NBA-China Controversy

And-Ones: China, Filipowski, Williams, Mock Draft, Scariolo

Nets owner Joe Tsai believes the NBA is interested in resuming its relationship with China, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. In an interview Friday with CNBC, Tsai said previous tensions have thawed and preseason games may return to the country.

“I think the NBA is in a very good place with respect to its relationship with China,” Tsai said. “China is actually the NBA’s biggest fan base. So what happened before, I think it’s water under the bridge.”

China’s leaders were upset in 2019 when Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey, who was with the Rockets at the time, tweeted his support for anti-government protesters. Beijing responded by pulling the NBA off state-sponsored CCTV for almost two years, and commissioner Adam Silver estimated in 2021 that the dispute cost his league $400MM.

Tsai believes the NBA needs to include China as part of its appeal to a global market.

“I think just having the fans have real, in-person sort of interaction with the stars,” Tsai said. “I think that’s going to be important.”

There’s more news from around the basketball world:

  • Projected lottery pick Kyle Filipowski of Duke suffered a sprained ankle Saturday when Wake Forest fans stormed the court after a victory over the Blue Devils, per Aaron Beard of The Associated Press. The incident, combined with Iowa star Caitlin Clark being knocked down under similar circumstances last month, have sparked a debate about banning students from running onto the court. “Just trying to get my way off the court, and you know, you’ve got these crazy college students just doing whatever they want,” Filipowski said. “It’s got to be a little more protective when things like that happen.”
  • Jeremy Woo of ESPN (subscription required) examines the case for Colorado’s Cody Williams as the top pick in this year’s draft. Woo notes that the 6’8″ Williams has “viable guard skills” and often takes on a play-maker role in the Buffaloes’ offense. He’s connecting at 47.1% on three-pointers in limited attempts, and Woo sees him developing into an above average shooter. NBA scouts tell Woo that Williams would be a mid- to late-lottery pick in a stronger draft, but the absence of standout talent has him in consideration to be the first player off the board.
  • French center Alexandre Sarr tops the latest mock draft from Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. Rounding out Wasserman’s top five are Nikola Topic, Zaccharie Risacher, Matas Buzelis and Ron Holland.
  • The new president of the Spanish Federation wants former Raptors assistant Sergio Scariolo to continue coaching the national team for the next four years, according to Eurohoops.

And-Ones: All-Star Game, China, Howard, RSNs

The 2024 All-Star Game, which will be held on February 18 in Indianapolis, will revert back to the old format of East vs. West, with no captain’s draft, the NBA announced on Wednesday (via Twitter).

According to the league, the All-Star Game will also go back to the normal game format — the fourth-quarter target score with no time limit will be removed, in place of the traditional 12-minute quarter.

The voting process for players to be selected will remain the same, with 12 players chosen from each conference, per the NBA.

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

  • Former All-Star center Yao Ming, who is in the Hall of Fame and is currently president of the Chinese Basketball Association, says the NBA is still “first class” in his native country despite past conflicts, according to Amy Tennery of Reuters. “I have to say, the NBA is in the first class… (because) you know the players being exposed in China for so long,” Yao said. “The players, the teams (are) all still very well welcome in China and (we had) a couple of players with (in) China just this past summer.” As Tennery notes, former Rockets (and current Sixers) president of basketball operations Daryl Morey was criticized in China for tweeting support of protestors in Hong Kong, which strained relations between the country and the league.
  • Dwight Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year who has been out of the NBA since 2021/22, is seeking to have a civil lawsuit he’s facing in Georgia dismissed, per Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Howard is accused of sexual assault and battery by a man named Stephen Harper, with the incident taking place in July 2021. According to Holmes, Howard has denied the claims, saying the encounter was consensual and that he’s being blackmailed for money.
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN takes an in-depth look at what’s happening between Regional Sports Networks and the NBA, primarily focusing on Diamond Sports Group, which filed for bankruptcy and airs games for 15 teams via Bally Sports.

And-Ones. P. Gasol, Mozgov, Crawford, Draft, More

A pair of longtime NBA big men returned to action in Europe this week after lengthy layoffs.

The most notable of the two, Pau Gasol, played for the first time in over two years on Friday, taking the court for Barcelona in EuroLeague play. He logged 13 minutes vs. Bayern Munich, recording nine points and four rebounds (AP story via ESPN).

Meanwhile, in Russia today, Khimki Moscow center Timofey Mozgov appeared on Monday in his first game in nearly three years, per Sportando. Mozgov was last on an NBA roster during the 2018/19 season, but he didn’t appear in a single game with Orlando that year due to knee issues.

