NEW YORK – The NBA plans to keep its next All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, despite its opposition to Utah's ban on transgender youth athletes playing on girls teams.
The Utah Jazz are set to host the event next February but there was speculation the NBA could take it away because of what the team called “discriminatory legislation.”
But Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday the event will stay put as planned.
“There was no discussion over the past two days about moving the All-Star Game from Salt Lake City, and we do not anticipate moving the game,” Silver said.
The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte because of its opposition to a North Carolina law known as HB2 that limited anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people. The game was played in New Orleans before the league returned to Charlotte in 2019.
Silver said the circumstances are different this time, adding that the league didn't want to be in a position where it risked having to keep moving its events as similar laws were becoming more common. When Utah's GOP lawmakers pushed through their ban last month, it joined 11 other states with similar legislation.
“In the case of HB2 in North Carolina, I think it was our collective view, we working with the Hornets, that we could have an impact on that legislation,” Silver said. “I think in the case of what’s happening in Utah right now, that bill is established.
“At least our initial view, working with the Utah Jazz, is that we’re going to have to find a way to work in that environment and create an inclusive environment for our game, rather than take the position that we have somehow an independent ability to change the minds of the voters of Utah in this.”
Silver spoke after the league's Board of Governors met in person over two days, which he said was the first time the full board did that in quite some time.
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Now in its third season, the play-in tournament seems likely to return. Teams who finish in the Nos. 7-10 spots in each conference will play next week for the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds, and the league believes it has made the latter stages of the regular season more competitive with clubs either trying to get into it, or rise above it and qualify automatically in the top six spots.
“We’re pleased with it,” Silver said. “There may be a need to tweak it additionally. We’ll see how it goes this year, but I think it’s going to become a fixture in this league.”
Silver remains concerned about the need for top players to appear in more games, saying it's something both the league and National Basketball Players Association need to address, perhaps by adding more incentives or trimming the 82-game schedule.
“I also have said in the past, if we have too many games, that’s something we should look at as well. It’s something, as we sit down and we’re looking at new media deals and looking at a new collective bargaining agreement, we will be studying,” Silver said.
“There wasn’t any banging of the table or anything like that. From my discussions with players, they recognize it’s an issue, too. The style of the game has changed in terms of the impact on their bodies. I think we’ve got to constantly assess and look at a marketplace going forward and say, what’s the best way to present our product and over how long a season?”
Silver said the Competition Committee is looking at what's known as take fouls, where players commit an intentional foul sometimes in the middle of the court to prevent a fast break. He indicated a new rule could be coming, perhaps in July.
“But as we’re seeing sort of a pretty dramatic increase in take fouls, we don’t think it’s a great part of our game,” Silver said. “International basketball has another way of getting at it, but that is something that potentially we’d like to tweak.”