Adam Silver

Get ready for betting windows on the concourse of your local pro sports venue

Get ready for betting windows on the concourse of your local pro sports venue

Not sure if you noticed that the state of New Jersey made arguments yesterday in front of the Supreme Court to try to get sports betting legalized in the state.

And the big news is that their odds are pretty good for a favorable verdict -- one that would then quite probably open the door to sports betting on a state-by-state basis.

Just a little insight into legalized gambling on sports: After years of opposing this, pro sports leagues are now coming out in favor of it. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been the most outspoken advocate for legalization:

But I believe that sports betting should be brought out of the underground and into the sunlight where it can be appropriately monitored and regulated.

I think, though, what Silver is really saying is this:

We want to legalize sports betting so we can get our hands on a piece of what could be hundreds of millions of dollars for our league.

I'm told the league -- all of the pro leagues, in fact -- envision betting windows or lounges right there on the concourses of their arenas/stadiums. That would theoretically do two things for pro sports -- bring more people out of their homes and to games, where they can easily and legally make sports bets. And, of course, taking a big slice of the revenue from the action would be the biggest bonanza. The leagues would become bookies and have what could be a new billion-dollar revenue stream.

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We are talking HUGE money here, too. Silver himself estimated illegal wagering as a $400 billion business. A whole lot of states would love to make that a part of their revenue streams, too.

A verdict is expected in June. I would expect the stampede for other states to ratify legalized sports betting would follow shortly after that.

A look back at Steve Jones, even before he became "Snapper"

A look back at Steve Jones, even before he became "Snapper"

In the days when he began work with the Trail Blazers as an on-air analyst – on television and radio – he was just plain Steve Jones, the former star at Franklin High, the University of Oregon and the ABA, where he was a three-time all-star.

He was, in fact, already well known for his basketball skills and later was inducted into the sports Halls of Fame for the Portland Interscholastic League, the University of Oregon and the state of Oregon.

But while working with Bob Costas at NBC, the “Snapper” nickname emerged, a reference to some secret story from the ABA, where Jones and Costas first met, the latter as the broadcaster for the Spirits of St. Louis. Soon, he was one of those one-name guys -- everybody in basketball knew who "Snapper" was.

Jones died Saturday at the age of 75, after battling a health condition for many years. Jones’ health problems began in 2006 when his appendix burst during a broadcast and he decided to finish the game before seeking medical help.

But the incident left toxins in his body that led to complications over many years that he could never quite overcome.

Jones played his final season of professional basketball as a Trail Blazer in 1975-76 and launched a 26-year broadcast career with the team after retirement as a player.

He worked with just about all the Trail Blazer play-by-play men -- Bill Schonely, Pat Lafferty, Pete Pranica, Eddie Doucette, Mike Barrett and even worked for one season with the Sonics in Seattle with current Portland broadcaster Kevin Calabro.

"I grew up watching and listening to Steve," Barrett told me Sunday. "It was always an education. I was humbled to eventually be able to work alongside him, He taught me so much in my early days as a play-by-play broadcaster -- about the league, the game, the road and so much more. I was so blessed to have known him."

I’ve always believed his brightest moments in broadcasting came when he was working alongside Bill Walton. The two forged a friendship and great chemistry as teammates with the Trail Blazers and Jones always had the ability to rein in Walton – something he did better than anybody ever has.

Their interchanges during broadcasts were priceless -- often either great basketball insight or just comedy gold.

At time he wasn’t easy to work with, as he wasn’t afraid to challenge his broadcast partners on the air. He was a guy who could pin a nickname on anyone (including me) and would bust your chops whenever he had the chance.

"He was a terrific guy," Schonely said. "He called me 'Pops.' Always upbeat with that big laugh. And he loved giving everybody a bad time -- and he loved every minute of it. He was a joy to work with and he laughed a lot. He was a good man."

And on the air, even though he loved the Trail Blazers, he was no homer. Of all the analysts the team has ever had, Jones was the one who most resisted over-selling the home team. He played it straight.

He’d often say, “The Trail Blazers just need to learn how they want to score the ball,” which was often code for “The right people have to be shooting.” He told it like it was -- and got away with it -- throughout his broadcasting career.

I believe, along with his attention to national network duties, his unbiased delivery may have eventually led to his quiet disconnect from the franchise in 2006, when his relationship with the organization ended without ceremony or tribute.

He was a noted contrarian. I had the opportunity in my many years of covering the team, to spend time talking basketball with him and what I remember most is his willingness to go against the grain.

If the talk, for example, would turn to the importance of defense in winning championships, Jones would boom his familiar laugh and shake his head.

“If your offense is good enough, nobody can beat you,” he said. “The team that scores the most points usually wins, right?”

