Q: There's been a lot of talk about tanking this year. And I get the feeling around the league that some teams, they're being accused of tanking, the people that run those teams feel that they're just following the dictates of the collective bargaining agreement by developing younger teams and losing along the way. Can you please define what tanking is in your opinion and whether you think teams are doing it?
A: “My understanding of tanking would be losing games on purpose. And there's absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game, or certainly in any time that I've been in the league, on purpose. And, to me, what you're referring to, I think, is rebuilding. And I'm not sure it's just a function of the collective bargaining agreement; I think it's — there's a balance with any team of the need to look out to the future and at the same time put a competitive product on the floor. And I think what we're seeing in the league right now is there's no question that several teams are building towards the future. And I think their fans understand that as well. If there was any indication whatsoever that players or coaches somehow were not doing their absolute most to win a game, we would be all over that. But I don't believe for a second that's what's going on. I think we have the most competitive players in the world, the most competitive coaches, and I think they're doing everything they can to win games.”
So you've signaled an interest in looking at the lottery system. Does that have anything to do with the appearance of tanking?
“Was your last word ‘appearance'? The very purpose of the lottery is to prevent there from being an incentive to lose games. And so to the extent that incentives aren't entirely aligned, we'll look at the lottery again. We have adjusted it several times over the years, and we'll adjust it again if necessary. But we'll see. We have a competition committee, that's one of their mandates, to continue looking at that. But I'm not overly concerned right now.”
You've recently spoken about the desire to increase the age requirement for the league. How do you feel like that would improve the game on both the NBA and the college level, and do you feel like that you can get the cooperation from the Players Association to make it happen?
“So the 20-year-old minimum age limit was something we had on the table in the last round of collective bargaining. And when we compromised on a deal, well into what should have been our season, we agreed to park certain issues and return to them. And the age limit was one of them. It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league. And I know from a competitive standpoint that's something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders as part of college programs.”