During the fallout of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet last week, LeBron James led a players-only meeting with the Nets and Lakers to discuss their uneasiness over handling questions from the media in China, The Athletic's Shams Charania reports.
The Lakers and Nets arrived in China last week to play two exhibition games on Oct. 10 and Oct. 12 amidst turmoil between the Chinese government and the NBA after Morey tweeted his support for anti-government supporters in Hong Kong. During a press conference in Tokyo on Oct. 8, NBA commissioner Adam Silver supported Morey.
"I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear ... that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression," Silver said.
A pair of NBA Cares events in Shanghai were canceled as the fallout from Morey's tweet continued, and China's state-run TV network CCTV suspended its NBA programming due to the controversy. The Chinese basketball federation also canceled upcoming G League exhibition games between teams affiliated with the Rockets and Mavericks.
Last week, ESPN's Rachel Nichols reported Silver held a meeting with the Nets and Lakers on Oct. 9. According to Charania, Silver explained the backlash the NBA received for Morey's tweet to players.
"Silver was said to be extremely thoughtful and transparent with Lakers and Nets players, coaches and executives present. He discussed that he believed players should face the media and support the league’s openness toward freedom of expression, wanting to open the room up for discussion and an open-minded approach toward the situation," sources told Charania.
However, sources told Nichols that Silver's meeting with the Lakers and Nets in Shanghai was "tense" and "several prominent players voiced frustration about their perception that they were being put in the middle of the dispute between the NBA and China."
ESPN reports players asked Silver during the meeting if Morey would face discipline from the NBA because of his tweet. Players felt they would be punished if they cost the league millions of dollars over something they tweeted. However, Morey will not be penalized by the NBA.
According to Charania, James held a players-only discussion with both teams after Silver's meeting and was worried about players having to address the media's questions on the issue.
"James expressed concern that without the league being able to speak to media to address all of the questions and dynamics about China and the NBA, it was unfair for solely players to bear that responsibility," according to Charania.
James shared how he felt the NBA handled the situation in China with reporters on Monday.
Kyrie Irving and Kyle Kuzma joined James in speaking during the meeting. James reportedly didn't want players to have to publicly discuss something they weren't comfortable speaking about, and players also felt reservations considering the U.S. and China are involved in a trade dispute, reports Charania.
On Oct. 10, the Chinese did not allow Silver or the Lakers and Nets to hold press conferences before or after the two teams' first game. However, the NBA announced on Oct. 11 that it decided to cancel all news conferences for the second game after talking with the teams and the Nationals Basketball Players Association.
"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China," the NBA said in a statement. "They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time."