Silver: Time zones, miles still hurdles to expanding NBA Euro presence

The world is shrinking, but not fast enough for some NBA devotees in Europe.

Of the questions NBA commissioner Adam Silver fielded in his news conference prior to the 2016 Global Games London Thursday – Orlando vs. Toronto at The O2 Arena – most of them had something to do with geography, distance, time zones and the logistical challenges of staging North American basketball games on other continents.

As Silver answered, he stood five times zones and approximately 3,500 miles away from NBA headquarters in Manhattan. Both the Magic and the Raptors had crossed “the pond,” a.k.a., the Atlantic Ocean, to participate, and both teams had been given four open days before their game Thursday and three more after to adjust to jet lag and otherwise re-acclimate.

Travel issues, more than financial opportunities or hoops missionary work in fertile markets, remain the top challenge to All-Star Games staged overseas, European expansion or other international flag-planting by the league, Silver said. Disrupting the routine of finely tuned athletes locked into the grind of an 82-game regular season is something around which the NBA treads lightly.

“We’re becoming more sophisticated about the impact of fatigue on our players,” Silver said deep into the media session, “and the direct correlation of fatigue and injuries. We want to talk to players association about it. As we all know, when you change time zones … it’s often difficult to sleep when you’ve had quick changes in time zones.”

Just scheduling NBA teams for matinee tipoff times in the States – to provide live televised games overseas – is challenge enough, Silver said. Coaches routinely circle afternoon games on their schedules as potential trouble, given how disruptive it can be to players’ habits and body clocks.

So while it’s easy enough for a player such as Toronto’s Luis Scola to suggest that the NBA send four teams to London or Paris to boost efficiency – playing three regular-season games against three foes, rather than the single Raptors-Magic game – there is a much bigger picture involved.

“I’d love to hear [Scola’s] views on the travel,” Silver said, eliciting some laughter. “Ultimately that is our desire, to bring more teams and be able to play more games. We have a fairly dense schedule throughout the season. We’re playing roughly, over 165 days, 82 games. It’s an average of roughly 3 ½ games a week.”

Clearing out sufficient time for multiple teams –including those from the Central, Mountain and Pacific U.S. time zones – to make the trip, getting All-Stars from as many as 24 franchises to adapt and play, venturing to France and beyond for regular-season games or anchoring a division of NBA expansion teams in Europe all would pose challenges the league is studying, Silver said. For now, there are no simple solutions.

“The next step is to continue to work on grass roots basis here in Europe,” the commissioner said of Thursday’s event. “What’s important for us – while selling out a game in an hour and bringing in a tremendous media interest, that’s all fantastic for us – but it’s got to be part of a larger program. These games can’t just be viewed as one-off experiences.

“We want to make sure we’re part of a larger platform to grow the game. So we’re going to continue to play these regular-season games. We’re working closely with FIBA, closely with the Euroleague to continue building the game of basketball here. And as I said, we to make sure it’s not just a spectacle to come in with two teams and then have interest drop off tremendously once we leave – we want to make sure we have an ongoing impact.”

Among other topics Silver touched on Thursday:

  • The news of Brooklyn owner Mikhail Prokhorov firing his GM (Billy King) and head coach (Lionel Hollins) in a major resetting of the Nets is life in the NBA, Silver said. Referring to a “very steep learning curve,” Prokhorov tried to win big sooner rather than later, signing expensive veteran players and trading away assets such as draft picks. “He’s acknowledged ‘lesson learned’ on his part,” Silver said.
  • Kobe Bryant’s ongoing retirement tour has been good for both the league’s ticket sales and for fans’ ability to see one of the NBA’s greatest players one more time. If Bryant is involved in All-Star Weekend in Toronto next month, Silver said, it will be “a showcase for him” and an “opportunity for the larger NBA community to say ‘thank you’ for his service.”
  • Silver remains optimistic that the owners and the National Basketball Players Association can continue making progress in collective bargaining talks “behind closed doors” and avoid a lockout or strike that would cost games and revenue in 2017-18.
  • Silver agreed with one reporter who wondered if young basketball players might be at risk of overuse injuries related to the number of games they play outside of high school or college programs. Unlike youth baseball, which strictly limits kids’ pitching turns and pitch counts, “you often have these young players playing eight games in a single weekend,” Silver said. He said the NBA, along with the NCAA and USA Basketball have a responsibility to study and establish protocols.
  • No sooner had Silver mentioned that approximately 100 foreign-born players were among the 450 or so on NBA rosters to open the 2015-16 season, he was asked about the eventuality of a player one day representing Austria. “We can’t wait to have the first Austrian in the NBA,” the commissioner said. “ And your next question, ‘When will be playing the first NBA regular season game in Austria…’ ”

7 Comments

  1. Pippo says:

    Easy said: to go to Europe, they must ease down the schedule, i.e. less games, i.e. less ticket revenues (and possibly less TV revenues). In the long term, they could more than make up with extra revenue from Europe but they don’t want to lose TODAY’s revenue.

  2. jackitup says:

    Well, some of the worst comments generating from the NBA is on Inside the NBA tv program. You have to remember these guys have not had much education and it shows.

  3. Jackitup says:

    I was watching the program called Inside The NBA featuring Shaq, Smith EJ and Barkley. Their comments regarding the game was the dumbest I have ever heard regarding this game (who even cares about this game). Well to hell with the whole crew on this program. First of all, it does not surprise me that the NBA can’t find anyone with a brain to comment on games past. These four idiots show us all here in Canada just how stupid the comments generated out of their conversations really are. Most of these commentators are falling asleep on the job. Never seen anything like it before. I have no respect for this show which is one-sided and totally disrespectful to most of the teams in the league. It would be nice to see a new cast with some intelligence take the show over. Take a team like Toronto who is currently in second place, a team that could have won both games against GSW and beat the Spurs and are 1 and 1 against the Cavs, you would think there would be more mention about them. I can only say that in Canada, this show called Inside the NBA is quite the joke and we must all remember that these folks on this show are only idiots.

  4. je says:

    It will be easier to expand to Montreal or mexico or Hawaii or the Caribbean. I bet Puerto Rico would love to have a team

  5. steini says:

    if they’re really interessted in playin in europe, they could maybe go with several teams to europe, and play f.e. 10 games and stay 2 weeks there. i think thats the only way, would be easier for the players and the whole staff.
    i would really enjoy to see more teams in europe

  6. Lol says:

    82 regular season games + playoffs?! This is madness. In europe there’s one league game a week, and cup games a couple of times a year. I got no idea why has NBA used such a wild schedule for over half a century.. Teams don’t even have time to prepare forcthe upcoming games, that’s why the NBA defense is awful. Half of the players still don’t know if Manu is left or right handed lol.

  7. Impressed says:

    London Game 2016 Color Commentators is the worst one in the NBA history I ever watch on NBA TV.