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take” that the league is considering going back to the East vs. West format in the All-Star Game this season, after having the top vote-getters in each conference serve as captains for the past several seasons.
“We’re looking at some potential changes in format in Indianapolis this year,” Silver said about the 2024 All-Star Game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. “Maybe a return to something more traditional in terms of how the teams are presented. We went to sort of this captain and draft notion, but clearly historically it was East vs. West. So that’s maybe something we are looking at.”
Silver’s comments came after Joe Dumars, the NBA’s head of basketball operations, said last week that reviving interest in the All-Star Game and All-Stars playing harder are priorities for the league.
Silver said the demands of All-Star Weekend, which is full of events for players beginning as early as Thursday evening, take a toll on their energy by the time the game rolls around Sunday night.
“The All-Star Weekend is quite a spectacle,” Silver said. “I’m always sort of laughing because before the game even starts on Sunday afternoon, people are saying, ‘This is the best ever!’ And I’m like, ‘We’ll, we’ve got this game.’ I’ll take some fault for that because when you’re there this year in Indianapolis, beginning essentially Thursday night and then through Sunday, I think it’s an opportunity for this whole global basketball community to come together. Great legends of the game. Not just the All-Stars, but lots of players. I don’t know how it works in other sports, but we have dozens and dozens of players in the league who choose to come to All Star Weekend for the activities for various events who aren’t even All-Stars. So I think we’ve lost sight a bit that it’s about the game at the end of the day.”
He also downplayed the idea of Team USA vs. The World, acknowledging that while it has worked in other sports — citing the Ryder Cup — and could spark more competitive games, the fact there are fewer international players to pick from would skew the pools of players too much.
Silver also touched on other topics:
• Expanding on comments Dumars made about load management and the league’s implementation of its player participation policy, Silver emphasized that changing the tenor of the discussion around increasing the number of games stars play in is going to require everyone being on board.
“I think there was a consensus that this is a joint issue,” Silver said. “Call it the team, league, player issue. There’s a little bit of fault, you know, for everybody. I would say there are some cases, I think particularly with younger players, I’d say it’s less about a veteran-player issue, where to the extent they come into the league, and it seems to be the norm that the expectation isn’t that we have an 82-game season. I think we had to reset there. But again, I say more directly, we’re not saying this is a player-only issue. We’re saying that for the entire league, we all need to come together. As Joe Dumars says, you know, we are an 82-game league.”
Silver emphasized that he doesn’t believe shortening the season is a solution.
“The other issue that comes up — should the season be shorter. None of us believe that,” he said. “None of the data supports that. As I was saying, back to this issue about load management, we don’t see more injuries later on in the season. Guys aren’t more likely to be injured after they’ve played 40 games as opposed to the first week of the season. I mean, unfortunately, injuries happen.”
• Asked about situations like Damian Lillard and James Harden requesting to be traded, Silver restated his stance: Trade requests have been going on for decades, and the league’s bigger concern is about them spilling into the public domain, as both of those situations did.
“I’ve never made a secret out of this,” Silver said. “This is nothing new in the league, going back to the earliest days. There are players who’d like out of their contract, and I’m sure there are teams that wish they hadn’t entered into certain contracts with players. But of course, the expectation is that everyone is going to honor their contracts. And to the extent that a player or a team is unhappy, those are issues that should be worked out behind closed doors.
“But again, I don’t want to be naive … anytime you and I sit down, there’ll always be some situation you’re going to be able to point to and say, ‘What’s happening there? Why does that player want out of his contract? Or why is that team unhappy?’ And so we’ve just got to manage through those situations.”