NBA and players' union agree: Age limit's days are numbered

The Washington Post

The NBA and its players' union don't always agree. But after both organizations held their annual meetings here this week in conjunction with the NBA Summer League, it is clear they see eye to eye on one thing: The NBA isn't going to have an age limit for incoming players much longer.

"My personal view is that we're ready to make that change," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday at the end of his news conference following the league's board of governors meetings this week, adding that the change won't be immediate.

Discussions have been ongoing between the league and the National Basketball Players Association for months about changing the age limit from where it stands — 19 years old and a year removed from high school for domestic players; 19 years old for international players — to 18, which would return the league to the days of players jumping straight from high school to the NBA.

In order to allow teams time to prepare for such a change — as well as for the league to come up with the best possible system to develop players once it does — it is widely expected that the changed age limit won't go into effect until the 2021 NBA draft.

According to Michele Roberts, the recently reelected executive director of the players' union, the decision to change the age limit and when it will be implemented could come in the next few months.

"I'm not going to tell you what we talk about," Roberts said. "But I will say, and I know you know, it's been something that has been top of mind for him, for the teams and for us.

"It was, of course, a topic of discussion among the players. So stay tuned."

Silver also said the start of free agency will be shifted to earlier in the day next year — after yet another frenzy of activity took place on July 1 just after 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, the current start time of free agency.

That will allow the NBA to turn the free agent feeding frenzy that takes place each summer into a televised spectacle in a way that, even with ESPN going with wall-to-wall coverage this year, can't take place with the late-night start time.

"I not only heard from my friends in the media, but as I get older, I think we are all tired of all-nighters," Silver said with a smile. "I also heard from several teams, 'Does this really have to be at midnight?' I think that's something we need to find agreement on with the players association, but I think we can change it for next year."

The other main subject of discussion Tuesday at both news conferences was the state of competitive balance in the NBA. The Golden State Warriors appear poised to win a third straight title next season, after keeping their core together, including re-signing Kevin Durant, while adding all-star center DeMarcus Cousins on a one-year deal for the taxpayer's mid-level exception of $5.3 million.

But while both sides may be in harmony about the age limit, Roberts and Silver struck different tones about the state of competition within the league. For her part, Roberts said she sees nothing wrong with the state of the league.

"Do I have any concerns about the balance of talent between East and West? I don't," Roberts said. "I frankly am as excited about this new season as I have been. . . .

"We've got great teams. So I don't mind the chatter. As long as we are talking about basketball, that means people are watching."

For his part, Silver said that while he understands there are always going to be limitations on what can be done as far as competitive balance in a league where one star player can have an outsize impact, he said there still is more work that can be done.

"I don't think it's necessarily, per se, bad that the Warriors are so dominant," Silver said. "Like I've said before, we're not trying to create some forced parity. What we are really focused on is parity of opportunity. . . . There are unique issues, and even as I said during the NBA Finals, LeBron [James] had 59 teammates over the past eight years.

"So we recognize great players, superstar players, are going to have a unique abilities to impact games. But having said that, there are changes we can make to the system that I think will create more competitive balance and more equality of opportunity, and those are things we look at."

Roberts and Silver both deserve credit for creating a harmonious working relationship between the league and its players. While the 2011 negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement nearly cost the league an entire season, the last round of negotiations was wrapped up more than six months before the CBA was set to expire.

With Roberts, who enters her second four-year term as executive director, in her post until 2022, and Silver in his until 2024 after his own contract extension was announced last month, both will now be able to try to replicate the smooth negotiations ahead of the next CBA, which both the players and the league have the ability to opt out of after the 2022-23 season.

Silver also said the investigation into the workplace culture of the Dallas Mavericks in light of sexual harassment allegations that were uncovered by Sports Illustrated this year should be concluded by the end of the month.

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