Waiting In The Wings: Adam Silver

Alone on the stage. - Patrick McDermott

When David Stern retires, will Seattle's NBA future be any brighter in the hands of Adam Silver?

It goes without saying that NBA Commissioner David Stern's relationship with the City of Seattle has been ... well ... strained over the last several years.

To make a long and well-documented story short, the perception is that Stern did nothing to prevent the Sonics from leaving Seattle in 2008 and has gone out of his way ensure that the city doesn't acquire a replacement in 2013.

It is further perceived that he has zero interest in helping Seattle get a team before he steps down from his Napoleonic throne on February 1 of next year. Will any Sonics fan who hasn't circled that date on his or her calendar please raise your hand?

Let us assume, for the purpose of this article, that Stern's parting wish will be granted and the Board of Governors will block with extreme prejudice the purchase and relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle by Chris Hansen.

What then for our quest? I don't know, but one thing is clear. Our fate will rest firmly in the hands of Stern's hand-picked successor, Adam Silver.

According to this Chris Daniels article from October of last year, Stern wholeheartedly agrees.

"Seattle is very much in the mix," Stern said. "My guess is that all of that gets decided when Commissioner Silver [takes over. He] will have a really interesting issue on his plate," Stern added, referring to commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver.

The purpose here to get to know Silver a little bit and attempt to determine whether we will be better off with him at the helm. Here goes.

WHO IS THIS GUY ANYWAY?

From an article by ESPN.com's Henry Abbott...

"Silver almost didn't work for the NBA at all. He grew up north of New York City in wealthy Westchester County; there, he was a Knicks fan and the son of a law partner at Proskauer Rose, where Stern was once a lawyer. After earning degrees from Duke and the University of Chicago, clerking for a federal judge and working for an Oregon congressman, Silver was well on his way to following in his father's footsteps as a successful lawyer.

Then he sent Stern a letter asking for advice on his legal career. Stern was fascinated by Silver and, after several more meetings, offered him a job as a special assistant to the commissioner. Silver accepted on the spot.

"I feel as though I kidnapped Adam for the NBA on his way to a legal career," Stern told The New York Times in 2001."

In essence, then, he is a very talented lawyer who landed a great job through a beneficial relationship with Stern. From the same article by Abbott, we find that he is also a very dedicated and hard worker who loves his job.

"...has essentially lived the job. He lives alone in Manhattan, an easy commute from the NBA offices on Fifth Avenue. Other than jogging or walking his dog, the bachelor has few commitments outside of work."

WHAT HAVE HIS NBA DUTIES CONSISTED OF?

The following video will show that he has worked behind the scenes to make sure that EVERY NBA train runs on time...

The next two videos will make clear that he has been intimately involved collective bargaining issues with the players...


According to an article by cbssports.com's Ken Berger, he has been involved in every major NBA success or failure since he went to work for the league. He has also been a tough negotiator who is not afraid to clash with owners on issues. Some tidbits from the article...

"..."It's a no-brainer (Silver as Stern's successor)," said Spurs owner Peter Holt, the newly elected chairman of the NBA's Board of Governors. Maybe Holt said that because he was in the negotiating room on those many nights last summer and fall when Silver was spearheading the owners' strategy in collective bargaining with the players. Silver and I sometimes clashed over how much was fair to push for -- how much financial carnage the owners were willing to risk to get what they wanted -- but there's no denying Silver's skill and toughness as a negotiator."

"The fact is, for better or worse, Silver, 50, has been involved in almost everything the NBA has achieved and failed to achieve for fully half of Stern's tenure. He's negotiated the league's last two national TV agreements and three collective bargaining agreements with the players, launched the NBA's footprint in China and designed and pushed its global marketing strategy. Silver's had a hand in the exponential growth of the NBA's merchandising business, its digital properties -- including NBA.com and NBA TV -- and most important, he's done right by the owners for whom he works."

"He's been with the league since 1992 and has held every position imaginable, from special assistant to the commissioner to chief of staff to head of NBA Entertainment to deputy commissioner and chief operating officer."

The above-mentioned ESPN article by Abbott and this MSN video will reveal similar information.

HOW DOES HIS MANAGEMENT STYLE COMPARE?

So how will he compare to Stern in style? Will he have the perceived vindictiveness? The alleged strong-arm tactics? The rumored capacity to be a control freak? It's somewhat impossible to determine those answers until he has to do more public things, such as handle a Chris Daniels interview on his own. Some glimpses, however, are available.

Here is some insight from the Berger article above...

"Silver is more pragmatic than Stern, more of a consensus builder. He won't rule with an iron fist, and doesn't have to because the owners already know who he is -- and also because he can't be someone he's not."

Some further insight from the ESPN Abbott article...

"In his various NBA roles over the past 20 years -- deputy commissioner, president of NBA Entertainment, chief of staff -- Silver, 50, has led many of the NBA's more delicate dealings, including television and merchandising deals around the globe. During the 2011 lockout, when it became routine for Silver to join Stern on the podium articulating the league's position, it became overtly clear: Whereas Stern might occasionally bungle a name or meander in his talk, Silver was the man with every necessary fact on the tip of his tongue."

