Brooklyn Boro

Nets caught up in NBA’s China controversy

Team event cancelled ahead of two-game exhibition slate vs. Lakers

October 8, 2019 JT Torenli
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The Brooklyn Nets arrived in China this week hoping to enhance the NBA brand in the league’s largest international market.

Instead, they are now caught up in the middle of the tension between the Chinese government and the ongoing Hong Kong protests.

All because of one untimely tweet.

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The Nets, scheduled to play a pair of preseason contests against the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai on Thursday and Shenzhen on Saturday, were supposed to kick off their week in China by hosting an NBA Cares event at the New World Experimental School in Shanghai on Tuesday.

But that event was canceled just a few hours before it was slated to begin Tuesday as the Chinese government took offense at a tweet sent out by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in support of the protesters seeking increased rights and freedoms.

“Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” Morey tweeted last Friday, accidentally sparking the firestorm of controversy that has left the Nets, Lakers and the NBA itself in an uncomfortable position during a week that was supposed to be all about basketball.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver supported Morey’s “freedom of political expression in this situation,” but Morey tried to walk back his comments in the hopes of easing tensions, which have already resulted in the Rockets losing several valued sponsors in China.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” he wrote. “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.

“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided, and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

The Rockets, one of the most popular NBA teams in China since their signing of Shanghai native and NBA Hall of Famer Yao-Ming back in 2002, also heard from the Chinese Basketball Association, which voiced its “strong opposition” to Morey’s “improper remarks.”

Nets owner and Taiwan native Joseph Tsai, who was doubtlessly hoping to enjoy the week basking in his $3.5 billion acquisition of the Brooklyn franchise last month, responded to Morey’s tweets with a Facebook post.

“When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn’t expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on something as politically charged and grossly misunderstood as the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened,” noted Tsai, who came to prominence as a co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.

“The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities,” he continued. “Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China.”

There was no news as of Tuesday afternoon regarding whether or not the Lakers’ planned NBA Cares event on Wednesday would go on as scheduled.

Also, the Chinese government has already pulled its broadcasts of both preseason contests, designed to showcase LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the new-look Lakers against the Nets, who spent the offseason acquiring superstars like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Whether those games take place at all now is doubtlessly up in the air, unless the league and Chinese government can come to a mutual agreement.

Taurean Prince scored 22 points in his Nets exhibition debut at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Friday night, sparking Brooklyn to a 137-89 rout of SESI/Franca Basketball Club of Brazil. AP Photo by Mary Altaffer.

The Nets did manage to cruise to a 137-89 rout of SESI/Franca Basketball Club of Brazil in their preseason opener last Friday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

Taurean Prince spearheaded Brooklyn’s easy victory with 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 6-of-8 from 3-point range.

David Nwaba and Dzanan Musa each added 18 points and rookie Nic Claxton scored 13 for Brooklyn, which led by 21 points at the half and opened the third quarter on a 17-0 run to pull away for good.

“Really good. I liked our quick decisions,” Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson said after watching his team dish out 40 assists.

“That’s part of our principles. Shoot it, move it, drive it. Guys did a really good job across the board. We’ve got to follow it up again. Forty’s a big number. Very pleased with that.”

Atkinson was especially impressed with the performance of Prince, who figures to see plenty of playing time at one of the two forward spots, especially with Durant likely out for the season while recovering from his Achilles injury and Wilson Chandler facing a 25-game PED suspension.

“He’s following up on what we’ve seen in practices and offseason work,” Atkinson said of Prince.

“Not only his shooting, but I was impressed how quickly he gets it off. His release is really quick. He can get it off in small spaces. I thought he made some nice passes too, whether it was out of the pick and roll or just coming off a ball screen and finding guys. Just a very good all-around game for him.”

After returning from their week in China, the Nets will close out their four-game exhibition slate at Barclays Center on Oct. 18 against the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors.

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