NBA-China Controversy

China’s CCTV Has No Plans To Resume Airing NBA Games

CCTV, the major state-owned media network in China, has no plans to resume airing NBA games once the league is able to resume play, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes. The network stopped broadcasting NBA content last fall following Daryl Morey‘s tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors.

As Windhorst outlines, the NBA named Michael Ma its new CEO of NBA China this week, and there were signs that the league hoped the appointment would help thaw its relationships with Chinese partners. His father Ma Guoli is regarded as “the father of CCTV Sports,” having run it for the last 16 years, according to Windhorst.

However, the Chinese network is apparently still unwilling to extend an olive branch to the NBA, issuing a statement to the Global Times “reiterating its consistent stance on national sovereignty,” per Windhorst. CCTV’s stance has been that it won’t resume showing NBA games as long as Morey remains unpunished for his tweet.

While the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately be more damaging to the NBA’s finances this season, the ongoing tension with China is also costing the league a significant amount of money. As Windhorst writes, commissioner Adam Silver estimated in February that the NBA had lost more than $300MM as a result of the controversy. If those revenue streams are lost permanently going forward, they’d have at least a modest impact on the growth of the league’s salary cap.

Unlike CCTV, Chinese streaming giant Tencent resumed broadcasting NBA games last October, just a few weeks after the Morey incident. However, as detailed by J. Brady McCollough and Tommy Yang in The Los Angeles Times in February, the relationship between the NBA and Tencent remains tenuous as well, with the service having lost advertisers and having reduced the amount of games it shows.

An industry official told The Times that the deal between the NBA and Tencent, a five-year agreement worth a reported $1.5 billion, could be in jeopardy. It’s currently set to run through 2024/25.

Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Trophy Unveiled

Commissioner Adam Silver announced that the NBA will rename its All-Star Game MVP Award in honor of Kobe Bryant, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kobe Bryant is synonymous with NBA All-Star and embodies the spirit of this global celebration of our game,” Silver said. “He always relished the opportunity to compete with the best of the best and perform at the highest level for millions of fans around the world.”

Bryant was an 18-time All-Star selection and played in 15 of the games. He was named All-Star MVP four times, a record he shares with Bob Pettit (Twitter link from Ben Golliver of The Washington Post).

The league is still in shock over the death of Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash on January 26, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people.

Silver explained that the NBA decided not to cancel its games on that day because fans were already at several arenas and the league wasn’t able to confirm Bryant’s death in time to call off the games. He adds that the decision to play was made after discussion with the Players Association (Twitter link via Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune).

Silver addressed a few other topics in his annual All-Star Weekend press conference:

  • He expects a “return to normalcy” soon in the league’s relationship with China, but can’t predict when that will happen, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Silver adds that NBA games still aren’t being shown on CCTV and said that decision is “outside of our control.” The league won’t press China to begin showing them again (Twitter link). Silver added that the loss of business from China is only partially tied to the league’s revenue decline and expressed hope that the nation might host pre-Olympic games this summer or NBA preseason games in the fall (Twitter link from Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle). Silver expects the loss of revenue from China to be “substantial,” estimating it will be “less than $400MM.” (Twitter link“We accept the consequences of our system and our values,” he added (Twitter link).
  • Silver is still optimistic that the NBA’s Board of Governors will eventually approve a mid-season tournament, but nothing is currently imminent (Twitter link). He said discussions are being held with players and media partners about that tournament and a play-in tourney for the final playoff spots in each conference (Twitter link).
  • The commissioner also discussed a Comcast/Altitude dispute that is preventing many Nuggets games from being shown in Denver. Silver said owners are examining the best methods for distributing their games (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Mavs, All-Star Draft, China, Ball

The Mavericks announced in a press release that they’ve partnered with Chime Banking for a jersey sponsorship deal. While the exact terms of the agreement aren’t known, Mark Medina of USA Today reports that it’s worth “just under eight figures.”

