Adam Silver is three months away from being the next NBA commissioner, yet there is little known about Silver other than his 20-year tenure in the league office and being that tall, smiling bald dude standing next to commissioner David Stern.
Did you know Silver has run in two New York City Marathons, attended Duke University during the beginning of the Mike Krzyzewski era, and was a lawyer before joining the NBA?
The reins of the league will be handed to him after a wildly successful 30-year run by Stern, but there is little known about Silver’s long-term plans for the league and whether they differ from Stern’s ideas.
Silver said one of his primary goals is to bring the league’s owners — besides the popular MarkCuban and Micky Arison — more to the forefront.
“I’ve been behind the scenes for a long time and I think there’s opportunity for the public to get to know a lot of our owners a lot better,” Silver said. “We have a whole new generation of owners in this league. For example, here in Boston with Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca. Just think about the new ownership we have out in Sacramento.”
Silver said he wants the league’s owners to aid in the game’s growth internationally.
“I was out in Dallas last week with Mark Cuban and we were talking about it,” Silver said. “We have this new generation of this incredible assembly of some of the best business people literally in the world. To have an owner born in Moscow now [Mikhail Prokhorov], we have an owner born in Tel Aviv in Micky Arison. Taking this league more globally, I think I really need the help of those entrepreneurs and business people who are part of this league. If anything, one of the things we’re going to be working toward is having a greater sense of partnership among the owners to build the entire league.
“And then I’d also do so with the players as well — obviously a generation younger but I think there’s an opportunity to reestablish the very strong bond with the players that’s always existed. Of course, when you go through collective bargaining [in 2011], that’s disruptive to that relationship, but I think with Chris Paul as president of the union, a guy who’s a real leader among players, that creates a real opportunity to grow that bond.”
Stern hinted for years about placing an expansion team in Europe, but didn’t. Silver said the idea remains under consideration.
“I would just say, possibly,” Silver said. “When people talk about expansion, there’s no question that some of the great cities in Europe would be incredibly attractive to the league. And logistically, it’s becoming more of a possibility in terms of state-of-the-art arenas that are now being built. When I was in China, I said we could use some faster planes to make life a little easier, but the potential is there.
“There’s no question the popularity of this game continues to grow with the explosion of interest just with kids participating in this game around the world, and we also recognize the business advantages to having teams in European cities.”
Silver acknowledged he will feel increased anxiety as February approaches.
“I’m getting more excited, but I think it’s one of these things that until you’re actually in the job, it’s the difference between practice and the actual game,” he said. “I’ve been with the league for a long time and I think I’ve done just about everything one could do to prepare for a job like this. There’s no question it will be a learning curve once I actually get in the job.”
The shadow and reputation of Stern loom large, and Silver said it will take time to create his own identity. He won’t hurry the process. Until then, he said he’s thrilled to have the season under way and the league thriving.
“I am just excited about the games,” Silver said. “We have a long offseason. We came off such a high last year with a seven-game championship. I was just ready for the ball to go up. At root, I’m just a big fan and I think we missed the games during the offseason. There were a bunch of moves this summer. A lot of talk among a lot of teams. I just want to see what the guys can do on the court.”
FORGET ME NOT
1970s Celtics lost in shuffle
While the city of Boston celebrates the 11 Celtics championships of the 1950s and 1960s, and reveres the Big Three from the 1980s, and even the new Big Three’s title in 2008, left in the shadows are the titles from 1974 and 1976. Those teams were led by the Big Three of JohnHavlicek, Dave Cowens, and Jo Jo White.
White averaged 18.1 points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals for the 1973-74 team that beat the Milwaukee Bucks in an epic seven-game Finals. White, who is recovering from brain surgery and said his health is “absolutely fantastic, if I was better I’d be scared,” has no issues being overshadowed by the teams of the 1960s and ’80s.
“You could look at it like that [being underappreciated],” White said. “We did what we could for the time that we were there and we tried to play the game with what was left there and what was passed on to us. The [Bill] Russell era and those guys, K.C. [Jones] and Tommy Heinsohn, all those guys relayed some valuable points to us and to take over where they left off.”
The 1974-75 team lost to the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference finals, but the next season, the Celtics bounced back to win the Atlantic Division and defeat the Buffalo Braves and Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoffs before defeating the Phoenix Suns in the Finals.
An aging Havlicek took a back seat to the gifted Charlie Scott and the Celtics featured four players who averaged at least 17 points per game. White was second on the team in scoring at 18.9, adding 5.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.
“[Havlicek] was the best that I have ever played with,” White said. “He’s a guy that could run all day and seemed like he could never even sweat. So, I was following him. I absolutely loved playing on those Celtics teams.”
Heinsohn coached those two title teams in between his Hall of Fame playing career and brilliant broadcasting career.
“Tommy was more like a teammate,” White said. “He still felt like he could get out there and make a few moves every now and then, so we had to pull his coat and say, ‘You’re the coach.’ But I admired him so. When you have those great ones that are willing to pass it on down to the ones who are coming on, it makes playing the game a lot easier.”
Russell makes major impact
David Stern said one of his goals when taking over for Lawrence O’Brien as commissioner in 1984 was to bring Bill Russell back to the NBA family, using him to speak to current players, fans overseas, and cement his status as one of the game’s great elder statesmen.
