The Lakers seem to be stuck in an increasingly heated political situation in China. With their preseason games in limbo and multiple events already canceled, the trip has far from helped smooth over tensions following Houston Rocket’s GM Daryl Morey’s Tweet.
Morey tweeted support for democratic protesters in Hong Kong, something the Chinese government was not too fond of. The situation is a touchy subject in China and while the NBA tread lightly at first (so as to not offend the Chinese government), commissioner Adam Silver released a statement yesterday standing behind Morey’s right to free speech.
The backlash from the Chinese government has been intense to say the least. While the Rockets have borne the brunt of China’s frustration in the early going, Silver’s comments turned the wrath of the government towards the NBA league office.
With the Chinese government coming out to give a statement standing in strong opposition to freedom of speech, neither side seems willing to budge. While this sort of behavior is nothing new for the Chinese government, being in such a public spat with the NBA has offered many fans a first look at just how American companies have compromised themselves in order to do business in China.
Lakers vs Nets Preseason China Game Could be in Jeopardy
As ESPN’s Rachel Nichols mentions, the fact that the government has canceled a pair of NBA Cares events and is tearing down the billboards promoting the games (the first of which is tomorrow), doesn’t bode well for the future of the Lakers’ Chinese preseason. More than offending the Chinese government, it seems the NBA has deeply offended the Chinese population as a whole, with almost nobody coming out to welcome the team upon arrival.
Should the Chinese Government (or the NBA) opt to outright pull the two games and bring the teams home, the Lakers (and Nets) would lose some extremely valuable reps to help build on-court chemistry. The Lakers are filled with new faces and need as much time playing together as possible before hitting the regular season. That said, given the circumstances, it might be in the best interest of the NBA to simply get their players out of an ugly situation and back home safely.
The players are rightfully uncomfortable with the situation and are actively avoiding the media so as to not have to speak on the situation in Hong Kong. Nichols reports the general feeling of players being “left out to dry” by the league – and they aren’t entirely wrong.
All Official Chinese NBA Sponsors Suspend Ties With League
The NBA’s partnership with eleven Chinese companies also looks to be in jeopardy following Morey’s tweet and Silver’s response. Most notably, the shoe company Anta opted to halt all future negotiations with the NBA. NBA Superstar Klay Thompson is with Anta as well as Lakers’ guard Rajon Rondo.
At this time, the Lakers still seem to have an active partnership with last year’s jersey sponsor, Wish (also a Chinese company). It remains to be seen if they wind up pulling or suspending their partnership as well.