Amico: Adam Silver’s NBA Is Falling From Grace

Let’s start with this — NBA commissioner Adam Silver is a good man. He is willing to try new things to improve the league, make money, and engage the fans.Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

Silver is also viewed as a “player’s commissioner.” That’s a lot different than his predecessor, the late David Stern, who ruled the NBA with an iron fist.

But Silver needs some help, for the sake of the game. Not just someone who makes rules. And especially not team owners, who quite frankly, view their franchises as a toy. They make their money via other means. Owners are the worst people from whom to seek input on the state of the game.

So who does that leave? Silver and a few people in the league office. Oh, and NBA the players’ association. Never before have I seen a players’ union so cooperative with the league’s decisions. So that is working in Silver’s favor.

Now it’s up to him to save the game, draw in new fans and quit allowing the NBA to only be about 3-pointers, dunks and a bunch of stars constantly missing a bunch of games.

I won’t even bring up the All-Star Game, where the league’s best and brightest were booed off the court. How’s that for your company’s big midseason celebration?

Yeah, not good.

But frankly, this is the league that Silver created. It’s not all bad, and I have nothing against 3-pointers and dunks.

But the 211 points scored by the East in the All-Star Game is just one example of a bigger problem. Basically, Silver’s NBA has become defenseless.

Social Obsession

I can tell you why that is, whether the league wants to admit it publically or not. It’s because Silver and others who have a say don’t think the NBA can make money unless it looks like a video game.

On one hand, I get it. You set up rules that you think are good for business, then pass it off as “what the fans want.” But that’s not the truth. It’s only what fans on Twitter, or X, or Instagram or whatever want.

But those voices aren’t your fanbase. They don’t sell tickets or arrange TV contracts. They just shout opinions and post highlights. That’s nice, but Twitter engagement doesn’t earn the league a single dime. 

The NBA under Silver has put way too much effort into social media clicks and likes. But again, that means zilch when it comes to making money. The league actually tried years ago. It found there wasn’t a penny to be had.

That’s actually not a surprise. For instance, some of the most-read stories on this website have gotten the least amount of traction on social media. Twitter/X has become irrelevant. The response there means nothing when it comes to keeping Hoops Wire alive. If we had to rely on it, we’d be dead. But for whatever reason, the NBA is obsessed with it.

Anyway, the people who love the game are worried. Some refuse to watch a league that they once cherished. My friends know what I do for a living and every last one has turned on the NBA. 

It’s become too gimmicky. Too many threes with rules forbidding defense on the perimeter, and frankly, at the rim. Games where the losing team scores 140 points — in regulation. And what the heck is an “In-Season Tournament?” 

Actually, let me answer that. It’s an act of utter desperation to draw in ratings. Truth be told, that’s a gimmick I can get behind. It was far from perfect but it was worth a shot. The ratings for the NBA during October and November are usually pretty awful. They were better this season.

But that’s a very tiny step for a league that has about 2 million stairs to climb. The biggest complaint I’ve heard? No defense. None. Zilch. Nada. 

Offensive Rules

The NBA allowing the stars to showcase their skills is one thing. We are all in favor of that. But handing out wide-open perimeter shots and easy lanes to the basket isn’t basketball. That’s a publicity stunt, and again, it’s failing miserably.

Silver needs the league to get tougher. Therefore, he needs to get tougher. He’s a nice guy. That won’t be easy.

Silver’s biggest problem is that everyone loves him. When you’re in charge and everyone loves you, that means you’re not doing your job.

This doesn’t all fall on Silver. The “competition committee” of owners and others put the rules in place. Most of the owners don’t know whether a basketball is inflated or stuffed. They foot the massive bills, so yes, they should have a say.

But there are enough people out there willing to buy teams that the league can take its pick. Fall in line or you don’t get the team. These are rules. Live with them. 

It really is that easy.

Saving the NBA can start with implementing simple rules such as allowing perimeter defense. Hand-checking is legal. Do away with “freedom of movement” that allows offensive players to run through the lane without being touched. An offensive “flop” is an automatic ejection.

I’m just spitballing here. I could improve the NBA product and earn the league a lot more money with some real thought. I’m sure many of you could, too.

But that’s not our job. It’s the job of the commissioner. And Adam Silver knows what’s going on. He just has to toughen up and do something about it.

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