Those issues persisted after Mozgov signed with Khimki in 2019, and the NBA even permitted the Magic to remove Mozgov’s cap hit from their books last season since his injury was viewed as potentially career-ending. His return today represents the culmination of a long, impressive comeback.

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

  • Veteran guard Jamal Crawford, who turned 41 in March, is staying ready in the hopes of receiving another NBA opportunity, he told Matthew Brooks and Alec Strum of NetsDaily. “We actually have talked to a couple of teams, so we’re seeing where it goes,” Crawford said when asked about the possibility of a 10-day deal. “We’ve had conversations, which is the good thing.”
  • Although there has long been an expectation that the NBA and NBPA will eventually agree to tweak the league’s one-and-done rule for the draft and let high school players enter again, there haven’t been any meaningful talks between the two sides on the subject for months, sources tell David Aldridge of The Athletic.
  • Using the Hornets’ success with their trio of LaMelo Ball, Devonte’ Graham, and Terry Rozier as a jumping-off point, Louis Zatzman of FiveThirtyEight explores whether lineups that feature three point guards might become more common among NBA teams.
  • During a recent appearance on Mike Krzyzewski‘s “Basketball and Beyond with Coach K’ show, NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the league’s complicated relationship with China. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays some of Silver’s key quotes.

China’s CCTV To Air Game 5 Of NBA Finals

Following a year-long ban on broadcasts of NBA games, CCTV – the major state-owned media network in China – will air Game 5 of the NBA Finals, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes.

CCTV has aired NBA games since the early 1990s, per Windhorst, but pulled them from their scheduled for the 2019/20 season following Daryl Morey‘s tweet in support of Hong Kong protestors last fall.

For most of the year, CCTV’s stance was that it wouldn’t resume showing NBA games as long as Morey remained unpunished for his tweet. However, the network’s statement today stated that the NBA’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China played a part in the decision to resume live broadcasts. According to Windhorst, the league donated over $1MM and medical equipment to China earlier this year.

If the CCTV’s resumption of NBA broadcasts is a permanent decision rather than a temporary one, it would be good news for the league, which lost a significant source of revenue when the network – along with Chinese streaming giant Tencent – stopped airing games last fall. Tencent resumed its broadcasts shortly after the initial boycott, but the company’s relationship with the NBA has remained tenuous throughout the last year.

Estimates have indicated that the NBA faced at least $200-300MM in revenue losses due to the impact the Morey tweet and the subsequent controversy had on its relationship with Chinese partners. With the league also facing significant losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, improving relations with China has been a priority for commissioner Adam Silver for much of 2020, Windhorst writes.

And-Ones: Roberts, China, Coronavirus, Gibson

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts turned down a seven-figure annual bonus earlier this year, a source tells Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic. As Kaplan explains, Roberts’ total compensation during the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2020 amounted to $1.47MM, down $2.85MM from the year before. Kaplan hears that Roberts’ base salary wasn’t reduced and that the difference was a result of her forgoing a bonus.

Roberts is one of a number of notable basketball executives whose earnings were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. NBA commissioner Adam Silver and about 100 of the league’s top executives accepted pay cuts of 20%, Kaplan notes.

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

  • From the conflict with China to the deaths of Kobe Bryant and David Stern to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019/20 NBA season has been one of the most turbulent in league history. With the help of a few players, Scott Cacciola of The New York Times takes a look back at a very strange NBA year.
  • In his own NBA year in review, ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz cites sources who estimate that the league’s potential losses as a result of the China conflict will amount to at least $200MM.
  • Appearing today on CNBC (video link), Nets owner Joseph Tsai expressed optimism about the NBA’s future, indicating that COVID-19 rapid testing and – eventually – a vaccine will allow fans to eventually return to arenas. “Next season is going to be a little bit tricky, because we don’t anticipate having a lot of fans or having full buildings into the arena anytime soon,” Tsai said. “But guess what? The following season, 2022, 2023, we look for a very nice rebound.”
  • Former Mavericks and Celtics guard Jonathan Gibson is signing with the Beijing Ducks, a source tells Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Gibson, who appeared in 21 NBA games between 2016-18, spent most of last season with another Chinese team, the Jiangsu Dragons.

