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NBA-China dispute puts Lakers-Nets games in jeopardy

Worker in Shanghai removes a banner advertising Lakers-Nets game
A worker removes a banner advertising the scheduled game between the Lakers and Nets on Wednesday in Shanghai.
(Zhang Hengwei / China News Service / VCG via Getty Images)

By the end of Wednesday in Shanghai, the prospect of the Lakers and Nets actually playing a game in China looked bleak.

That afternoon, about 200 members of the media gathered in the lobby of a luxury hotel in Shanghai’s Pudong neighborhood, awaiting their first chance to talk to the Lakers and the Nets while in China.

Instead, the NBA announced the day’s media sessions had been postponed. Outside, workers scraped down a banner advertising the scheduled game between the teams from a nearby wall.

Still, the games in Shanghai and Shenzhen this week have not been officially canceled.

Normally when NBA players come to China they are treated like rock stars. Not Wednesday in the aftermath of a tweet that upset Chinese officials.
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After announcing to U.S. reporters that the media session had been postponed, an NBA spokesman addressed the crowd of local reporters in Mandarin and again in English. It was the fourth official event that had been canceled for the Lakers and Nets in the wake of a dispute between China and the NBA that began with a tweet, since deleted, from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of Hong Kong protesters.

Hong Kong is an autonomous region within China. The protests began as a demonstration against an extradition policy that would have allowed Hong Kong to send people to mainland China for trial. They grew to encompass many aspects of the Chinese government.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government canceled an NBA event in which the Nets were to make donations to a local school. On Wednesday, the Lakers were scheduled for an event that would have benefited the Special Olympics. That event was canceled too.

Even a fan fest, to which media were not invited, was canceled Wednesday afternoon.

The NBA’s relationship with China was an issue even before Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of the Hong Kong protests.
A Lakers fan took to Reddit to announce there is a GoFundMe page to raise money to make and distribute ‘Stand with Hong Kong’ T-shirt to distribute at season-opening game.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers applauded NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who said he will protect employees’ freedom of speech amid NBA-China fallout from a tweet.

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