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Chinese state media says Adam Silver will face retribution for ‘defaming’ China


Adam Silver has worked to portray the NBA as a progressive league that favored free speech. However, when push came to shove in a conflict with China over a Tweet from Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting protesters in Hong Kong, Silver’s first statement seemed to protect the status quo and the cash the world’s largest nation generates for the NBA.

That backfired, and Silver came out with a stronger second statement that backed Morey’s right to free speech. Since then, the league has worked to emphasize that position.

In an interview at a TIME Magazine event this week, Silver added to that sentiment saying China asked for Morey to be fired and the league said no. “We made clear that we were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with, government and business. We said there’s no chance that’s happening. There’s no chance we’ll even discipline him.”

The Chinese government denied this, and now Chinese State media is saying there will be retribution for Silver. From the South China Morning Post:

Chinese state media has warned that NBA commissioner Adam Silver will face “retribution” for defaming China in the latest twist to a dispute that began with a basketball team executive tweeting his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong…

“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,” it said. “This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.”

Silver’s handling of the controversy had proved his “double standards”, the broadcaster said, adding that he had “defamed” China on the international stage.

“To please some American politicians, Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving,” it said.

Silver didn’t fabricate this. We’re all smart enough to know how this went down: Chinese officials would never outright say “you need to fire Morey” but they could strongly imply it with words and actions. Silver’s phrasing on this — that it was “made clear that we were being asked to fire him” — suggests precisely this scenario. It’s how people with power ask for something unethical or illegal, whether we’re talking mob bosses or politicians, the ask is strongly implied but not direct, allowing denial later.

China wanted its pound of flesh, maybe to fire Morey but at least a public rebuke and fine/suspension. They got none of it. Now they can use Silver’s comment — clearly aimed at the domestic market to bolster the NBA’s image in the US — to cause a little more pain. China has shown it can hit the NBA’s bottom line, it flexed its muscle, but how far does either side really want it to progress?

As we have been saying all along, this issue is not going away anytime soon. It may fade from the spotlight, but the NBA/China relationship is a story that will be a cloud over this entire season.


Rumor: Kansas coach Bill Self could succeed Gregg Popovich with Spurs

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A year ago, Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said he didn’t know whether he’d retire after last season. He then signed a three-year contract to remain the NBA’s highest-paid head coach.

But he’s 70 years old. San Antonio (9-14) is well below its usual standard.

At some point, Popovich will step down – maybe to focus on coaching Team USA in next year’s Olympics, maybe several years from now. But it will happen.

Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic:

there’s one name that continues to come up from league sources as a possible replacement: Bill Self, the longtime Kansas coach and close friend of Spurs general manager R.C. Buford.

Self is a highly successful college coach who has gotten NBA looks before. At minimum, he’s a sensible candidate.

A big reason Self has won so much at Kansas: He recruits better talent than most of his competitors. That wouldn’t translate to the NBA. But Self has proven adept at adapting his style, and he connects well with his NBA-track prospects. That bodes well for a league full of transient professionals.

Would Self leave? The NCAA coming down hard on Kansas could push him toward the pros.

NBA denies Rockets’ protest over uncounted James Harden dunk, Spurs’ win stands


Spurs 135, Rockets 133 – nearly a week later – final.

Houston protested the Dec. 3 loss on account of a made James Harden dunk that officials ruled missed then wouldn’t allow to be challenged.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that Commissioner Adam Silver has denied the Houston Rockets protest of their 135-133 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Dec. 3, 2019, following receipt by the league office of submissions from both teams and the completion of its investigation.

In the protest, the Rockets argued that the officials misapplied the playing rules by failing to grant a Coach’s Challenge in connection with James Harden’s fourth quarter dunk, and that this error had a clear impact on the outcome of the game by depriving the team of two points.  While agreeing that the referees misapplied the rules, Commissioner Silver determined that the Rockets had sufficient time to overcome the error during the remainder of the fourth quarter and two subsequent overtime periods and thus the extraordinary remedy of granting a game protest was not warranted.

In addition, the league announced today that it has disciplined all three referees from the game for misapplying the Coach’s Challenge rule.

With 7:50 remaining in the fourth quarter and the score 102-89 in favor of Houston, Harden stole the ball and converted an uncontested dunk.  The ball was dunked with such force that, as it cleared the net, the ball was propelled around the basket and upward, creating an initial appearance that it was not a successful field goal.  Houston then called a timeout, and the officiating crew conferenced to discuss the play.