The Trail Blazers brought him back from his home in Houston to honor him five years ago and it was a terrific gesture that seemed to lift his spirits. I had the opportunity to do one of my “Posting Up” shows with Steve during that time and it was a joy.

He became an icon in Portland and an important member of the NBA community. Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement Saturday night:

The NBA family mourns the passing of Steve "Snapper" Jones - former Portland Trail Blazer, ABA All-Star and one of the NBA's all-time great TV analysts. We send our deepest condolences to his family and many friends.”

I considered Steve a friend and enjoyed the telephone conversations we had during his retirement years in Houston.

Even in retirement, he was opinionated and speaking his mind about the league he loved.  He taught me a lot about the NBA and basketball in general. I mourn his passing, kick myself for not staying in touch with him more frequently in recent years and wish the best to his family.

We lost one of the great Trail Blazers Saturday.

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

It is being reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is attempting to get the authority to fine teams for resting multiple players in a single game or healthy ones in a nationally televised game.

A fine idea. People pay big money to watch stars play and feel cheated if a player sits out even though he is probably healthy. And networks surely must be miffed when the stars sit out games that the networks pay monstrous sums of money for the right to show.

But like a lot of fine ideas, this sounds great until you try to actually make it work.

Seriously, if LeBron James wants to sit out a game in January, you think the Cleveland medical staff can't come up with some sort of "injury" to justify his absence? And he probably deserves his rest days, given how hard he plays. League-wide, we might begin to see a lot of bogus "injuries."

But I will say this, the whole Popovich/Spurs idea of resting multiple players in the same game CAN be dealt with. And it's gone on long enough. If San Antonio wants to go without 80 percent of its starting lineup, then it must be done for a home game. Let the coach face the wrath of his home fans for that.

I might also add that giving a commissioner unrestricted, absolute power in regard to matters like this scares me. Certainly it doesn't seem to be working well for the NFL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

The Lakers got off way too easy on that tampering charge

There are a couple of things that really bothered me about that $500,000 fine the Lakers got for tampering with Paul George, who was then under contract to the Indiana Pacers.

First, it was not enough of a penalty for a team that was previously warned about tampering with George. By now, you've probably seen this clip from the Jimmy Kimmel Show that features Laker President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson joking about tampering with George. After that show aired, the league specifically sent a warning to the Lakers.

But the Lakers later defied that order when General Manager Rob Pelinka spoke to George's agent. To me, that takes the tampering to an entirely different level. I was shocked the league didn't either take a draft choice away from Los Angeles or, better yet, bar them from signing George a year from now when he becomes a free agent.

The Lakers were caught with their hand in the cookie jar and instead of pulling the hand away, they just dug deeper. That tells you something about the respect that franchise has for the league office.

Does $500,000 sound severe to you? Well, certainly not as tough as when the league took $3.5 million and five draft picks away from Minnesota for an illegal agreement with Joe Smith. That deal also led to front-office suspensions and the Timberwolves being prohibited from signing Smith. On the surface, making an illegal deal seems much worse than whet the Lakers did but really, making illegal contact with the agent of a player a year away from free agency is very serious, too. Particularly when you've been warned not to do it.

I think back to the Trail Blazers being fined $250,000 in 1984 for illegal contact with Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. It was a huge sum at the time and all the Trail Blazers did was agree to explain the salary cap to the players prior to the draft. At that time, a quarter of a million was a whole lot of money. And at a time when the league wasn't nearly as prosperous as the NBA is now.

Of course, those fines were levied by then-commissioner David Stern. I believe the current administration led by Adam Silver is much softer -- on players and ownership. It's a go-along, get-along kind of league now. Everything is cool. Silver just keeps smiling.

Fining the Lakers a half million in today's NBA is a joke. The Lakers -- a company worth billions -- probably spend that much on post-game spreads in the family room. Sure, there is all sorts of tampering going on now -- but what a perfect time to make an example of a team breaking the rules. Certainly a $500,000 fine isn't going to deter a team from illegal contact.

I mean, why bother with those tampering rules if you aren't going to enforce them?

And does anybody think the Pacers would have gotten the same treatment had they tampered with a Laker player? I don't think so. It's no secret the NBA wants the Lakers strong again and wasn't anxious to do anything that would impede their growth.

It's too bad.

 

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Last season, with the Golden State Warriors on the verge of a second consecutive NBA Finals win, the officiating of the series suddenly changed. Cleveland began holding and bumping Steph Curry as he attempted to move without the ball. The game got more ugly.

And not a lot of fouls were called.

I've seen this kind of thing before and it's about time to start bringing out the usual NBA Conspiracy Theories.

In the old days, the story was often told that David Stern would just send an officiating team of "fixers" out to manipulate the outcome of games in order to ensure a longer Finals (more games = more money for the league).  And, it was often said, the league had a desire for the large-market teams to win. And I have to admit I actually suspected some hanky-panky in those days regarding certain games.

