Blacked out since 2019, NBA games back on state-run television in China

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic
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Except for one game in the 2020 Finals, NBA games have not been shown on state-run China Central Television since Daryl Morey’s Tweets in support of Hong Kong protesters back in 2019.

That has changed recently and NBA games are back on the air, signaling improved relations between the league and the Chinese government, reports Sopan Deb at the New York Times.

The first game this year on state TV, according to Global Times, was Tuesday night’s matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz. According to Global Times, the broadcast was the start of a full return of the N.B.A. to China’s airwaves…

“N.B.A. games have aired in China continuously for nearly 35 years, including this season on a number of other services,” Mike Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said in a statement on Thursday. “We believe broadcasting games to our fans in China and more than 200 other countries and territories is consistent with our mission to inspire and connect people everywhere through the game of basketball.”

NBA games have still been streamed on Tencent, a powerful and popular streaming platform used in China. Even more so than in the United States (where basketball’s fan demographic skews younger than other major sports), the NBA is popular with younger generations in China, who are more likely to stream games on phones and other devices than watch them on traditional broadcast media anyway.

While Morey’s Tweet put a spotlight on it, the NBA has been like many American corporations who have tried to grow their business globally — part of what is behind the rapid escalation of NBA franchise values is the potential for international growth for the league, China is a big part of that — but are caught in a culture war domestically. There are Americans who believe more in globalization as a way to grow American influence, and some are pushing an “America First” protectionist ideology.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has continually compared the NBA to other American companies doing business in China, saying it is more U.S. government relations and policies that dictate what is happening than its own actions. He also has long said he believes in “soft power” and that the exportation of NBA games to China also exposes that part of the world to American culture in an unfiltered way people may not get otherwise.

“It’s hard to divorce what’s happening with the NBA from larger geopolitical issues between the U.S. and China,” Silver said last July at a press conference. “I do think it remains important, that particularly when tensions are high between governments, that we foster these sports, educational, cultural relationships…

“It certainly doesn’t mean that we are blessing everything that happens in China by any means. We are at root an American company, and so we follow U.S. government policy. But it’s my expectation that we will continue to distribute our games in China… and that we can play a productive role in helping the people of the United States and the people of China have a better understanding of each other, and see that we’re all human beings and that there is commonality between us.”

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.