NEW YORK -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday afternoon there has been progress made toward striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Players Association and that he can "foresee" a potential new deal being agreed upon between now and Friday night's deadline to opt out of the current agreement.
"I think both sides understand that this is a window of opportunity that we should try not to miss," Silver said during his news conference at the conclusion of this week's meeting of the league's board of governors in midtown Manhattan. "Because if we don't have the deal done this Friday, the next real deadline is June 30, but that's the very end of the season.
"The whole idea behind these early deadlines [is] to try to avoid going right up to the line."
Silver went on to say the league and the union were going to continue negotiating Wednesday night, in the hopes of getting a deal done by the end of the week, and he said there was a "gap" between where things currently stand and where they'll need to get to in order for a deal to be done. From the union's side of things, sources told ESPN there is a similar level of optimism about the state of talks and shared hope a deal could be struck by Friday evening.
There is, however, a key disagreement over how things would proceed if there is not an agreement by the time the deadline passes Friday. Asked what would happen if the league and union don't come to an agreement, Silver said it would be the NBA's intention to opt out of the current agreement.
Both sides have the ability to opt out by June 30 or agree to have the current deal go on for another season.
"It's part of this collective bargaining agreement that this opt-out existed, so we wouldn't be acting outside of the collective bargaining agreement by exercising it," Silver said.
"[But] certain dynamics have changed since we negotiated this collective bargaining agreement. I won't go through the list, but media is one of them. We think there are necessary changes that we would like to make in the current collectively bargained relationship that take into account the realities of what media, the media world, looks like now as opposed to what it did in 2017."
After Silver's news conference concluded, however, the NBPA's executive director, Tamika Tremaglio, issued a statement that the union was disappointed to see Silver say the league planned on opting out and that the union had no intention of doing so.
"The March 31st deadline is an important benchmark, and we are doing everything in our power to reach an agreement with the league," Tremaglio said in the statement. "If we don't have a deal and the league decides to opt out, it will be disappointing considering all the work both sides have put into the negotiations, and the fair nature of our requests. As far as our fans are concerned, it will be business as usual. Games will continue uninterrupted. The NBPA however does not intend to opt out."
Still, sources on both sides stressed there is optimism about the talks and that significant progress has been made. Silver said the league and the NBPA have separated the various issues on the table into different groups, from player health to systemic issues with the league to various economic discussions, adding that both sides can "acknowledge we've come closer together." He also pointed to the negotiations between the two sides to put together the NBA's bubble to successfully conclude the 2019-20 season during the COVID-19 pandemic as an example of the way the two sides have worked together previously.
"This word never gets old but becomes often used in these negotiations, with the goal being let's just make sure it's still fair," Silver said. "Sometimes in partnerships, you have to fall back on words like 'good faith' and 'fairness.'"
On several occasions during queries about the CBA negotiations, Silver referred to the changing media landscape around the sport -- and specifically the ongoing issue with Diamond Sports, the regional sports network company holding the rights to more than 40 professional sports teams (including 16 in the NBA) that filed for bankruptcy earlier this month.
Silver said there would be no issues with broadcasting the remainder of this regular season as well as the first-round playoff games and that there have been discussions about a partnership between the two sides moving forward.
"We're in what I view as very constructive discussions about an ongoing relationship," Silver said. "They [Diamond Sports] still have some restructuring to do."
He also said this is just one piece of a larger shift in the overall media ecosystem -- one the NBA is studying closely, as its current television agreement is set to run through the 2024-25 season -- with a particular focus on the streaming end of things.
"You're clearly seeing an evolution or a morphing of media moving continually to streaming services, and whether it's with our existing partners, Disney [the parent company of ESPN], Warner Bros. Discovery, they are very focused on streaming services, as well," Silver said. "Obviously, other entrants in the market would potentially be interested in the NBA, and at the same time, they are still, when you include the virtual carriers, along with traditional cable and satellite, they are still in 75 million homes. That's still a mainstay of how people are obviously watching our games now and, I think, will watch our games for the foreseeable future.
"What makes this so interesting is most likely we're going to continue to have a hybrid way of distributing our games. I'll just add, it's interesting that just to show things go full circle, when I came into the league in the '90s, there was a lot more local broadcast exposure, and now what we're seeing is a lot of those broadcast stations in our teams' local markets are coming back to the table and expressing interest in once again broadcasting our games. That's terrific news because, obviously, broad reach in those markets too, if you're on over-the-air television."
Other topics Silver discussed:
• When asked about Michael Jordan announcing he could potentially sell his majority stake in the Charlotte Hornets, Silver said the NBA legend has informed him he will remain at least an alternate governor moving forward, assuming a sale does come to pass, and that he will continue to be involved with the league.
"One thing Michael has told me is that whether or not that transaction gets done, he will remain governor in the league, technically maybe the alternate governor instead of the governor, so he'll still stay very involved," Silver said. "He'd still continue to have an interest in the league.
"I recognize that over time, people's interests move on to other areas. He's not living in the market right now, etc. So, completely understandable. But the good news is I think regardless of his ownership status, he will remain part and parcel of everything that this league continues to do. I have no doubt about that."
• Silver said that in his discussions with Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant before suspending him for eight games earlier this month, both he and Morant agreed what's important is how Morant goes forward from here and how successful he'll be in modifying his behavior.
"I think [Morant] understood that while I appreciated his full cooperation, his expression of complete remorse and his acknowledgment of not just how dangerous any activity involving a gun can be but given the nature of his stardom, the millions if not tens of millions of kids who could possibly be influenced by his conduct, what I think we both understood is that what's going to be most important is what happens going forward and how successful he'll be in modifying his behavior," Silver said.
"I have every sense that he took the meeting with me and the discipline enormously seriously," he continued. "And even putting aside anything that I did or within the power of the league that, at least my sense is that it was one of those moments in his life where he realized things could have been so much worse, putting aside, again, any punitive actions from the league, that when the mixture of alcohol and guns is so terrible that something terrible -- something truly horrific could have happened to him or someone else, and even still there's some person out there who could copy something he did.
"My sense was he felt the full gravity of that, but I think where we both ended was, 'Good luck to you, and the most important measure will be how you, again, choose to live your life going forward.' Not to say I didn't believe and feel that everything he was saying to me was genuine, but the measure is going to be how he lives his life going forward."
• Silver also dismissed the idea of replacing Bob Iger as the CEO of Disney, after a recent report indicated he was under consideration to succeed Iger atop the company.
"I love my job at the NBA," Silver said. "I have no intention of going anywhere."