Even with charitable events being cancelled and posters promoting the game being ripped from buildings, the NBA and China remain in their staring contest, but Thursday morning’s preseason game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets is still set to be played as scheduled. For now.
Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news:
As Charania points out, this is subject to change, and there are about 12 hours left for one of the parties to change their minds. Earlier Wednesday afternoon, I wrote that cancelling the games and bringing both teams back stateside made the most sense given the little upside and potentially dangerous downside to playing at this point, but the NBA apparently does not want to risk burning a bridge with as profitable of a nation as China.
The NBA has fallen under intense criticism for their continued efforts not to cut ties with China even while they attempt to muzzle an American citizen exercising his freedom of speech. Not to defend this decision, but the stakes should the NBA see its relationship with China end are pretty immediately tangible:
I have heard from 5 different cap guys with teams who are prepping scenarios where the cap is lower due to the NBA situation with China. Some are doing scenarios on the high-end of as much as 10-15% lower than the current projection of $116M. No one knows what to really expect.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) October 9, 2019
Some might also think that perhaps the players would voice their displeasure at playing under these circumstances, but the shoe industry is directly tied to China, also, complicating even their input on this subject. Already, Chinese shoe company ANTA has announced it will be cutting ties with the NBA. The continued fallout in this respect will have to be monitored as well.
The “stick to sports” squad apparently has a sliding scale for deciding when and where an athlete or coach can weigh in on subjects that aren’t directly tied to their profession. When LeBron James says things that some don’t agree with, he’s told to “shut up and dribble,” but when Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich decline to comment about a subject they don’t know enough about, they’re called cowards.
Still, some of the criticism here is warranted. Playing these games is a risk, and if something were to happen at the game, the repercussions would be felt for years to come. But this decision isn’t as easy as some would like to make it out to be.
The best-case scenario might be for the NBA to let it be known that it will not stand for the outside pressure China has applied while also benefitting from the relationship they’ve cultivated over the last couple decades. Adam Silver must feel that the only way he can make that happen is by allowing these games to continue or, if he’d rather the games not go on, place the impetus on China to make the cancellation.
Either way, he’s attempting to thread the needle into an incredibly thin and volatile hole, and any mistakes can have billion-dollar ramifications on the league he is tasked with making money for.
Again, this will almost certainly not be the final update on this story and, depending on how things go in tomorrow’s game, the NBA could decide to opt out of Saturday’s rubber match. Should we get further word on any aspect of this, we will relay that information and keep you updated as best we can.