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July 23, 2024
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Commissioner Adam Silver highlights ‘golden era of French basketball’ before NBA Paris Game

Adam Silver addresses the media before the 2024 NBA Paris Game.

It’s a good time to be a French fan of the NBA and basketball in general.

That was the takeaway from NBA commissioner Adam Silver in his media conference before the Paris Game 2024 Thursday at the city’s Accor Arena.

• The game pitting the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Brooklyn Nets was a regular season contest, a descendant of the league’s first foray into France in the preseason 30 years ago. At the time, there were no French players in the NBA, Silver said, compared to 14 now.

• The most celebrated of them, Victor Wembanyama, was the No. 1 pick in last June’s Draft. San Antonio’s 7-foot-4 unicorn is a leading candidate for this season’s Kia Rookie of the Year award.

• Meanwhile, former Spurs guard Tony Parker, arguably the most decorated French player by NBA standards, was on hand for a brief chat with Silver at a reception the two attended this week. “He said he’s never been busier,” Silver said of the Hall of Famer and four-time NBA champion. “He’s gone from event to event over the last several days.”

• Silver mentioned a new ESPN.com 2024 mock draft that lists three prospects from the country – Alexandre Sarr, Zaccharie Risacher and Tidjane Salaun – among the top six projected picks.

“On top of that, we now have the Paris Olympics only six months away,” the commissioner said. “I said yesterday in an interview that this seems to be a golden era of French basketball.”

The interest in community events this week has been high, a priority identified last year when Silver met with President Emmanuel Macron and the head of France’s basketball federation.

The country is emblematic of the NBA’s burgeoning global growth. Silver estimated that nearly 30% of the league’s rosters now are populated by international players. That includes the winners of the past five Most Valuable Player awards and five of the top MVP candidates this season.

“U.S. players are recognizing they have to pick up their game,” Silver said. “There’s just a larger pool of players competing for every spot on the floor, and just look at the level of competition we have right now.

“[Former Commissioner] David Stern, who began this international movement, if he were here today, he’d be incredibly proud of that number.”

Overseas games have become more accepted, even anticipated, by NBA teams. “There used to be a lot of arm-twisting to get teams to travel … it was even hard for preseason,” Silver said, with teams citing disruptions in routines and coaches’ prep work.

“Now it’s very different. Even in the last few days that I’ve been here, I received several text messages from general managers whose teams are back in the U.S. saying, ‘How about us?’”

Questions on other hot topics

Silver fielded questions on a variety of topics in the news conference, including:

• The In-Season Tournament will be back next year, possibly with some tweaks in format or tie-breakers. At some point, its semifinal and championship games might be staged not in Las Vegas but in Europe or elsewhere. Scheduling within the NBA’s 82-game season is the biggest challenge, but Silver said the league would brainstorm possible options.

He even mentioned the possibility of “a next generation of supersonic jets” that conceivably could cut future travel time in half.

“Everything is on the table,” he said.

• No update was forthcoming on the league’s talks with domestic TV partners. Contracts with Disney/ABC/ESPN and TNT run through the 2024-25 season. Silver said the talks might pick up over the next month or so, given the exclusive negotiating period between the partners.

Silver passed on sharing any details of his conversation with Golden State forward Draymond Green, recently reinstated from a suspension for his history of unsportsmanlike acts. Green, prepping to play again, has missed the Warriors’ past 14 games. He reportedly had considered retiring while ordered to undergo counseling.

“I’m pleased he’s close to being back and I’m glad he views his time away from the floor productively,” the commissioner said.

Asked to recall the best and worst moments from his tenure nearing its 10th anniversary, Silver said he would need time to think of them. Then he mentioned one: mental health.

“I’m not sure how it translates [but] in the States, we’re calling it ‘mind health’ these days,” he said. “NBA players are increasingly embracing the fact that, while you have to be in top-notch physical health to compete, that focusing on your mind is just as important.

“I think the opportunity for the league to have an impact in that area through our programs, destigmatizing some of those issues, making people more comfortable talking about them, that’s something I’m particularly proud of.”

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery

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