Dallas previously had a jersey sponsorship deal with the company 5miles, but terminated it last year. Following the end of that partnership, the Mavericks had been the only team without a uniform patch in place, as our tracker shows.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • As it did a year ago, the NBA’s All-Star draft will take place on the day of the trade deadline, with the league announcing in a press release that the event will air on TNT at 7:00pm ET on February 6, four hours after the deadline. The top vote-getter in each conference will be an All-Star captain, and those two captains will select their teams from the pools of All-Star starters and reserves.
  • Nets owner Joseph Tsai recently said in an interview with YES Network that the NBA is working to get its relationship with China back on track (hat tip to NetsDaily). “The key thing is we need be broadcast on TV back in China,” Tsai said. “There’s talk NBA ratings are kind of down for various reasons. But we don’t want to see ratings go down globally. We need the NBA games to be back on TV in China.” Tsai faced some criticism in the fall when he wrote a Facebook post essentially defending China’s reaction to Daryl Morey‘s infamous tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors.
  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic takes a look at LaMelo Ball‘s National Basketball League film as he attempts to assess the youngster’s value, ultimately concluding that he wouldn’t feel comfortable making Ball a top-five pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

And-Ones: LaMelo, MVP Votes, Warriors, Fratello

LaMelo Ball doesn’t mind a little campaigning in his effort to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, writes Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports. The buzz around Ball continues to grow as he strings together impressive performances in Australia’s National Basketball League. Over the weekend, he became the first NBL player since 2005 to post back-to-back triple doubles.

“Most definitely,” Ball responded when asked whether he thinks he should be the first pick. “I believe in myself and I’ve worked hard to get here. The other guys at the top of the draft, James [Wiseman] and Anthony [Edwards], are very talented too. But just in the way I believe in myself, I think I’m the top pick.”

Several scouts were in New Zealand recently to watch Ball go up against another projected lottery pick in R.J. Hampton. Many came away impressed, with one scout saying, “The fact that he’s putting up numbers like this in a league full of former NBA players is forcing every team to look at him as a potential No. 1 pick.” 

Ball addressed rumors that he might end his season early to protect his health for the draft. He insists he’s “committed to the whole season,” even though his team is off to a 3-9 start.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Roughly a quarter of the way into the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo is in good position to repeat as MVP, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. In a poll of 101 media members, Antetokounmpo received 48 first-place votes and was the only player listed on all the ballots. LeBron James (29 first-place votes), Luka Doncic (14) and James Harden (nine) were next in line.
  • Declining ratings continue to be a concern, and the NBA has started taking action to address the problem. One solution is fewer national TV games for the Warriors, who have the NBA’s worst record after five years as its marquee team. Golden State’s next two scheduled ESPN games have been replaced, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic, who speculates that more are likely to be removed.
  • Former NBA coach and long-time broadcaster Mike Fratello will be back on the sidelines soon, according to Nicola Lupo of Sportando. Fratello will serve as head coach for USA Basketball in February’s qualifying games for the FIBA AmeriCup.
  • Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the China controversy today, saying a “culture clash” was almost inevitable, tweets Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. NBA games haven’t returned to China Central Television, the main broadcaster in Mainland China, but they are back on Tencent, which Silver called a “thawing” in tensions (Twitter link).
  • Sources tell Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that March 20 has been set for the debut of the NBA’s Basketball Africa League (Twitter link). The first game will take place in Dakar, Senegal.
  • The NBA will consider allowing corporate investors to hold passive minority stakes in more than one team, tweets Alex M. Silverman of MorningConsult. The measure will be part of the agenda at April’s Board of Governors meeting.

Latest On NBA/China Controversy

The storyline that dominated NBA headlines during the preseason has fallen off the radar to some extent with the regular season underway, but that doesn’t mean league and team executives aren’t still concerned about the NBA’s relationship with China.

League sources tell Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com that NBA leadership is monitoring the trade negotiations between the United States and China in the hopes that a resolution on that front will help thaw the league’s relationships in its “most profitable foreign market.” Those relationships have been frosty since Rockets general manager Daryl Morey published a tweet supporting pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong.

Tencent – the NBA’s streaming partner in China – has resumed broadcasting games, but still isn’t showing Rockets contests, as Arnovitz details. Meanwhile, China’s state-run network CCTV hasn’t shown any regular season games at all. While the NBA has remained in contact with CCTV officials, there’s no sense of when the impasse may be resolved.

