The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets played out their scheduled preseason game in China — the Lakers lost — even despite the amount of controversy surrounding the league and its relationship with the country as a whole. When asked about the night’s events, well, no one said anything, because they weren’t actually allowed to interviewed.
Dave McMenamin of ESPN was in China for the game, and according to him, the Chinese government dictated that no media availability would take place:
While the basketball was familiar, there were still stark reminders of the situation that exists in China. Approximately 3½ hours before tipoff, an NBA spokesman informed reporters there would be no media availability of any kind for either team and that commissioner Adam Silver’s previously scheduled pregame press conference was canceled.
The stipulation, sources said, was at the behest of the Chinese government, which also had a hand in canceling two NBA Cares events, an NBA 2K League logo unveiling and a fan appreciation event in the days leading up to the game, causing many to question if the Lakers and Nets would make the lengthy trek and never even get a chance to face one another.
So if you’re waiting for the typical thoughts from players and coaches — even just about basketball — don’t hold your breath, because you may not get much until the Lakers return home.
And even while it was the Chinese government that made this call, it’s hard to imagine the NBA put up much of a fight to allow anyone to speak. Very little can be gained from players or coaches weighing in on the already tumultuous situation, and the last thing the league would want is for anyone to say what China considers the wrong thing on foreign soil.
All this said, it’s going to be interesting to see what the reaction to this stipulation is going to be. The NBA usually prides itself on its transparency and all over again, this is the Chinese government telling American citizens that they cannot speak publicly.
Seeing as the players and coaches in question are currently in Shanghai, this is obviously different from China applying pressure to the NBA in response to a tweet sent from Daryl Morey while he was in America. But a foreign government wielding pressure to silence American citizens in any circumstance usually doesn’t sit well, regardless of their situation.
The Lakers and Nets are set to play again Saturday morning and, based on the response to this precedent, it’s going to be interesting to see whether this policy is maintained for that game and moving forward.