Early Tuesday morning, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave a stronger statement from the league than the one that it had previously issued on the tensions between the NBA and China, a conflict first sparked by Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey sending (and then quickly deleting) a tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong.
Silver’s support for Morey’s right to voice his opinion spurred further furor from China, and CCTV and Tencent cancelled their planned broadcasts of the preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, games that are currently still scheduled for this week.
The word “currently” is important there, because according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the Chinese broadcasts of the game might not be the only thing to get cancelled:
There is concern the two games between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers will be cancelled, a person in China with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports. The person requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive situation.
Update, 4:49 p.m. PST: Marc Stein of The New York Times has now also reported that there are “growing fears” that the two games will be cancelled:
In discussions I’ve had over the past few days with a number of well-placed observers, who are familiar with both the Chinese landscape and N.B.A. dealings, there are growing fears that government officials will cancel the two games. Various sponsors, media outlets and the Chinese Basketball Association itself — led by the former Rockets great Yao Ming — have already vowed to have nothing to do with the Rockets for the foreseeable future.
Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation posted a good roundup of the mounting signs — beyond these reports from plugged in insiders — that these games could be cancelled, including the facts that tickets have become unavailable online and community events are getting dropped from the schedule. At this point, and especially in the wake of Zillgitt and Stein’s reports, it would almost be a surprise if both games were actually played without a hitch.
And aside from the fact that China seems to be heading towards cancelling the two exhibition games, the NBA, Nets and Lakers also have to consider the reality that they’re planting themselves, their players other staffers right in the middle of a growing international firestorm. Everyone’s safety needs to be of paramount consideration here.
Until anything changes, though, the Lakers and Nets are still currently slated to play against each other at 4:30 a.m. PST on Thursday and Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai and Shenzhen Dayun Arena in Shenzhen, respectively. Despite the cancellation of the Chinese broadcasts, both Spectrum Sportsnet (locally in L.A.) and NBA TV (nationally) are both still scheduled to air the games, should they take place.
For now, Silver has said he plans to meet with Chinese officials in Shanghai about the issue, but unless he backs down from his stance on Tuesday morning or China softens their stance on Morey’s remarks, it’s sort of hard to see an amiable solution that allows both sides to maintain their principles here.
Stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for updates on this developing story.