CLEVELAND — Adam Silver has been made into a fool.
In Week 1 of the NBA season — the opening week! — stars and teams made it pretty clear they’re not playing more because of the commissioner’s new “data” or directives.
Silver, if you remember, established a player-participation policy before this season because attendance from stars was spotty and dragging down the product. Summarized, the new rules carried a simple message: Show up to work more frequently, and especially show up when there’s a national TV audience or during one of Silver’s beloved in-season tournament games.
The NBA also conveniently produced new “data” suggesting that load management doesn’t work. Never mind that it contradicted the “scientific data” Silver referenced at the 2023 All-Star Weekend to essentially endorse rest.
But back then, just eight months ago, Silver was still the “player empowerment” commissioner about to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the union. Now he’s negotiating a broadcasting rights contract — worth billions upon billions of dollars — and needs more commitment from his stars for leverage.
Joe Dumars, who oversees basketball operations for the NBA, went on a media tour to explain why resting doesn’t work despite years of allowing it to happen. Evan Wasch, the league’s executive vice president of basketball strategy, acknowledged the extra motivation behind the push.
“Yes, it’s the case that because we’re negotiating TV deals in the next year or two here, it takes on even greater importance,” Wasch told the Athletic.
Except the players and teams aren’t cooperating.
Through Monday — seven days after the season opener — the following former All-Stars all missed at least one game: Bradley Beal (Phoenix), Devin Booker (Phoenix), Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland), Darius Garland (Cleveland), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Draymond Green (Golden State), James Harden (Sixers), Khris Middleton (Bucks), Kyrie Irving (Mavericks), Jimmy Butler (Heat), Bam Adebayo (Heat) and Brandon Ingram (Pelicans).
Some of those players were healthy DNPs. Others were dealing with minor stuff. Only Garland and Beal were injured enough to miss multiple games. Again, it’s the first week of the season.
We get the sense Silver is willing to deal with these absences as long as his in-season tournament is well attended. It’s his new baby. Keep in mind that another big Silver addition — the reconfigured All-Star Game — was already scrapped following the lowest ratings ever. His play-in tournament has been more successful.
The problem with “the player-participation policy” is it feels so insulting and disingenuous. You have to beg your teams and players to show up to work? You have to provide incentives — like a minimum number of games for postseason awards consideration — to care about the regular season? You have to present new data — which contradicts the old data — to demonstrate that playing the allotted schedule isn’t physically harmful? Meanwhile, you’re also asking John Doe to pay $500 for a family of four to watch.
The solution that makes the most sense — to cut down the number of games — apparently isn’t an option. Why? That cuts deep into revenue.
So instead, the commissioner threatens to take attendance and stars find different ways to not play.
This story originally appeared on NYPost