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NBA commissioner lauds refs, players for airing differences

Associated Press

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes the league's players and referees are on their way to forging an improved relationship.

In his state-of-the-league news conference before the All-Star Saturday festivities at Staples Center , Silver said the NBA "should be playing a very active role in bridging that gap" between the players and referees, whose relationship appears to be growing increasingly tenuous this season.

Representatives from the players' union and the National Basketball Referees Association met in Los Angeles on Saturday. They issued a joint statement describing the meeting as "incredibly productive in terms of opening up the lines of communication between both groups."

Silver praised the groups for getting together on the league's celebratory weekend.

"I was pleased to see they focused on themes of respect and empathy," Silver said. "It's a great statement about the league that these stakeholders think it's important enough and they have an obligation to the game that they should be sitting down and talking to each other. I said it before: This isn't about ratcheting up fines. There are larger issues here."

The groups' joint statement mentioned "enhanced education and clarification around the Respect for the Game rules" and plans for a "broad review" of existing rules, along with developing joint recommendations to enhance them. The sides said there will be future meetings and discussions about the rules, which govern the amount of emotion and protest allowed before technical fouls.

Silver doesn't believe the relationship between players and referees is particularly toxic, noting that the Respect for the Game rules were adopted eight years ago during another tense period.

"Some people felt it was a little bit of an overreaction, that we were turning the players almost into robots," Silver said. "Of course they needed to show a certain amount of emotion on the floor, and a certain amount of emotion was appropriate and wasn't disrespectful of referees. ... We may have slid a little bit back to old practices, at least in terms of the number of technicals called, the number of fouls called (and) the things we look at at the league office.

"There is nothing that aberrational going on right now, but I accept to the extent there is a perception right now that there is an issue, we want to use that as an opportunity."

Among the other topics discussed by Silver in his annual address and news conference:

ONE AND DONE: Silver said the NBA is "conflicted" about the one-and-done eligibility rule, which allows players to enter the draft as 19-year-olds after one year of play in college or elsewhere.

The commissioner said he has met with NPBA executive director Michele Roberts and other union officials to share data about the success rates of young players and discussed other possible methods of youth development.

"From a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we've had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA," Silver said. "On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they're 18, using our G League as it was designed to be as a development league, and getting them minutes on the court there?

"And there is also recognition that for some of these elite players, there is no question that they can perform in the NBA at 18 years old."

Silver said any changes wouldn't happen until the league's next collective bargaining cycle. The commissioner has previously spoken more negatively about the one-and-done rule.

PLAYOFF SEEDS: Silver said the prospect of seeding playoff teams 1-16 regardless of geography has received "serious attention" in recent years.

The obstacle isn't tradition, but the extensive travel likely to be necessary to make it work. However, the possibility still intrigues the league.

"It's still my hope that we're going to figure out ways" to match the league's best two teams in the NBA Finals each year, Silver said. "Maybe ultimately you have to add even more days to the season to spread it out a little bit more to deal with the travel. Maybe air travel will get better. All things we'll keep looking at."

MAGIC'S MONEY: Silver addressed the $50,000 fine given to Lakers executive Magic Johnson for tampering last week, and the commissioner acknowledged there's not a "simple bright line" between Magic 's praise for Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo and other executives' comments about players.

Silver said he talked with Johnson on Friday. The Lakers were fined $500,000 last August for Johnson's comments about Paul George .

"Context is everything, and there had been a prior issue with the Lakers early this season," Silver said. "And the message to not just Magic but to all the executives in the league, is: Stop talking about players on other teams."

TO THE G 30: Silver expects the NBA's developmental G League to expand from 27 teams next season to a full 30 affiliates "quickly." He praised the new two-way contracts available to front offices this season.

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More AP basketball: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball

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