Political question to James Harden and Russell Westbrook shut down: ‘Basketball questions only’ (video)

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver: “The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”

Also Silver’s NBA: We’ll cancel media availability at the behest of the Chinese government.

Operating a business globally requires compromises. The NBA is learning that the hard way after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, who are seeking to maintain and expand their freedoms. China and Chinese business are retaliating and costing the NBA money.

Many NBA players – including Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook – also act as global brands. So, they face similar dilemmas. Harden, standing with Westbrook, even said, “We apologize. We love China.”

Does a situation like this make Harden and Westbrook less likely to speak about political issues?

That was the question CNN’s Christina Macfarlane asked them today.

Off camera, a spokeswoman said they were taking only basketball questions. She added that the question had already been answered.

Macfarlane said her particular question hadn’t been answered, and I believe she’s right. If it has been, I haven’t seen it.

It’s unclear whether the spokeswoman works for the NBA, Rockets or someone else.

“Basketball questions only” is a common response to touchy subjects. It’s getting heightened attention now, with controversy swirling about free speech and the NBA. But it’s not some new tactic to protect China or the NBA’s business interests there. If you have a problem with this heavy-handedness, you should have a problem with it the many other times it happens.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Harden and Westbrook decided before the press conference not to answer political questions. Either could have spoken up, but didn’t, allowing the spokeswoman to deflect on their behalf. Whoever the spokeswoman works for, the star guards surely held more clout in this situation.

It’s fine for Harden and Westbrook not to answer those questions. They’re basketball players. If they want to participate in the discussion, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s also their right.

But “basketball questions only” is a facade. Westbrook had already answered a question totally about rugby.

Let’s call a spade a spade: Many are afraid of sticking their foot in their mouths on China, Hong Kong and the NBA after Morey’s tweet. It’s easier just to stay silent.

Watch Common do epic NBA All-Star intros (video)

Common at NBA All-Star
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CHICAGO – Common is so, so talented.

If anything happens during the NBA All-Star game even half as cool as these player introductions, we’ll be quite lucky:

Magic Johnson, Jennifer Hudson give stirring pre-All-Star tribute to Kobe Bryant

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CHICAGO — The spirit and legacy of Kobe Bryant have been celebrated all weekend in Chicago.

However, never better than before the tip-off of the All-Star Game on Sunday night when Magic Johnson spoke from the heart about Kobe, and then led a moment of silence.

Then Jennifer Hudson sang a tribute to him.

It was powerful.

Well done NBA. Well done indeed.

Adam Silver: I ‘strongly believe’ NBA will add in-season and play-in tournaments

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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CHICAGO – NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted to overhaul the schedule – including in-season and play-in tournaments – for the league’s 75th-anniversary season, 2021-22.

Instead, the Board of Governors vote planned for April was canceled.

Not because the ideas were unpopular, according to Silver. Because they were too popular.

“When we went to our teams, the Players Association and our media partners – probably the most important constituents in making changes,” Silver said, “the response we got was that, frankly, there was so much interest that they didn’t think it made sense to do it as a one-off.”

It’s easy to be skeptical of spin. But Silver is adamant.

“I strongly believe we will end up with some sort of in-season tournament and a play-in tournament,” Silver said.

The NBA will probably eventually have a play-in tournament. It makes a lot of sense, both competitively and financially. When those considerations align, things usually get done.

The league might even also add an in-season tournament. But it’s hard to find people actually enthusiastic about that idea.

Did Dwyane Wade violate judges’ agreement to keep dunk contest tied?

Dwyane Wade judging dunk contest
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CHICAGO – Dwyane Wade is a self-proclaimed Heat lifer.

Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. won the dunk contest with Wade as a judge.

You do the math.

On his final dunk, Jones got a 48. Then, Aaron Gordon dunked over terrified Tacko Fall… and got a 47.

The voting for Gordon’s last dunk:

  • Dwyane Wade: 9
  • Common: 10
  • Candace Parker: 10
  • Chadwick Bozeman: 9
  • Scottie Pippen: 9

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

With Common and Parker giving 10s and casting blame elsewhere, Wade, Bozeman and Pippen became suspects. The evidence points strongly at Wade.

Before the scores were even revealed a smiling Wade removed his earpiece, as if he knew the contest was finished. Notice how Common and Scottie Pippen both look at Wade after seeing the scores:

Wade danced around the controversy, never directly denying that he didn’t vote how he agreed he would:

Gordon’s final dunk was better than Jones’ final dunk. But Jones dunked better throughout the contest. Does that mean Gordon got robbed? At that point, yes. But Jones should have won the contest before then.

The bigger problem is judging dunks on a 6-10 scale. They should be judged relative to each other, and Jones’ were better.