In response to the NBA defending Daryl Morey’s freedom of speech, Chinese officials took it away from the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.

All of the usual media sessions surrounding the Lakers-Nets preseason game Thursday in Shanghai – including a scheduled news conference from Commissioner Adam Silver and postgame news conferences with the teams – were canceled. It was the latest salvo in a rift between the league and China stemming from a since-deleted tweet last week by Morey, the Houston general manager.

The game was held as scheduled, with Lakers forward LeBron James and Nets guard Kyrie Irving getting loud ovations when they were introduced. But neither national anthem was played and no players addressed the crowd before tip-off in a departure from tradition before such international games. Fans arriving at the arena – many of them donning NBA jerseys – were handed small Chinese flags to carry inside, and at least one person carried a sign critical of Silver.

The Nets won, 114-111. James walked off with his arms held high, acknowledging cheers. He flicked his wristbands toward fans clamoring for a souvenir and tossed his headband into the seats before entering the walkway leading to the Lakers’ locker room.

He was seen and not heard, just like everyone else on the rosters.

“I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech,” Silver said in Tokyo this week. “We will have to live with those consequences.”


Most seats were filled, and fans reacted as they would normally – oohs and aahs for good plays, applause for baskets, the loudest cheers coming whenever James touched the ball. Some fans may be upset with the NBA but they still seem to have their favorite players.

“If we have to choose, we will choose to support our country,” said Ma Shipeng, a fan who brought 900 flags to hand out to fellow fans. “We only like some particular basketball players, but we don’t like the NBA anymore. I give away Chinese flags tonight, as I hope people put the national interest in front of following the NBA. I will continue to support James. But none of our people would accept what Morey and Silver said.”

Morey’s tweet expressed support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and sparked fallout that overshadowed the NBA’s annual trip to China – which typically takes on a celebratory tone.

NETS: Guard Kyrie Irving left the preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers about one minute after tip-off after taking a hit to the face.

Irving was attempting to play through a facial fracture, an injury that occurred in a pickup game last month. He was wearing a clear mask in an effort to protect his face, but appeared to bump into Lakers guard Rajon Rondo while playing defense just 1:06 into the game.

Irving’s face made contact with Rondo’s upper arm. Irving immediately winced in pain, took the mask off and motioned that he needed a substitute. He didn’t return.

PACERS: Indiana exercised contract options on TJ Leaf and Aaron Holiday.

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