After deliberation, the crew informed the Houston coaching staff that a basket interference violation had been called on Harden, and Houston asked for a Coach’s Challenge.  This request was denied by the officials because more than 30 seconds had elapsed from the start of the timeout.  But the 30-second time limit for Coach’s Challenges only applies when the challenge arises during a mandatory timeout or a timeout called by the opposing team.  Because Houston called the timeout in this case, it was entitled to challenge the basket interference call upon being informed of it by the game officials.

If the Coach’s Challenge requested by Houston had been properly granted, instant replay would have shown that Harden’s dunk was a successful field goal.

As a follow-up to the NBA’s investigation of this matter, the NBA will work with the Competition Committee to develop additional procedures to help prevent the situation with Harden’s made basket from occurring again.

Did the Rockets get screwed? Yes.

Does the NBA acknowledging that the referees misapplied the challenge rule but still not granting Houston’s protest really rub salt into the wound? Heck yes.

Does this prove the Rockets fans and fans correct in their theories the league is out to get them? No. This was a randomly blown call that could have happened to any team.

Was the missed call the only reason Houston lost to San Antonio? No. The Rockets were up 13 with 7:50 left. Their collapse went far beyond this single play.

Would Houston have won in regulation had the dunk counted? There’s no way to know. The game would have played out differently with those two points on the board.

The NBA’s only upheld protest since 1982 came in 2007-08, when Shaquille O’Neal was disqualified with just five fouls (shy of the actual foul-out trigger of six) in the Hawks’ win over the Heat. The teams replayed the final 51.9 seconds, and Atlanta still won.

The league is extremely reluctant to grant protests. But I’m uncomfortable with the reasoning here. Yes, 7:50 would have been a long time to re-play. However, the league essentially ruled calls matter more late than early in games. What ammo for anyone who argues only the last couple minutes of an NBA game are worth watching.

This also shouldn’t have required a coach’s challenge in the first place. It’s common practice to review during the next stoppage whether a made shot near the arc was a 2-pointer or 3-pointer. This easily could have been checked under the same logic. Hopefully, the new procedures the NBA mentioned at the end of its release will address that.

That’ll be no solace to the Rockets. For them, this just stinks. I don’t blame them one bit for resenting ever part of this entire process.

Report: Hawks told frustrated Trae Young they’d get him roster help

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Hawks point guard Trae Young is a breakout star.

Yet, Atlanta is just 6-17.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Frustration has been mounting within the Hawks organization at times and league sources say it resulted in an emotional locker room scene involving star point guard Trae Young following a recent loss.

After a 130-118 home loss to Brooklyn on Wednesday, one high-ranking team official was seen telling Young that the team would be getting him some help on the roster soon, according to multiple sources.

Atlanta ought to be careful about trading long-term assets for a short-term boost. The Hawks are 5.5 games and five teams out of playoff position. That’s a large deficit to overcome.

Sure, winning more this season would be nice. But Atlanta is in the midst of a rebuild. This is a young roster that should grow into a good team – in time. Trying to shortcut the process could just leave the Hawks less-equipped to win big down the road.

The Hawks are going through natural growing pains now. Young (29 points and eight assists per game) has been awesome overall, but he also contributes to some of the team’s major problems. His defense is abysmal, and he’s too sloppy with the ball. His supporting cast is not good, but Young must develop in his ability to do the little things.

It’s also unclear whether the team official meant an outside addition. John Collins will return soon from suspension. He’ll obviously help.

But the best thing for Atlanta would be Young working to improve his own shortcomings. The better his supporting cast gets – whether via outside acquisition and/or internal development – the more Young’s flaws will matter. As good as he has been in low-leverage regular-season games, Young has not shown readiness to carry a good team when the stakes get higher.

Report: Jim Boylen remains unpopular among Bulls players

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Jim Boylen’s tenure as Bulls coach began with a near-mutiny.

He survived, but apparently his relationship with players has improved only so much.

Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic:

Sources say Boylen remains unpopular in the Chicago locker room

League sources say that team president John Paxson remains a fan of Boylen’s tough-love approach despite the disappointing results thus far.

Zach LaVine has most visibly butted heads with Boylen, but it’s unsurprising LaVine isn’t the only player with issues. Boylen comes across as a blowhard. Most importantly, he has shown no ability to get Chicago to reach a higher level of play. The Bulls are 25-57 under him, including 8-16 this season.

But Chicago management keeps backing Boylen. It seems more likely the axe will fall on general manager Gar Forman.