Rockets star James Harden wants nothing to do with the NBA’s dispute with China

Ryan Young |Yahoo Sports

While it seems everyone has their take on the NBA’s controversy with China, James Harden is steering clear.

Harden — whose team and general manager are at the heart of the issue — insisted Sunday that he’s just focused on the season.

“I’m staying out of it,” Harden said. “I’m focusing on what we have and trying to get better. We’re a week and a half away from the regular season.”

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong earlier this month, which set off a massive chain of events in the hours and days that followed. The Rockets quickly distanced themselves from the tweet, and the NBA struggled in its response while trying to please everybody. China quickly cut ties and started a media boycott of the Rockets, something that could cost the team $25 million this season.

Things weren’t any better while NBA teams were holding exhibition games in Asia, either. The league cancelled all media availability near the end of the trip — something it said it decided without China’s input. A Rockets staff member even awkwardly shut down a question directed at Harden on the incident while the team was in Japan, which the NBA has since apologized for.

While things appear to be slowing down in the international controversy, it has brought unlikely sides together on the issue.

Politicians on both sides of the isle have slammed the league for its initial response to Morey’s tweet, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even got in on the action. Outspoken NBA coaches Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr delved into the topic repeatedly, too — which, naturally, sparked yet another feud with President Donald Trump.

The Rockets will officially open their season on Oct. 24 when they host the Milwaukee Bucks. Clearly, they want to finish the preseason as quietly as possible with the China controversy in their rearview mirror.

Even with seemingly the entire world tuned in after the simple tweet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni is confident his players can get past it.

“It’s a distraction,” D’Antoni said, via USA Today. “But guys can handle it. We still got good work in. Everything’s fine. It happens. It’s regrettable that it happened, but as I said, our work will get done.”

Doc Rivers: Paul George to miss at least first 10 games recovering from shoulder surgery

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George will miss at least the first 10 games of the season while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said on Saturday, via USA Today’s Mark Medina.

George underwent a pair of minor shoulder surgeries this summer, one on his right rotator cuff and another to repair his left labrum. Both injuries impacted him significantly near the end of the season last year when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 29-year-old confirmed at the team’s media in September that he would miss the entirety of the preseason recovering from the injury, and that he was planning to only take part in non-contact drills at training camp.

Though he said he was close to being ready, George was targeting a “November-ish” return. Based on Rivers’ comments on Saturday, George could be first available for their matchup against the Houston Rockets on Nov. 13.

“Honestly, I’m a lot far along … I’m not 100 percent, but if I had to put a percentage on it, I think I’m about 85, 90-ish,” George said in September. “Not all the way there, still got a little bit of stuff, range and stuff and all that to work through, a little strength to work through. But I’m close. I’m happy where I’m at.”

While fans will have to wait just a bit longer for Georges’ much-anticipated debut alongside Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles, the move to sit him until he’s ready makes sense all around. There’s no need to rush his return, and he’s still not participating fully in team practices yet, either.

George averaged 28 points and 8.2 rebounds last season with the Thunder, his ninth in the league. He was traded to the Clippers for a slew of draft picks just as Leonard signed with the organization in free agency, and has three years left on his four-year, $136 million deal.

Boston fans are furious after TD Garden redesign results in seats with zero leg room

Nate Scott | USA TODAY SPORTS

Fans of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins are rightfully ticked off when a stadium redesign at the TD Garden this summer seems to have resulted in much, much less leg room for people attending the games.

The stadium redesign happened this summer, with the idea that the seats in the stadium would be “replaced and upgraded with modern, ergonomic seating,” according a press release issued in September.

They also appear to have gotten some more seats in, because “ergonomic seating” can’t explain how just about anyone above the height of 5-foot-9 can no longer fit in the seats at a Bruins or Celtics game.

Look at this nightmare. (Thanks to Barry Petchesky in Deadspin for spotting a bunch of these tweets.)

Fans have grumbled quite a bit, and with good reason — tickets for Bruins and Celtics games run in the hundreds of dollars, and it sure looks like the fans are getting the squeeze because the owners wanted to squeeze as much possible money out of every game.

Which, you know, capitalism. But at a certain point people aren’t going to spend hundreds to get crammed into seats when they’ve got big screens and lovely couches at home.

For their part, TD Garden is trying to make the argument that the extra padding on the new seats is what’s making it so the leg room has gone down, which … ha.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson: “I think about Steph Curry and how he shoots a basketball – that’s how I want to throw a football.”

How Steph Curry has influenced Seahawks QB Russell Wilson’s game

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

Russell Wilson is a flat-out baller. Full stop.

The Seattle Seahawks quarterback has been one of the best signal-callers in the NFL, constantly putting on a mesmerizing show while leading the Seahawks to the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. 

Wilson’s vision, creativity and electric play excites a crowd like few others in professional sports, but the dynamic gunslinger does take his flair from one of the NBA’s most exciting stars. 

“I think about Steph Curry and how he shoots a basketball – that’s how I want to throw a football,” Wilson said, via NBC Sports Northwest’s Joe Fann. “Put it on the money, make some crazy throws, make some crazy plays. I love watching sports, and he’s one of my favorite guys to watch with how he shoots a basketball.”

Wilson, like Curry, is one of the few athletes who’s every move captivates a crowd. You can feel something special happening as Wilson dodges pass rushers and Curry pulls up from farther and farther behind the 3-point line. The oxygen gets consumed by masses of people gasping in anticipation of the incredible plays that only the like of Curry and Wilson are capable of delivering.

They are rare athletes. With the persona, skills and creative excellence to wow fans, teammates and opponents alike.

Both also are criminally underrated. Wilson helped lead the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII title, but was seen as the beneficiary of playing with an all-time great defense. Curry, likewise, has led the Warriors to three titles in five seasons, but he has been criticized for poor play in big games and some have put an asterisk next to Curry’s first title since he was playing against a depleted Cleveland Cavaliers team. The next two Warriors titles Curry won as part of the greatest collection of talent in NBA history with Kevin Durant taking home Finals MVP in back-to-back years.

Curry stepped aside to let Durant share the spotlight with him in the Bay because it was what was best for the Warriors. Wilson was the key piece to Seattle’s Super Bowl title, giving Pete Carroll’s team the offensive threat needed to make them a force. 

Underappreciated and undervalued, Wilson and Curry have continued to showcase their greatness year after year, and have done so with a combination of talent, gravitas, ingenuity and creativity that rarely is seen in sports.

With Durant gone, Curry will look to re-introduce himself to the sports world this season as the unquestioned leader of the new-look Warriors. An MVP very well might await Curry at season’s end.

If Wilson keeps playing at this level, he might just match the Warriors star.