Charlotte Hornets

Could NBA’s secret labor weapon be clear-the-air Jordan? Adam Silver hopes so

The Charlotte Hornets will hold training camp in Chapel Hill, where team owner Michael Jordan played for Dean Smith before going on to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.
The Charlotte Hornets will hold training camp in Chapel Hill, where team owner Michael Jordan played for Dean Smith before going on to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan is uniquely qualified to be the chairman of the league's labor relations committee.

That's because Jordan has the gravitas to credibly translate the owners' viewpoint to the players and the players' viewpoint to the owners.

Silver specifically mentioned Jordan Tuesday when talking about the issues facing the league that would require compromise with the players association. Among those: competitive balance, as it relates to free agency and the salary cap, and the possibility of changing the draft-entry age for U.S. players from 19 to 18.

Jordan, a hall-of-famer, was a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and won six championships with the Chicago Bulls.

"There's no doubt that so many players look up to him. Many in our current class of superstars look across the table and think, 'That's where I want to be one day,'" Silver said in response to an Observer question.

"He brings unique credibility to the table when we're having discussions (with the players) and even just among the owners, he's able to represent a player point of view. When owners are going into discussions with players, Michael can say, 'Well, look, this is how I looked at it when I was a player, and these are the kind of issues we need to address if we're going to convince players that something is in everyone's interest.''

Other topics Silver addressed Tuesday:

All-Star Weekend

On preparations for the event coming to Charlotte in February, Silver said, "We're spending a lot of time with the Hornets organization — (team president) Fred Whitfield and of course Michael, as well. We want to do things that are unique for North Carolina and for Charlotte."

Draft-entry age

Silver said he favors dropping the draft age to 18, which would effectively eliminate the constant flow of top NBA prospects through a single season of college basketball. That would entail amending the collective bargaining agreement, and National Basketball Players Association director Michele Roberts said earlier Tuesday she anticipates some news on draft-entry rules in the next few months. Likely, the earliest such a rule could take effect is the 2021 draft.

Competitive balance

Silver said he doesn't see the recent dominance of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as a sign the league is dangerously out of balance, but he does think there are issues to explore regarding all franchises feeling they can compete over time if well run.

"I'm not here to say we have a problem, and I love where the league is right now, but as I said earlier, I think we can create a better system," said Silver, who in June raised the possibility of a harder salary cap with fewer exceptions.

"I don't necessarily think it's per se bad that the Warriors are so dominant. ... We're not trying to create some sort of forced parity. What we really focus on is parity of opportunity. A fair point can be made in a (luxury) tax system, when certain teams are spending significantly more than others, that that's not parity of opportunity."

Female referees

Silver said it's "a bit embarrassing" that only one of the NBA's current referees is a woman (Lauren Holtkamp). The NBA has 19 women in the training program, which entails working in the G-League. Silver said it's a priority to get more women officials into the NBA (there have been three in league history).

Midnight free agency

Silver strongly indicated the league's tradition of starting free agency on midnight each July 1 is about to end as soon as next summer, replaced by a more reasonable hour for teams to begin meeting with players.

Gambling

The NBA's owners talked about states other than Nevada now being allowed to approve sports betting and not violate federal law. Silver said there have been discussions with state legislatures and with individual companies owning casinos, both about the NBA receiving fees from gaming entities and possible oversight of the data that would be used in wagering.

"My view is we should be compensated for our intellectual property," Silver said, "but we can do that directly with relationships with gaming establishments."

Summer league

The owners meeting was run in conjunction with the Las Vegas summer league, where all 30 NBA franchises have entered a team. Silver said summer league brought roughly 3,000 NBA personnel — among teams, the league office and media — to Nevada this July.

  Comments