NBA commissioner defends Sixers strategy

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball weekend, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New Orleans. (Bill Haber/AP)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver was at the Wells Fargo Center for the retirement of Allen Iverson’s jersey, but he got an earful about tanking teams, specifically the 76ers.

Silver, who addressed the media before Saturday’s game with the Washington Wizards, was asked about a recent comment from former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy that was made at the Sloan Conference on sports analytics in Boston.

Van Gundy said the way the Sixers have gutted their roster was “embarrassing”

Then Van Gundy continued to say why he feels that way.

“Adam Silver can say there is no tanking or what’s going on – if you’re putting that roster on the floor, you’re doing everything you can possibly to do to try to lose,” Van Gundy said.

Silver responded.

“I don’t agree with coach Van Gundy at all,” Silver said. “I just came for locker room spoke to the coach (Brett Brown). It is an insult to the entire league to suggest these guys are going out on the floor and aren’t doing their very best to win games.”

Nobody is saying the Sixers aren’t trying to win once on the court. Even Van Gundy didn’t say that. He said the way they gutted the team gives the Sixers little chance to win. So Silver tried to address that issue.

“Now if what Stan Van Gundy is addressing is what appropriate rebuilding, which every organization goes though and it’s not just sports,” Silver said.

Silver says that any good organization needs long term planning and feels the Sixers are doing exactly that.

“I think what this organization is doing is absolutely the right thing,” Silver said. “What they are doing is planning for the future and building an organization from the ground level up and if you look at what has happened here over the last several years, it is badly needed. Somebody needs a plan, somebody needs a vision to win here and that is what is happening here.”

Silver tried to put up a good argument when asked how he can accept so many non-competitive teams in the NBA. This just in, the Sixers aren’t the only truly bad team in the NBA. Silver’s next comment certainly drew some blank stares when talking about the Sixers roster.

“These players are among the very best players in the world and I don’t accept your premise that these aren’t top notch players,” he said.

When compared to other NBA players, how else are the Sixers supposed to be viewed?

Silver then continued to defend the Sixers.

“I accepted what they are doing here,” he said. “It’s a zero sum game in terms of wins and losses in the NBA. Not every team will be successful every year. What you ask for as fans that there is a strategy and a vision in place to win over time.”

Silver was asked if he was concerned about the fact that it appears NBA teams have to be truly bad before becoming competitive. The restrictive salary cap rules a major reason for this line of thinking.

“I am not sure that is the case that a team has to get all the way to the bottom to get to the top,” Silver said. “You look at the championship teams for example over the last three decades. That hasn’t necessarily been the case.”

Let’s look at the last 30 years. Since 1983-84, the year after the Sixers won the NBA championship, only eight of the NBA’s 30 teams have won a title. That has left a lot of teams in NBA limbo.

Just look at the San Antonio Spurs, who have won four titles in this span. In 1996-97, the Spurs went 20-62 and earned the No. 1 pick in the draft. That turned out to be Tim Duncan, who has been the focal point of the four championships. Two years after Duncan’s arrival, the Spurs won their first NBA title.

Conversely, the NFL, which also has a salary cap, has had 15 different Super Bowl champions in the past 30 years compared to the eight for the NBA.

Those facts aside, Silver says he is concerned with the perceptions about the NBA.

“I don’t want to ignore the issue or pretend I don’t understand the chatter is out there and if there is a perception out there that teams need to be bad to be good, we need to address it,” he said.

He said the NBA’s draft lottery is a way to dissuade teams from losing games to get a higher draft pick. That obviously hasn’t been a big deterrent.

“We thought we solved that problem with the draft lottery and tinkered with it multiple times over the years and if we need to adjust it again we will.” Silver said.

So Silver admits there are concerns, not with what the NBA is doing but what people perceive is happening.

“I am concerned about the perception,” he said. “I am not concerned about what is happening in Philadelphia. I am concerned with the perception in the league that it is not in the team’s interest to do its very best on the court.”

As stated earlier, the perception doesn’t exist once a team takes the court. Yet nobody can deny there are plenty of teams attempting to hit rock bottom before attempting the arduous climb back because they feel there is no better alternative. And that is not perception, but something that should truly concern the NBA.