Arnovitz’s full story at ESPN.com provides an exhaustive, in-depth look at where things stand between the NBA and China, and is worth reading in full. Here are a few more highlights from the report:

  • Terminated sponsorships with Chinese companies have affected teams around the NBA, not just the league itself, according to Arnovitz, who hears that one club immediately reduced its 2019/20 projections for revenue derived from Chinese sponsorships to zero. The Rockets have been hit particularly hard, having lost $7MM+ in cancelled sponsorship agreements for this season, and $20MM overall once multiyear deals are taken into account.
  • Beyond the financial ramifications, some NBA front offices have been “shaken by the turmoil” caused by the drama with China, league sources tell ESPN. As Arnovitz explains, the league has enjoyed increasing revenues and positive media coverage for years, but the China controversy has tested the idea that any issue can be managed.
  • Many team executives would like the league to establish guidelines for dealing with potentially sensitive political topics, since teams and players will likely have to answer those questions in the future — especially on trips to China and India, among other countries. League sources have acknowledged the need for those guidelines, Arnovitz says.
  • Rival executives don’t expect this controversy will impact Morey’s ability to do his job. However, sources close to the Rockets view the marriage of Morey and team owner Tilman Fertitta as a “tenuous fit,” according to Arnovitz. Fertitta has been more averse to paying the tax than his predecessor Leslie Alexander was, and quickly denounced Morey’s tweet last month, announcing that the GM’s views didn’t reflect that of the organization.

And-Ones: Wade, China, Stoudemire, Contracts

Six months after retiring as a player, Dwyane Wade is employed in a new capacity. According to an official press release (via NBA.com), Wade has reached a multiyear, multi-platform agreement with WarnerMedia, and will become a basketball commentator for TNT this season.

In addition to appearing on the network’s NBA broadcasts, Wade will make studio appearances during Turner Sports’ and CBS Sports’ NCAA tournament coverage later in the season.

“I’m thrilled and grateful to be joining the WarnerMedia family with many exciting opportunities ahead,” Wade said in a statement. “I have great respect for TNT’s team of analysts and their longstanding commitment to quality sports coverage. After sixteen seasons in the NBA, I look forward to connecting with my fans in this new role and bringing my own perspective to the game I love.”

Here’s more from around the NBA and the rest of the basketball world:

  • Chinese state television didn’t air the NBA’s opening-night games on Tuesday, while Chinese streaming partner Tencent only showed the Lakers/Clippers game, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst. CCTV typically shows the league’s opening-night doubleheader, but Tuesday’s decision is a signal that the ongoing NBA/China controversy is far from settled. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said earlier this week that the league has “no choice but to engage” China, as Ben Cohen of The Wall Street Journal details.
  • Speaking of China, former NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire has signed the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Assocation, according to reports from Roi Cohen of Sport5 and Emiliano Carchia of Sportando (Twitter links).
  • ESPN’s Bobby Marks provides some financial details on the rookie scale extensions signed on Monday, outlining (via Twitter) exactly how much bonus money is included in five of those deals. Marks also identifies four players who will receive increased partial guarantees as a result of remaining under contract with their respective teams through Wednesday (Twitter link). Those players are Christian Wood (Pistons), Jordan McRae (Wizards), Kendrick Nunn (Heat), and Trey Burke (Sixers).
  • In a conversation with Max Resetar of SLAM, good friends Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, and D’Angelo Russell joked about eventually teaming up. “When we’re all on the same team—I ain’t gonna tell you which team because I don’t know—we’re gonna do this again,” Russell said of the joint interview. While we probably shouldn’t assume the trio is destined to form a Big Three down the road, it’s worth noting that both Towns and Booker tried to recruit Russell to their respective teams when he was a free agent this summer.

Chinese Television Lashes Out At Silver, Morey

China has vowed “retribution” against NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his role in last week’s standoff between the nation and the league, writes Catherine Wong of The South China Morning Post (hat tip to NBC Sports).

In a commentary that aired today, state-run CCTV claims Silver “crossed the bottom line” with his continued support of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who set off the dispute with an Oct. 4 tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Silver said this week that Chinese officials had demanded that Morey be fired, but the commissioner refused to take any disciplinary action, citing the right to free speech. However, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, disputed that claim yesterday.

“Silver has spared no effort to portray himself as a fighter for free speech and used freedom of speech as an excuse to cover for Morey, who voiced his support for the violent actors in Hong Kong,” CCTV said. “This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.”

The broadcast also accused Silver of having “double standards” and charged that he “defamed” China in front of an international audience.

“To please some American politicians, Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving,” CCTV claimed. The network also accused Morey of having “problems in his character” and promised he “will receive retribution sooner or later.”

Charania’s Latest: Kings, J. Brown, Rockets, China, More

One complicating factor in the Kings‘ contract extension negotiations with Buddy Hield is the four-year, $85MM deal the team did with Harrison Barnes earlier this offseason, writes Shams Charania of The Athletic. According to Charania, Sacramento has already expressed some remorse over that deal, since it has set a precedent in talks for Hield and may impact the Kings’ ability to complete extensions for other key players.

