NEW YORK – The Brooklyn Nets played well and ate great on their trip to China.
That was the tenor of their comments Wednesday after their first practice back home, downplaying the impact the ongoing international tension between the NBA and China had on them.
The Nets steered clear of any statements like those of LeBron James that could have further inflamed the situation. Players say they were not rattled by the turbulence they faced during their two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers last week, which came as the NBA dealt with the fallout from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet in support of support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.
Joe Harris was just in China last month for the Basketball World Cup and said this trip wasn’t much different.
“To be honest, you know there’s a lot of stuff going on but the atmosphere was really very similar to what it was during the World Cup,” Harris said. “The fans were extremely passionate. They love the game. They still sold out both games, so take out everything that was actually going on it really felt like almost exactly the same.”
It was hard to ignore everything, with Chinese and NBA officials canceling events and news conferences, and advertising and local television coverage for the games in Shanghai and Shenzhen removed.
“At the end of the day we’re human and we see those things, so we just tried to stick together as much as we could,” guard Caris LeVert said.
The Nets who did speak to reporters – Kyrie Irving wasn’t among them – said they hadn’t seen Morey’s tweet and couldn’t recall when they learned of it. Both teams met with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver shortly after arriving, where Harris said the commissioner outlined what was happening.
“It’s not like he was standing in front of everybody and making some, like, dramatic commentary,” Harris said. “He was basically describing what we already knew was going on.”
Irving spoke up in the meeting, but Harris said those remarks were not political but rather related mostly to basketball.
“It was more just focusing on trying to get ready for the games,” Harris said.
Harris said one of his community events, a visit with children at a play area, still went on. So did the team functions planned by new owner Joe Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Tsai posted a lengthy letter to fans on Facebook following Morey’s tweet, which Harris said the owner encouraged the players to read. He was around the team during the week getting the know players and staff.
He made a good impression with his dinners, which Harris indicated were even better than Gregg Popovich’s while playing for the U.S.
“I mean Pop had a lot of good dinners and stuff planned when we were out there too,” Harris said, “but I’d say Joe Tsai is probably a little more familiar with some of the dining establishments in Shanghai and Shenzhen.”
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