The Lakers and Nets played their preseason game Thursday in Shanghai without typical media availability, reportedly at the behest of the Chinese government.
The teams won’t speak for Saturday’s game in Shenzhen, either.
NBA statement, via Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:
“We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China,” the NBA said. “They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time.”
The league is making this decision independent of Chinese authorities, sources told ESPN.
Both the Nets’ and Lakers’ players are free to comment on the circumstances without NBA retribution, according to a league spokesman. However, this media policy was already discussed with players and representatives from the players’ association, according to a league source, so the motivation to operate outside of the league’s guidelines is negligible.
Given the Chinese government’s reported involved Thursday, it’s difficult to see this as a completely independent decision by the NBA. China exerts power – especially while these teams are in the country. The league is making comprises to do business there.
It probably won’t matter much in substance. I doubt Harden and Westbrook wanted to meaningfully answer yesterday’s question. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support of Hong Kong protesters, and he – almost certainly inadvertently – caused a significant international incident. Nobody around the NBA wants to be the next person to get in over their head in the geopolitical situation. Staying silent is far easier.
The NBA clearly wants this issue to go away. China appears ready to let it die down. So, everyone will remain quiet another couple days.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong protesters – who are seeking to maintain and expand their freedoms – persist.