Although the Lakers/Nets exhibition game in Shanghai took place as planned this morning, it was hardly a typical preseason affair. Scheduled pregame and postgame press conferences for commissioner Adam Silver and players on both rosters were cancelled at the behest of the Chinese government, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
As McMenamin writes, China also had a hand in cancelling two NBA Cares events involving Lakers and Nets players earlier this week as tension between the league and its top international market continues to simmer.
Still, while the Chinese government has been on the attack over the last several days as it seeks an apology from the NBA over Daryl Morey‘s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors, Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernandez of The New York Times report that the government attempted on Thursday to tamp down on public anger toward the league.
According to the Times duo, the Chinese government seems to be reevaluating its all-out campaign against the NBA due to concerns in Beijing that the situation is hurting China’s image and interests globally. Editors at state-run news outlets have now been told to avoid fanning the flames on the NBA controversy “for fear that it might become overheated,” per Bradsher and Hernandez, who cited three journalists.
As we wait to see how the situation plays out going forward with a second Lakers/Nets exhibition schedule for Saturday in Shenzhen, here are a few more items of interest:
- During a press conference following the Rockets/Raptors exhibition game in Tokyo today, a Rockets official stopped Russell Westbrook and James Harden from answering a question related to the China controversy, insisting that reporters only ask questions about basketball. Per an ESPN report, the NBA issued a statement indicating it doesn’t condone that approach. “A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN’s Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question,” the league said. “We’ve apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events.”
- NBA player agents are advising their clients to avoid addressing the China situation if they can, writes Jabari Young of CNBC. “What I told my guys is, ‘Don’t even talk about it,'” one agent told Young. “I think it’s a fine line, and when you’re walking that fine line, it’s best to not even play around with it.”
- The NBA’s chilly relationship with China is apparently impacting another basketball league — according to an announcement on their website, the BIG3 is postponing a visit to China that was scheduled for the month of November. Rashard Lewis, Mike Bibby, Glen Davis, and Cuttino Mobley were among the former NBA players expected to participate.
- While the game itself between the Lakers and Nets today was practically an afterthought, it’s worth noting that Kyrie Irving was knocked out of the game just one minute into the first quarter after he took a shot to the face. According to Brian Lewis of The New York Post (Twitter link), Irving – who was already recovering from a facial fracture – was diagnosed with a facial contusion. The team doesn’t seem worried that it’s serious, Lewis adds.