“It became a goal of mine to really reconnect Bill Russell with our sport, and he’s not the easiest person in case anyone didn’t know this,” Stern said during his speech to celebrate the Russell statue in downtown Boston. “We made him into one of the greatest ambassadors of our sport. We dragged him to China and to be there and listen to fans in 2004 in Shanghai. Yes, they gave BobLanier a shout-out and Bill Walton got some applause, but the greatest applause was for Bill Russell, and the fans had never seen him play but they knew who he was.
“And we took him every place when we reconnected. We took him to NBA All-Star weekend to represent our history and we took him to our rookie transition program to talk to youngsters who didn’t know and who couldn’t comprehend that this man and many of our greatest players stayed at different hotels and ate at different restaurants than their teammates. There was a time not only where there wasn’t an ESPN but when there wasn’t a humanity in our country, and Bill Russell comes back and tells our players that on a regular basis.”
Said Hall of Famer Charles Barkley: “I’ve been fortunate enough to consider him a mentor. He don’t talk to many people, but if you get on the list it’s pretty cool. He’s the funniest guy in the world but he’s not going to talk to you if he don’t know you. He’s probably got more stories than any person I’ve ever known in my life. I’m privileged to be in his circle and I just think it’s great for him for the city of Boston to acknowledge it.”
Mayo thriving in Milwaukee
O.J. Mayo has spent the last five years trying to find solace. He was the third overall pick in the 2008 draft, and was swapped for Kevin Love in an eight-player draft-night trade between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis was never a good fit for Mayo. He was a combo guard who was nudged out of shots by Rudy Gay. Mayo signed a one-year deal with Dallas last season, flourished for the Mavericks during the first-half schedule and faded during the second.
As a free agent this past summer, Mayo agreed to a three-year, $24 million deal with Milwaukee, hoping to find a home at shooting guard and become part of the Bucks’ rebuilding plan. After scoring 21 points in the first two games, Mayo has responded with 44 in the last two, including 28 in a 109-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Mayo’s highest scoring average came during his rookie season in Memphis, but the rest of his career has been uneven. He’s hoping for consistency.
“Basically, it was the best opportunity to take care of my family,” he said of the contract. “It was an opportunity to go in there and be the starting two-guard and play to win. They have a good, young team with young big guys and a new coaching staff and it was a great opportunity for me.”
The Bucks overhauled their roster, adding Gary Neal, Brandon Knight, Zaza Pachulia, Caron Butler, and rookies Nate Wolters and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mayo is cemented as the starting shooting guard, attempting to join Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova as franchise cornerstones.
“For the most part personally [I am getting my first opportunity],” he said. “Dealing with free agency, this was the best opportunity to take care of my family, and having a young team, I think it was a good chance for me as a young guard with some of the things I’ve been through with my previous teams, this is an opportunity for me to be the vet on the roster and try to get some wins in Milwaukee and get another playoff appearance.”
While the smaller-market Bucks may not be a premium team for free agents, they appear to be a perfect fit for Mayo, who needed a change and needed a team to invest in him.
“I think all players [look forward to free agency] when the opportunity presents itself,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players with different abilities that complement each other and I think this was the best opportunity for me.”
The Celtics’ NBADL affiliate in Maine made two important acquisitions in former Orlando second-round draft pick Romero Osby and ex-University of Washington guard Abdul Gaddy. Osby looked as if he could make the Magic roster but was a late cut in training camp and then was taken by Fort Wayne in the NBADL draft. Osby could be the type of inexpensive player the Celtics could add when clubs are eligible to sign players to 10-day contracts in February. Gaddy is more important on a personal level for Celtics guard Avery Bradley. The two played together in AAU ball and high school and have been close friends for 15 years. Gaddy had a rough start to his college career at Washington, but finished strongly and participated in summer league with the Charlotte Bobcats . . . The NBADL draft had some interesting names such as No. 1 overall pick Grant Jerrett, who left Arizona after his freshman season. He is an intriguing big-man prospect. Others taken in the D-League draft were former UCLA forward Alfred Aboya, Boston University’s Carlos Strong, N.C. State guard Cameron Bennerman, Oregon’s Joevan Catron, and former Celtic Ricky Davis, who was a sixth-round pick of the Erie Bayhawks . . . It’s been a tough season for Sanders so far. Not only has he been slowly phased out of the Milwaukee rotation as new coach Larry Drew has used different combinations, but Sanders missed Wednesday’s win over the Cavaliers after an off-court altercation resulted in a sprained thumb. Sanders will not face charges for the incident but he has to distinguish himself after signing a four-year, $44 million extension in the summer. Sanders is now the face of the franchise . . . The Utah Jazz are in desperate need of rookie Trey Burke since the combination of John Lucas III and Jamaal Tinsley has combined for just five assists per game. GordonHayward is Utah’s leading assist man at 4.8 per game. Burke, who is traveling with the team, is expected to return within the next couple of weeks from a fractured finger and that’s when coach TyroneCorbin’s job status could be determined. The Jazz are missing Burke, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Evans, and Andris Biedrins and have been reduced to a two-man team with Hayward and Enes Kanter.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.