Times once were that the NBA had cornered the market on the pro sports conspiracy theorist community, one that believed that the NBA was run by a cabal of shadowy people who ensured an easier path and alignment with mega stars for larger market teams while the middle and lower tier media markets were left to be a farm system for the New Yorks and L.A.s of the world.
The biggest college stars were “rigged” in the lottery process to go to better markets (Patrick Ewing). The big stars in the big markets always got the calls. And even when one of those pesky mid market teams slipped through the cracks into the board room of the big boys, never fear, free agency was calling and an Orlando or a Cleveland was always just a summer away from being looted.
Then, Adam Silver came along.
You can learn a lot from your peers, so it goes, and the NBA’s commish continues to show the righteous way to, by comparison, what is a bunch of bumbling (Gary Bettman) and dishonest (Roger Goodell) peers from other leagues.
Dwight Howard was caught with a stickum substance that he sprays on his hands for better grip this past Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks. Howard, who claims he has used the substance for years to no carping and moaning, was not penalized by Silver and the league.
Instead, the league used it as a teaching moment to reiterate to its member teams what is and is not allowed in terms of putting on your body, as well as pledged to put out a list of acceptable substances that can be used come playoff time. That’s it. (The memo is posted at the end of this article).
There was no multi-million dollar investigation, no witch hunt, no lawyers, slews of press conferences, owners back stabbing owners, and reputations smeared. There were no draconian punishments, appeals, circuit courts, and endless articles about the backgrounds of federal judges.
Other commissioners … specifically the NFL version … could stand to learn from Silver.
Sure, what Howard did was wrong, but if he’s been “doing it for years” as he claims, he probably figured it wasn’t any big deal. The guy was spraying it on in front of however many people were attending that game and watching it on television.
The NBA acted swiftly in closing whatever investigation it had, not wasting millions and months on some bogus Byzantine dog and pony show to appease a public with pitchforks and some angry owners who wanted so badly for something really sketchy to be going on that wasn’t.
In the process, Howard now knows what’s unacceptable, the other NBA clubs know that they’re on notice, and to boot, the NBA is going further to help them understand the difference in what’s acceptable and what’s not. What a concept, using it as a teaching moment.
As a result, this issue will be put to bed rather quickly and cost effectively. Hardly anyone will be talking about Howard’s sticky hands within 24 hours. Silver also probably engendered more faith with his fellow clubs and players, not going to obnoxious measures as some sort of chance to flex his muscle and say, “look how powerful I am!”
That attitude doesn’t foster trust, not only with the players he governs, but the other owners, and just as importantly but also forgotten, the fans. You see, if people cannot trust that the league suits operate on the up and up, fostering an environment where everyone is equal, then your conspiracy theorists come crawling out of the woodwork.
Adam Silver should be commended. He understands what actual “integrity of the game” is, and that it’s in actions, not simply in repeating it in press conferences and rubbing your muddy boots all over it the second the mic is off.
Here is the memo:
“Please be advised that a warning was issued today to the Houston Rockets for the team’s use of an adhesive substance on a player’s hands during a game. The use of any adhesive substance, such as Quick-Drying Tape Adherent, during games is strictly prohibited. For the purpose of clarity, “during games” means the period beginning 90 minutes prior to tip-off until the conclusion of the game.
While league rules prohibit players from using adhesive substances during games, they do permit the use of substances that merely dry a player’s hands – such as resin, chalk, and liquid chalk. In advance of the Playoffs, we will be distributing more specific information concerning what substances players and teams are permitted to use during games.”