Although Stern will leave a massive hole -- in alpha doggery, tactical aggressiveness and old-school executive heft -- a surprising amount of the NBA's behind-the-scenes power brokering will stay the same.

The differences pointed out in these articles might be the greatest cause for hope. If he doesn't rule with an iron fist, might he be more apt to not hold Frank Chopp against the entire State of Washington? Perhaps.

WHAT ROLE DID HE PLAY WHEN THE SONICS LEFT?

I was unable to find any specific information on his involvement with that debacle. However, consider the following from the Abbott article...

"In his various NBA roles over the past 20 years -- deputy commissioner, president of NBA Entertainment, chief of staff -- Silver, 50, has led many of the NBA's more delicate dealings, including television and merchandising deals around the globe."

Can there be ANY doubt that he was right there with Stern through the entire Sonics departure? I don't see how he wasn't anyhow.

This is a definite cause for concern.

WHAT ROLE HAS HE PLAYED IN THE KINGS SITUATION?

The previous Abbott quote also applies here. This is a very delicate proceeding and Silver has been neck deep in it. For this one, we actually have tangible evidence.

Silver took part in the famous press conference from April 19. Here are some quotes...

"Only that we're not going to speak to the specifics. I'll tell you, it's two entirely different situations. Again, when the Seattle group put down the down payment, that was a contingent deal based on of course the ability to purchase and relocate the team. We're dealing with a different circumstance in terms of potential Sacramento buyers." (when asked whether the Sacramento group would match the non-refundable $30 million deposit)

But to your point, they're practical considerations. We have to plan for a season, so there's a combination of timeline set out in the constitution for making a determination, and then there are also the factors as you point out, not just setting a schedule, selling a tickets for next season, sponsorships. The owners are mindful of all of those factors. (on decision timeline)

From an interview that Silver and Stern did with Charlie Rose on May 1...

"I think it's a public trust of sorts. And that's how communities see their teams and we're experiencing that in Sacramento right now. I think some people are surprised at the preliminary decision the relocation committee has made because they say well but look at Seattle - there's more corporate headquarters, there's more TV households, there's the potential to generate more revenue there - shouldn't you move a franchise to the market where there's more revenue? And our response is not necessarily. That if you look at total value over time, and brand building, and community support, that continuity is important. I mean, look (at) Seattle now. Part of why the citizens there are so upset, and we understand that, is they lost their team to Oklahoma City."

This also is a cause for great concern.

HOW DOES HE VIEW STERN?

CAUTIONARY NOTE: If David Stern sickens you, grab a barf bag before watching the following video (or focus on the interviewer)...

You could look at that interview and chalk it up to a grateful employee who was blowing some obligatory smoke in Stern's direction. Realistically, though, is there any reason to believe that he is not being honest in his gushing praise of a mentor? I think this is authentic.

DEFINITELY cause for concern.

WHAT ARE HIS VIEWS ON EXPANSION/RELOCATION?

Here is some insight on Silver's views from a 2011 article by bizjournal.com's Andy Giegerich...

"It's (relocation) not our first choice," Silver said. "We want teams to remain in their cities for as long as possible."

This also warrants viewing his quote from the Rose article again...

"I think it's a public trust of sorts. And that's how communities see their teams and we're experiencing that in Sacramento right now. I think some people are surprised at the preliminary decision the relocation committee has made because they say well but look at Seattle - there's more corporate headquarters, there's more TV households, there's the potential to generate more revenue there - shouldn't you move a franchise to the market where there's more revenue? And our response is not necessarily. That if you look at total value over time, and brand building, and community support, that continuity is important. I mean, look (at) Seattle now. Part of why the citizens there are so upset, and we understand that, is they lost their team to Oklahoma City."

As for expansion, he seems excited by the idea, though not necessarily in the United States. An article by si.com's Rob Mahoney will demonstrate that...

"When we do expand, we'd need to expand probably with multiple teams, so that you wouldn't have an orphan team in Europe, but that you'd potentially have a division so those teams could play each other more often and NBA teams presumably traveling in Europe could have more teams to play when they're over there," said Silver.

WHAT ARE HIS VIEWS ON SEATTLE?

According to the Giegerich article, he seems to hold no animosity and seems open to a future NBA return...

"As for Seattle, Silver said he and other NBA execs haven't given up on the possibility that Seattle will one day attract another team. It would take a new arena for the league to sign off if another team relocates to Seattle. Silver said Seattle boosters have been in talks with potential owners who'd build a new facility for a Seattle franchise.

"We're not ready to concede that there won't be an NBA team in that market," he said. "I think there's a balance between satisfying fans who don't have their own team and keeping the market open for the potential return of an NBA franchise. It's one of the best potential markets in the United States that doesn't have an NBA team right now. We want a team there partly because it's a strong market and partly because there's a strong tradition of basketball, for more than 40 years, there." "

This seems encouraging, though one must weigh the fact that Stern has made similar statements over the years.

IS HE MORE LIKABLE THAN STERN?

Attendees of your typical NBA draft seem to think so...

SO ARE WE BETTER OFF IN HIS HANDS?

I would say the answer is yes. His demeanor and management style alone would suggest that. However, he is Stern's hand-picked protege and he has been involved every step of the way with our situation. But unfortunately, we really won't begin to know until February 2, 2014.

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