Meanwhile, in other rookie scale extension news, Charania says several teams around the NBA are monitoring the negotiations between the Celtics and Jaylen Brown. Sources tell Charania that those teams are waiting to see if they’ll get a chance to “make Boston and GM Danny Ainge pay” with a big offer sheet for Brown next summer.

Here’s more from Charania:

  • The NBA/China controversy appears to be at an impasse for now, with teams around the league waiting to see how Chinese TV networks handle opening night on Tuesday. It’s not clear if China will lift its suspension of NBA broadcasts at that point or if it will continue to blackball telecasts, according to Charania.
  • With Gerald Green potentially out for the season due to a foot injury, the Rockets are “scouring the market” for help on the wing, says Charania. Houston discussed some Andre Iguodala trade scenarios with the Grizzlies, but is reluctant to go way into luxury-tax territory by trading for Iguodala, Charania adds.
  • Charania provides updates on a pair of roster battles, writing that Javonte Green is the favorite to become the Celtics‘ 15th man over Max Strus, while Marquese Chriss is “moving closer” to claiming a regular season roster spot with the Warriors.
  • Free agent swingman Iman Shumpert has spoken to a few teams, including the Bulls and Grizzlies, Charania reports.
  • Charania suggests that Bulls forward Chandler Hutchison has suffered a hamstring strain in “recent days.” His wording makes it sound like it’s either a different injury than the strain Hutchison suffered in early September or a re-aggravation of that injury. The second-year Bull is expected to miss more time, league sources tell Charania.

Adam Silver: China Wanted Daryl Morey Fired

OCTOBER 18: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has said the Chinese government didn’t demand Morey’s firing, per an Associated Press report.

OCTOBER 17: Appearing on Thursday at the TIME 100 Health Summit (link via Sean Gregory of TIME), NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Robin Roberts that the Chinese government wanted Rockets general manager Daryl Morey fired in the wake of his tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong. However, the league refused to entertain that idea.

“We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business,” Silver said. “We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

After Morey published and then deleted his tweet, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta issued a statement saying that the GM didn’t speak for the franchise and that the Rockets aren’t a “political organization.” However, that was about as far as the team or the league went in denouncing Morey. Silver later made a statement saying that the NBA supported Morey’s freedom of expression, a point he reiterated during his conversation with Roberts.

“These American values — we are an American business — travel with us wherever we go,” Silver said. “And one of those values is free expression. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression.”

Silver also said last week that he and the NBA understand that freedom of expression doesn’t mean freedom from consequences, and the league has been feeling the financial consequences of the China controversy.

At the TIME event on Thursday, the NBA commissioner said the league is not only “willing” to cope with lost revenues from China, but that it already is coping with those losses, which have been “substantial.”

“I don’t know where we go from here,” Silver said. “The financial consequences have been and may continue to be fairly dramatic.”

NBA/China Notes: LeBron, Silver, Yao, Tencent

After making some eyebrow-raising comments about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the NBA/China controversy on Monday, LeBron James briefly addressed the subject again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he hopes tension between the two sides dies down. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com details, James made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue discussing the situation going forward, preferring to focus on the Lakers‘ quest for a championship.

“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us,” James said. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”

James’ critical comments of Morey didn’t go over well in Hong Kong, where protestors chanted support for the Rockets’ GM on Tuesday, per an ESPN report. At that protest, LeBron jerseys were trampled and even burnt.

Here’s more on the ongoing NBA/China situation:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver never did meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming while he was in China, but they were speaking at least 10 times per day, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Ganguli also writes that the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which suspended its broadcasts of preseason games in the wake of Morey’s tweet, resumed those broadcasts on Monday without explanation.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN shares an engaging deep dive into the Lakers‘ and Nets‘ meeting last week with Silver in Shanghai, providing details on how LeBron and Kyrie Irving spoke up during that session. Among McMenamin’s interesting tidbits: James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo all had promotional appearances in China canceled, with one unnamed Lakers player losing a $1MM endorsement deal with a Chinese company due to the controversy. Based on a separate report from Bill Oram of The Athletic, that player may have been Kuzma.
  • In a column on the China controversy, Sam Amick of The Athletic notes that Morey’s initial tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors was sparked by a specific development. Sources tell Amick that Morey’s message came in response to a new law enacted in Hong Kong banning face masks during public gatherings. The law is “widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents,” Amick adds.