And-Ones: Hampton, China, Hamilton, More

RJ Hampton‘s stock has dipped a little in the last year, as he’s no longer a slam-dunk lottery pick, ranking 13th overall on ESPN’s big board. However, Hampton feels that spending the season in New Zealand was a learning experience and believes he’s still very capable of being a difference-maker at the NBA level, as he tells Ian Begley of

“I was a projected top-five pick last year. I went overseas, I learned a lot, I didn’t have superior numbers and I was kind of forgotten about,” Hampton said. “The message that I was trying to get across (in his video meeting with the Knicks) is, ‘I’m still that same player. I’m still that player that can get you 20-25 points, 6-7 assists, be that lead guard and a franchise changer.'”

Hampton’s jump shot, particularly from beyond the arc, is one potential area of concern for NBA teams. However, former NBA sharpshooter Mike Miller, who has been helping Hampton train in Memphis, is confident that the youngster will eventually be a “high-30s, low-40s percent three-point shooter,” as Begley relays.

“It’s not a guess. I’ve seen the progress he’s done in two months, so I know what the progress is going to be in three years,” Miller said. “… When he continues the way he’s training, he’ll be so dynamic in the NBA.”

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

  • Asked earlier this week by Bob Costas on CNN about the NBA’s relationship with a “brutal human rights abuser like China,” commissioner Adam Silver offered a long explanation for why the league is continuing to try to grow the game there (link via Sopan Deb of The New York Times). I think those are decisions are for our government, in terms of where American businesses should operate,” Silver said. “I continue to believe that the people-to-people exchanges we’re seeing by playing in China are positive and it’s helping.”
  • Former NBA center Justin Hamilton, who appeared in 113 games for four teams between 2013-17, is signing a new contract with China’s Beijing Ducks, agent Andy Shiffman confirmed to JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors (Twitter link). Emiliano Carchia of Sportando previously reported that Hamilton was expected to remain in Beijing.
  • Zach Harper of The Athletic evaluates how much – or how little – the 12 teams eliminated from the postseason so far should be panicking, explaining why the Sixers, Bucks, and Clippers should be a whole lot more concerned than the Nets, Mavericks, and Pacers.

And-Ones: China, Pollin, Wembanyama, OTAs

American coaches who spent time at three NBA training academies in China tell Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of that their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and failing to provide them with schooling.

The NBA opened academies in the Chinese regions of Zhejiang, Shandong, and Xinjiang in 2016, expressing a hope that the facilities would help grow the game in China and educate teenagers, while also helping the league identify top international prospects with possible NBA potential.

However, according to ESPN’s investigation, the academy program – which operates out of sports facilities run by the Chinese government – was described by one American coach who worked in China as a “sweat camp for athletes.” Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada report that multiple American coaches left their positions due to the mistreatment of young players, with three sources telling ESPN that one of those coaches requested a transfer after seeing Chinese coaches strike teenage players.

A handful of incidents were reported to the NBA, and deputy commissioner Mark Tatum – who recently revealed that the league shut down its academy in Xinjiang – told ESPN that the league office “did everything we could, given the limited oversight we had.” However, multiple sources told Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada that the instances of abuse were more prevalent than the few incidents Tatum confirmed.

“Imagine you have a kid who’s 13, 14 years old, and you’ve got a grown coach who is 40 years old hitting your kid,” one former coach told ESPN. “We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.”

The NBA’s relationship with China has been under the microscope since last fall, when Rockets GM Daryl Morey published a tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors that angered the league’s Chinese partners. Given its financial interests in the country, the NBA has been unwilling to denounce China’s government for its human rights record, which has opened the league up to criticism from multiple U.S. politicians in recent months.

While Morey’s tweet and the NBA’s tenuous relationship with its Chinese partners are no longer making headlines like they did last fall, ESPN’s investigation sheds additional light on the complications that come along with the league doing business in China.

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

  • Irene Pollin, the long-time co-owner of the Washington Bullets/Wizards with her husband Abe, passed away at age 96 on Tuesday, the Wizards announced (via Twitter). The Pollins owned the franchise for 46 years before Ted Leonsis assumed controlling ownership in 2010. Irene represented the Wizards at the 2010 draft lottery when the team won the No. 1 pick that was used to select John Wall.
  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype takes a closer look at 16-year-old Victor Wembanyama, a 7’3″ big man from France who is viewed as one of basketball’s most intriguing international prospects.
  • One iteration of the plan for OTAs for the NBA’s bottom eight teams would allow G League players to join those workouts, reports Ian Begley of As Begley notes, the participation of NBAGL players would allow a team like the Knicks – who are carrying a number of possible free agents – to conduct more full scrimmages. The NBA hasn’t yet finalized those proposed OTAs for its bottom eight teams, but they’re expected to be voluntary.

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.