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NBA reportedly has ‘no plans’ to cancel Lakers and Nets preseason games in China, but games may not happen anyway

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Of course the NBA doesn’t want to cancel the preseason games between the Lakers and Nets in China, but things aren’t that simple.

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NBA Shanghai Game 2019 - Previews Photo by Zhang Hengwei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Yesterday, there were separate reports of “concerns” and “fears” that the two preseason games between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets currently set to take place in China on Thursday and Saturday would be cancelled.

Those worries were exacerbated when CCTV and Tencent announced that they would not broadcast the two games within China due to dissatisfaction with the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s defense of Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey’s right to free speech, and signs that the game wouldn’t happen continued to build when the Lakers’ community event to benefit the Special Olympics was also cancelled last night by the Chinese government.

Still, as of right now, the games have not been officially cancelled, and Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times reports that “the NBA has no plans to cancel their games, but it might not be up to them.” That backs up a Tuesday report from Kyle Goon of the O.C. Register, which cited an NBA official who said “that no other cancellations were anticipated but acknowledged plans could change.”

Rachel Nichols of ESPN also confirmed that the NBA does not have plans to cancel the games, but that things are far from simple for the players in the middle of all this right now (emphasis mine):

“It has been frustrating for the players. The Lakers were supposed to participate in an NBA cares community event to benefit the Special Olympics today. The government cancelled that. Both teams were supposed to participate in a fan appreciation event tonight. That was cancelled. Their practices had to be moved because the arena suddenly wasn’t available to them. And also, they watched signs advertising this game on Thursday disappearing from around town.

“This has naturally led to questions about whether this game is actually going to happen. Players got the chance to ask Adam Silver that directly, today. I’m told in that meeting that he informed the players that the NBA intends to go forward, and in turn, some of them expressed their frustration at being put in this position. They didn’t feel comfortable talking to the media because they didn’t want to answer the questions they’d inevitably be asked. And they really felt like they were being put in a bad position with the fans.”

It’s hard to blame the players for not liking how what was supposed to be a brand-building trip to China has turned into an international incident through none of their own doing, but it’s also not surprising that the NBA doesn’t have plans to cancel this game, as none of the fallout from Morey’s tweet supporting protestors in Hong Kong has been planned. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening, or that these games being played seem to be a dubious proposition.

The NBA also in all likelihood does not want to cancel this game, either. Doing so would be further distancing itself from a relationship with China that it’s clear the league wants to salvage, and Nichols even noted in an earlier SportsCenter appearance that the league doesn’t want to further “offend” China by cancelling.

As this high-stakes standoff continues, both Spectrum Sportsnet (locally in L.A.) and NBA TV (nationally) are both still scheduled to air the games, should they take place on Thursday and Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m. PT, respectively. It seems increasingly murky whether or not that will happen, but stay tuned to Silver Screen and Roll for the latest updates on the situation either way.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.