NBA Games In China Still On, But Surrounding Events Canceled
The two Lakers-Nets games set for China this week -- tomorrow in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen -- are "going to go forward as of now," though the NBA is "very dependent on the Chinese government for that to happen," according to ESPN's Rachel Nichols. However, an NBA Cares event involving the Lakers was cancelled today after a similar event with the Nets was cancelled yesterday. Additionally, the Chinese government cancelled a joint Lakers-Nets fan night. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver earlier today arrived in Shanghai and met with players on both teams, where there were "some frustrations" expressed by the players about them "being put in an unfair position" due to the controversy around Daryl Morey's tweet. They believe "they've been asked to do media and answer questions they can't really answer." Media availability for both teams were cancelled today, and Nichols said, "We'll have to find out if we ever hear from the players here in China." Meanwhile, a "lone construction worker on a cherry picker" was removing a 25-story banner promoting the Shanghai game located on the building across the hotel both teams are staying at" ("Get Up," ESPN, 10/9).
TSAI PLAYING MIDDLE MAN: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Stu Woo reports new Nets Owner Joe Tsai is in Shanghai "scrambling to ensure the Nets' first high-profile game in his tenure gets played" and is not "possible collateral damage in the clash" between the NBA and China. Tsai said that he is "trying to play the role of peacemaker in the dispute." However, he "declined to get into details about his conversations" with Silver and league officials and "wouldn't disclose whether he was having any discussions with Chinese officials." Tsai only said, "I'm in the eye of the storm." He added that he "views his job as cultural translator: explaining to the Chinese and American sides why each other is so angry." Tsai: "I've communicated with a bunch of people on both sides and my role is to help everyone understand the other side's perspective" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/9).
TRYING TO PROVIDE PERSPECTIVE: Tsai earlier this week posted an open letter around the controversy, and he said, "What I'm simply pointing out is how mainland China feels about the issue ... It's definitely a third-rail issue for Chinese people on the mainland." More Tsai: "I wanted to make sure that people in China don't view the NBA as an anti-Chinese organization. I believe the NBA, because of its global nature -- a quarter of the players are international ... a business that has income from sources all around the world -- is an international entity" (N.Y. POST, 10/9). CNBC’s David Faber notes Tsai was “encouraged, to a certain extent, to speak by the NBA.” CNBC’s Jim Cramer: “He basically was saying, ‘What business of it (is the NBA)?’” Faber noted, “If you’re Joe Tsai, you don’t want to raise your hand either. You can’t win” (“Squawk on the Street,” CNBC, 10/8).
DIFFERENT ATMOSPHERE: ESPN's Nichols noted NBA players typically "get a pretty wild reception" when they come to China on promotional trips for various sponsors, but that "hasn't been the case here." Because of the current controversy, what would "usually be hundreds, maybe even a thousand fans, gathering to see them get off the bus or go to certain events has turned into just a much more thin crowd, dozens of fans maybe” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 10/9). Nichols added NBA Entertainment had its cameras rolling when the Lakers' team bus pulled up to their hotel, but the few fans in attendance "would hide their faces." Nichols: "They don’t want to be associated on TV with the NBA. That is a huge change and possibly an indication of where this is going” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN2, 10/9).