NEW YORK — Commissioner Adam Silver is determined to make a schedule that keeps NBA players fresher, and he is willing to discuss starting the season earlier or ending later.
Change could come as early as next season, with fewer stretches of games on back-to-back nights, or four in five nights. He said Saturday during his All-Star press conference that he is concerned with the wear and tear on players.
Silver believes the league can make “dramatic” improvements in those areas.
“We hear everyone loud and clearly,” Silver said. “Certainly our players and our teams, that there’s nothing more important than the health and welfare of our players. And ultimately we want to see players getting appropriate rest and playing at the highest level.”
Just beginning his second year in charge, Silver said his priority is improving the game, whereas much of his early successes were on off-the-court areas.
But business couldn’t completely be ignored, with Silver acknowledging the league and players association are early in discussions about how to handle to the influx of revenue coming when the new TV deals kick in in 2016.
The union rejected the league’s first proposal for how to set a salary cap number the previous season so it didn’t vault too high the following year.
Silver made a schedule tweak this season by lengthening the All-Star break, addressing one concern from players. But that in some cases created more situations where teams had to play four games in five nights during other stretches of the seasons.
He wants to work on that next.
“One of the things we’re hoping to address, even for next season, is to come as close as possible as we can to eliminating the four games out of five nights,” Silver said. “It’s a math formula at the end of the day in terms of the number of days we play, but we think we can make a dramatic reduction there.”
Training camps traditionally open around Oct. 1 and the regular season starts just before Halloween. Silver said coaches would like to keep enough time for camp but perhaps don’t have the same need for as many preseason games, which could allow the regular-season opener to move up.
Ending the season later — the draft is usually the last week of July and free agency opens July 1 — may not be as easy, but Silver won’t rule it out.
“Generally the view has been — in addition it just feels out of sync once you get into the summer — historically those nights haven’t been viewed as the best television nights, once you get into July, and just in terms of households watching TV,” he said.
“I will say maybe that’s something we should look at, too. If we’re truly going to take a fresh look at this, we have to examine what the appropriate time is to begin the season and when we should end it.”
The desire to improve the schedule could hinder a review of the playoff format, another interest of Silver’s. Currently the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs, meaning some teams in the Western Conference will miss out this year despite better records than East playoff squads. Silver would like to find a way to get those teams in and has been receiving proposals.
He thinks East owners would consider it for the sake of improving the product, but there are other concerns.
“I think it’s a difficult issue, because there are no perfect solutions,” Silver said. “And on one hand to the extent you increase the amount of travel, it goes directly against my first issue on reducing wear and tear on our players, and ensuring that on any given night our players are playing at the optimum level.”
He did say that he believes a lottery tweak is still necessary after a proposal to change it last fall fell short. And he wants the NBA, along with USA Basketball, to help improve youth basketball.
“My focus is on the game,” Silver said. “It’s a fantastic game, it’s a great game. But that’s an aspect I believe we can improve.”