Commissioner Silver talking with Pistons about bringing NBA All-Star Game to Detroit

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Detroit — "With the new arena in town,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he would meet with Arn Tellem, vice-chairman of the Pistons, at the Cavaliers game Monday at Little Caesars Arena to discuss bringing an NBA All-Star Game to the city.

“No new word, today,” Silver said of scheduling the game. “But, I’m meeting with Arn tonight, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about it.”

The commissioner joined Cavaliers owner and Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert during a meeting of the Detroit Economic Club, which turned into 45 minutes of “The Dan and Adam Show.”

The pair appeared in the ballroom of Motor City Casino, with Gilbert posing questions and Silver answering, and posing a few of his own. About 300 people attended.

Silver, who is in his fourth year as NBA commissioner, underscored his beliefs why legalized sports betting prevents corruption. He also stated why he thinks 18-year-olds should be allowed to play in the NBA and reiterated the need for parity in the league.

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Silver was an early proponent of legalized gambling. He publicly took the stand the U.S. Supreme Court struck down federal law May 14 barring single-game gambling in most of the country.

Shortly after becoming commissioner, Silver wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times endorsing the legalization of sports betting.

“Essentially what had happened was, by the that point, the internet had disrupted that industry probably as it had disrupted everyone else’s industry who’s in this room,” he said. “We were in a position just a few years ago where if you put NBA in Google, you’d spend a week looking at the number of sites that, while not incorporated into law, had credit card logos.

“There was clearly an enormous about of betting illegally on sports, to the tune of $400 billion alone, just in the United States.” 

“From a sports league standing point, particularly from the NBA, the view was, you must foster transparency in that market. If there is irregularity in a public market, it can be investigated.

“We’re in a much better position to protect ourselves if there is illegal activity, the equivalent of insider trading in the market,” Silver said. “Number two, it’s also good for business. There’s enough data that if people bet, as a part of their entertainment, there is much more engagement in the sport.” 

For more than a decade, in a rule criticized by many, the NBA has required players to play one year in college or a lower professional level.

Silver said he favors allowing 18-year-olds to play in the NBA. But the NBA players’ union must agree.

Rather than waiting for the collective bargaining agreement to expire in five years, Silver said he has discussed opening it for just one issue.

Among others, the former President Barack Obama and the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had said the rule is unfair.

“There’s no perfect solution here,” Silver said. “I think from the NBA standpoint, we are roughly split.

“The business of college sports has frankly gotten so big. In any market where you attempt to distort the market by putting in a prohibition that you can’t pay the athletes, it just accrues enormous pressure, frankly, for corruption.

“That’s what we’re seeing frankly, in college sports,” he said. “Also, I think there’s a sense from people involved in the NBA and college that if these players are in a position where they can generate this kind of money, maybe they should be paid.”

Since the Pistons won the championship in 2004, four teams, the Heat, Spurs, Lakers and Warriors have won 11 of 14 NBA titles. Only six other teams have appeared in the finals.

Gilbert, owner of the Cavaliers, who won it in 2016, asked about the need to encourage parity.

“This year, there’s definitely more parity, for the first time in a while,” Silver said. “I think ultimately we need to continue to create more parity: Seeing how the CBA works, how the draft works, how the lottery works and trying to find ways to better distribute players.

“I will say, though, basically, if LeBron James is on your team, regardless of who is around him, you know you’re in the playoffs.”

Twitter: @greggkrupa