Com­mis­sioner of NBA says the league’s re­la­tion­ship with play­ers ‘best’ in sports

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY GERALD IM­RAY

With a multi-bil­lion U.S. dol­lar new broad­cast rights deal set to kick in from the 2016-17 sea­son, NBA Com­mis­sioner Adam Sil­ver says “it’s a very good time” for the league right now and, he stressed on Thurs­day, the play­ers, too.

The new agree­ment with ESPN and TNT, worth nearly US$24 bil­lion over nine years, will have a “sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the vi­a­bil­ity” of teams, Sil­ver said.

That will also likely see play­ers seek much more in their next col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing op­por­tu­nity, pos­si­bly in 2017, af­ter they had their guar­an­tees of rev­enues slashed four years ago when team own­ers in­sisted that they needed a new fi­nan­cial struc­ture.

The new TV deal, an­nounced in Oc­to­ber, came with an in­di­ca­tion from play­ers that they would be seek­ing a big­ger slice next time round.

“The whole thing that went on with the last ne­go­ti­a­tion process was the own­ers were telling us they were los­ing money. There’s no way they can sit in front of us and tell us that right now,” Cleve­land’s LeBron James said last year.

James said “that with us this time.”

That was fur­ther un­der­lined by Sil­ver’s com­ments on Thurs­day, when he said busi­ness was much bet­ter.

“I would say

will not fly

gen­er­ally

it’s a very good time for the NBA and its play­ers right now,” Sil­ver said.

He was speak­ing in South Africa, where play­ers’ as­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Chris Paul is part of a group of 20 NBA stars set to play an ex­hi­bi­tion game on Satur­day, the first by the NBA in Africa.

For Sil­ver, who took over as com­mis­sioner in 2014, there was an im­proved re­la­tion­ship be­tween the league, the own­ers, and the play­ers now, he said.

“It’s pre­ma­ture to talk about that spe­cific ne­go­ti­a­tion (col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing),” Sil­ver said. “All I will say is that as with any ne­go­ti­a­tion, trust plays a crit­i­cal role. Build­ing re­la­tion­ships plays a crit­i­cal role ... and I would hold up the part­ner­ship the NBA and its play­ers have as the best, as far as I know, in all of sports.”

Sil­ver even high­lighted what he called “the warmth of the per­sonal re­la­tion­ships” be­tween play­ers, NBA of­fi­cials, and team gen­eral man­agers around the ho­tel this week in Johannesburg. Then, he was re­minded of the 2011 lock­out and the ugly stand­off be­tween play­ers and own­ers.

“It doesn’t mean that there are not busi­ness ne­go­ti­a­tions to take place, but again, you know, avoid­ing work stop­pages is some­thing we think about all the time,” Sil­ver said.

AP

In this June 9 file photo, a fan poses for a photo in front of a bill­board fea­tur­ing Cleve­land Cava­liers for­ward LeBron James be­fore Game 3 of bas­ket­ball’s NBA Fi­nals in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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