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

3 Comments

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.

Buddy Hield on Kings getting booed at home: ‘That’s how Sacramento fans are’

Kings guard Buddy Hield
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Buddy Hield is quite familiar with frustration amid the Kings’ disappointing season.

Sacramento fans showed theirs Wednesday, booing the Kings during their home loss to the Mavericks.

Buddy Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“Everybody is frustrated, it’s not even them, we’re trying to figure it out too,” Buddy Hield said following the loss. “But it’s the home team and we get booed…we don’t agree with it, but they’re going to voice their opinion.

“I understand their frustration, but like I said, I’m going to keep shooting the ball,” Hield continued. “When I make a three they like me, when I don’t, they hate you. That’s how Sacramento fans are, man, so you’ve got to embrace it.”

Hield seemingly isn’t looking to pick a fight with fans. He made a point to empathize with their frustration.

But I don’t think he’s being fair, either.

Kings fans are far more loyal than swinging between love and hate depending whether or not a shot falls. They’re fed up after 13 – going on 14 – straight seasons missing the playoffs. This year has been particularly discouraging, as Sacramento has backtracked from fun and fast to sad and slow. Losing to Luka Doncica particular grievance – only adds to the irritation.

The Kings’ problems have spanned multiple owners, executives, coaches and players. So, booing this group isn’t totally fair, either. But this is who’s in front of the fans.

If this Sacramento team plays hard and together, fans will embrace it – and stick with it through thinner times.

76ers play 6-on-5 vs. Bulls (video)

Leave a comment

The 76ers found one way to solve their spacing issues.

Philadelphia showed good ball movement, finding Furkan Korkmaz for an open corner 3-pointer. The catch? Korkmaz got open, because the 76ers had six players on the floor.

I love Kyle O'Quinn trying to slink off the court. He wanted to get away with it. Tobias Harris, who jogged to the bench, was practically begging to get caught.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised how quickly the Bulls noticed the violation. It’s not as if their defense scrambling is anything new.

Thirty days after being called ‘day-to-day,’ Karl-Anthony Towns returns to Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders called Karl-Anthony Towns “day-to-day” with a left knee sprain.

That was 30 days ago.

Towns finally returned to Minnesota’s lineup, starting against the Pacers tonight.

While out due to his knee, Towns also battled illness. That undoubtedly complicated matters. But the Timberwolves repeatedly calling him “questionable” raises questions about their commitment to transparency. That’s important in an NBA embracing gambling.

Towns’ 17-game absence is a rare dent in his durability. In his first four seasons, Towns missed only five games – two due to a car crash.

Towns is Minnesota’s best player. He could provide a jolt to a team hanging in the playoff race. But, after a strong start, the Timberwolves began to tumble even before Towns went down. They’re probably won’t make the playoffs, though their odds are definitely better with him. At least he returns in time to make an All-Star case.

Knicks’ Marcus Morris after 23-point loss to Suns: ‘We were a better team’

Knicks forward Marcus Morris
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Marcus Morris loathes the Suns.

Unfortunately for him, his Knicks lost to the Suns, 121-98, yesterday.

Morris, via Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News:

“Kudos to Phoenix, but at the end of the day, we were a better team,” Marcus Morris said postgame. “We should have got that win tonight.”

Nahhh.

The Knicks stink. They’ve lost seven of eight. Morris talked about energy, and New York’s could be better. But this is what happens on losing teams. The Knicks’ roster just isn’t good enough. It’s not more complicated than that.

The Suns aren’t great, either. But they’re much better than New York – no matter how much that grinds Morris.