But Stern is gone and Adam Silver is now in charge.

So I'm just asking, can we look forward to some radical change in how the rest of the Finals games are going to be called? Will the Cavs be able to wrestle the Warriors into submission?

Well, I'd guess not. I'm not sure Cleveland is close enough to Golden State that officials could actually do much to help.

The Warriors are good. REAL good. I've seen a lot of teams come and go and I think this is certainly at least among the best. This team is in that conversation. And just like the Trail Blazers, the Cavs need help to beat them. I said from the start the only way Portland could beat the Warriors is to play its best game and have the Dubs play their worst.

And it's not much different with the Cavaliers.

Pat Riley was "beside himself" over fine for resting players... in 1990

Pat Riley was "beside himself" over fine for resting players... in 1990

The NBA world is abuzz over the memo that Commissioner Adam Silver sent to team owners recently, warning them of significant fines for resting healthy players. All of a sudden, this is a big issue in the league, even though it's been going on for years.

In fact, way back in 1990, the Los Angeles Lakers were fined what was then the healthy sum of $25,000 for not using healthy stars Magic Johnson and James Worthy in Portland for a season-ending game. And Laker Coach Pat Riley was very indignant about the fine, which was levied by then-commissioner David Stern:

"I'm sort of beside myself on this," Riley said. "Obviously, a new rule has been made, a new precedent set. I didn't do it out of disregard for the league. I did it for the well-being of our players. They do it (rest starters in meaningless games) in other sports."

You can go way back to 1985 and find healthy players being rested and teams being fined for it. Riley's argument is being made these days, of course. And it's hard to argue with it. I've heard all sorts of solutions for this problem but not many of them will solve it. The one getting the most traction is that teams need to give a few days' notice when they're sitting players out. But I find that inadequate simply because so many tickets to most teams' games are sold way in advance, including season tickets.

The best solution I could offer -- and I'm open to reasonable suggestions -- is to make teams sit healthy players out of home games. That way, they're at least not depriving fans of a chance to see stars who make just one appearance a season in their town. Make your own fans unhappy, rather than those of other teams.

I also think it's reasonable for coaches to cut back on some of their players' minutes, rather than have them miss games, or not sit all of their best players down on the same night. I've heard other ideas -- such as dock players' checks for the games they miss while healthy, but I don't think that will work because you'd just see a whole lot of trumped-up injuries or illnesses as an excuse for sitting down. "Flu-like symptoms" would become all the rage. I do sympathize with fans, though. Ticket prices are through the roof and teams often use "dynamic pricing" or variable pricing during a season -- meaning the cost of seeing the best teams and the true superstars is higher than for other games.

And what really irks me is that certain players see these rest days as proof they are stars. A few misguided players, I've been told, believe it to be a status symbol.

But when those big-time players -- the drawing cards -- don't show up on the floor for the game, fans are being ripped off -- just as Portland President Harry Glickman said way back in '90:

"I think (Riley) cheated the fans," Glickman said. "I think it (the fine) was a very appropriate action for the commissioner to take. I felt all along the commissioner would take some kind of action.

"I hope that it sends a message to the Lakers and to all of us that you don't do those kinds of things."

CJ McCollum plays reporter, interviews NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

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CJ McCollum plays reporter, interviews NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

It is no secret that Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum has long wanted to become a journalist one day. He graduated from Lehigh with a degree in journalism, has his own radio show in Portland, and has even launched a high school journalism program to help foster the next generation of sports journalist. This offseason CJ has devoted a lot of time to his post basketball goals, and all this practice paid off with the interview of a lifetime; A one-on-one with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Check it out in the video below.

Silver: Curry may be 'so good that no one else can touch him'

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Silver: Curry may be 'so good that no one else can touch him'

Adam Silver walks into a room and the mood instantly changes. He’s not David Stern. There is no ego or self-importance to the man. He is a basketball fan first and he also happens to be the most powerful person in the game. But you never feel it, or at least he never makes you feel it.

It’s customary for the standing commissioner to take the podium before Game 1 of the NBA Finals to give a state of the NBA address. Yes, the league is as healthy as it’s ever been. No, massive changes aren’t coming.

Silver congratulated the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors for their valiant efforts in the conference finals. He lauded the play of the two teams left standing, as well as their ownership groups and then he stood in to take a fierce round of questions. 

Does he have an issue with the Warriors moving to San Francisco? No, in fact, he supports it. Golden State needs a new arena and the Commish is on board with a relocation across the Bay Bridge.

Will Silver mandate change to keep up with the Golden State Warriors and their record breaking 3-point shooters? Not a chance. He isn’t going to add a four point line or extend the court in order to elongate the 3-point line.  

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