Latest On NBA/China Controversy

As first reported by Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, there’s a growing concern that the exhibition games between the Lakers and Nets scheduled to take place in China on Thursday and Saturday this week will be cancelled as a result of tension between the NBA and the Chinese government.

As we’ve outlined in a series of stories, that tension stems from a tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors which was published – and quickly deleted – by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Since then, the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver have backed Morey’s freedom of expression, which has upset the league Chinese partners. The NBA has lost sponsors in China, while streaming company Tencent has suspended its broadcasts of all Rockets games and Chinese state-run TV network CCTV has said it won’t show this week’s Lakers/Nets exhibitions.

Of course, as noted above, there are an increasing number of signs that those games won’t actually take place. After an NBA Cares event with the Nets in Shanghai on Tuesday was cancelled by the Chinese government, a similar event with the Lakers was nixed on Wednesday, per an ESPN report. Additionally, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (video link) observes that banners advertising the Lakers/Nets games are being taken down in Shanghai.

Lakers and Nets players were scheduled to speak to reporters early this morning , but an NBA spokesperson announced that the media availability would be postponed, given the fluid nature of the situation, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link).

Here are a few more items on the NBA/China controversy:

  • After issuing an open letter earlier this week that was met with some criticism stateside for echoing language used by the Chinese government, Nets owner Joe Tsai briefly spoke to The New York Post and Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Tsai, who said he’s in the “eye of the storm” as he tries to help the NBA and China resolve the issue, noted that his role is to help both sides understand the other’s perspective. “What I’m simply pointing out is how mainland China feels about this issue,” Tsai said of his open letter. “It’s definitely a third-rail issue for Chinese people on the mainland.”
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich lauded Adam Silver for his comments on Tuesday in which he supported Daryl Morey‘s right to freedom of expression, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “It wasn’t easy for him to say,” Popovich said. “He said that in an environment fraught with possible economic peril. But he sided with the principles that we all hold dearly, or most of us did until the last three years. So I’m thrilled with what he said.”
  • When NBA players arrive in China, they’re generally treated like rock stars, but that hasn’t been the case for the Lakers this week, according to Tania Ganguli and Alice Su of The Los Angeles Times. As the Times duo writes, the Lakers were greeted with little fanfare when they landed in Shanghai, and have seen their plans for the week become “completely disheveled” as a result of the controversy.
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