Nets win ‘restricted’ preseason opener
Top Lakers amid more conditions imposed by Chinese government
No media availability, no national anthems and not a peep from anyone regarding one of the more bizarre backdrops for an NBA preseason game in the history of the league.
After three days of cancellations imposed by the Chinese government, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers finally played their much-anticipated China Series preseason opener in Shanghai on Thursday.
Though Brooklyn emerged with a 114-111 victory behind 20 points from Spencer Dinwiddie and 18 from Taurean Prince, the story of this game, and of this entire week, had very little to do with basketball.
Instead, a since-deleted tweet sent by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey last Friday in support of the ongoing Hong Kong protests sparked a series of shutdowns, including a pair of NBA Cares events that were supposed to be hosted by the Nets and Lakers on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Also, several notable Chinese sponsors pulled out of deals with the league and the Rockets, who have been among the most popular teams in China since Hall of Fame center Yao Ming began his NBA career with them in 2002.
The Chinese Broadcasting network refused to televise the contest, and is likely to remain blacked out for Saturday’s rematch in Shenzhen, preventing hundreds of millions from viewing this week’s games.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who went to Shanghai this week to make sure the exhibition games would go off as scheduled, had his pregame press conference cancelled after the government decided that players would also not be available for comment before or after the game.
Nets owner Joe Tsai, who tried to play peacemaker this week in advance of his first game at the helm of the franchise he acquired from Mikhail Prokhorov for a record $3.5 billion last month, was outspoken regarding Morey’s tweet in his own Facebook post.
“Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for citizens of China,” Tsai wrote.
“The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China, is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable.”
That turned out to be the case, but Silver did stand firm on defending Morey’s first-amendment rights during the week despite his league losing countless millions in endorsements, and the Nets and Lakers going through a tumultuous week of waiting to see if they would even get to hit the hardwood.
An NBA2K League logo was also erased from the court prior to the contest and neither the American nor Chinese national anthem was played in the Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Other than that, it was just your average NBA preseason game with some of the league’s biggest stars dazzling the crowd of nearly 16,000 Chinese flag-waving fans in attendance with a series of highlight-reel dunks and long-range three-pointers.
Kyrie Irving’s unofficial Nets debut was cut short after a single minute after he re-aggravated a facial fracture injury suffered during a pick-up game at Brooklyn’s practice facility in Sunset Park before the opening of training camp.
Irving, half of the prized free-agent duo Nets General Manager Sean Marks landed this summer, was not joined by fellow Brooklyn superstar Kevin Durant, who remained in our fair borough to continue his rehab from an Achilles injury.
Dzanan Musa poured in 16 points and Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs and Theo Pinson added 10 points apiece for Brooklyn.
LeBron James scored 20 points in 25 minutes, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope misfired on a potential game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer for Los Angeles, which saw its bench get outscored by a whopping 81-41 by Brooklyn reserves.
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