The NBA is still feeling the effects in China from Daryl Morey’s support of Hong Kong

Ben Rohrbach | Yahoo Sports

In an interview with CNBC prior to the season, former NBA executive vice president and current Golden State Warriors chief operating officer Rick Welts acknowledged that tensions with the Chinese government would have a short-term impact on the league but suggested “this will pass.”

It does not appear as though the ice has thawed as the NBA prepares to enter its All-Star break.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Chinese fans continue to be “limited significantly in their opportunities to watch” the NBA four months after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong set off a global conflict.

Despite Morey’s public apology and softened rhetoric around the subject of authoritarianism in China from all levels of the NBA, government-run China Central Television (CCTV) has reportedly not broadcast a single game this season. Likewise, Chinese media conglomerate Tencent, which signed a reported $1.5 billion deal to carry games through 2024-25, no longer offers its equivalent of League Pass, which allowed customers to subscribe to the full NBA slate, per the L.A. Times.

Instead, Tencent reportedly only airs the free broadcasts it has in the past, covering one to three games per day. According to the L.A. Times, viewership for those games has held steady, although few advertisers continue to air commercials and fans have increasingly turned to illegal live streams. To put this all in perspective, more people in China watched the 2019 NBA Finals than in the U.S.

This could have serious ramifications for both the NBA and Tencent. The $1.5 billion signed in July “could be in jeopardy,” the L.A. Times reported, but the NBA was more optimistic in its response.

“We have had a great partnership with Tencent since 2009 and last July announced a five-year expansion,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass told the L.A. Times. “Through our expanded partnership, we look forward to continuing to work closely with Tencent to provide their hundreds of millions of daily users with NBA games and content, and deepen our long-standing connection with fans across the country.”

The NBA informed teams last month that salary cap projections for the 2020-21 season have decreased from $116 million to $115 million in the wake of the China controversy, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Morey’s tweet cost the NBA in excess of $150 million, Wojnarowski reported. Those figures would drastically change were Tencent to challenge the $1.5 billion deal.

The Rockets have bore the brunt of the impact since Morey tweeted, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” on Oct. 4. Once a fan favorite in China due to their history with Yao Ming, Rockets games are no longer carried in China. Per the L.A. Times, Tencent has even removed mentions of Houston in its news stories, and James Harden is only referenced in passing as an MVP candidate.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in October that the Chinese government pressured the league to fire the Rockets general manager. Silver declined, and CCTV reportedly suggested he could face “retribution” for supporting Morey. China’s government denied it asked for Morey’s firing. According to the New York Daily News’ Stefan Bondy, “Morey is expected to be a free agent” at season’s end.

Harden and LeBron James were among NBA dignitaries who rebuked Morey for costing the league financially with his public support of Hong Kong. In an October apology to China, Harden said, “We love everything there about them,” and James added, “I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke.”

Meanwhile, the Chinese Basketball Association has been postponed in the wake of the recent coronavirus outbreak, and the NBA issued a memo to teams last week strongly discouraging travel to China as a result, per The New York Times’ Marc Stein. The NBA reportedly pledged $1.4 million to support relief efforts in China’s Hubei province, where the virus originated. Chinese consul general Huang Ping thanked the NBA and others for their support during a press conference in New York last week. Whether that signals improved relations between the two sides remains to be seen.

Rockets reach deal to send Clint Capela to Hawks in massive 4-team trade

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

A massive trade went down in the NBA late on Tuesday night, sending 12 players and two future draft picks to different teams across the league just days ahead of the trade deadline.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets, Denver NuggetsAtlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves struck the four-way deal — the largest the league has seen in two decades.

Houston Rockets

While the Rockets sent several pieces elsewhere on Tuesday night, they did receive Robert Covington in the deal. 

Covington has averaged 12.8 points and six rebounds so far this season with the Timberwolves, his seventh in the league. The 29-year-old got his start in the NBA with the Rockets, too, playing seven games for them in his rookie season.

He is currently in the second year of a four-year, $46.8 million deal.

The Rockets also received Jordan Bell from the Timberwolves. Bell has averaged 3.1 points and 2.9 rebounds in 27 games off the bench for Minnesota. 

The Rockets dealt away Clint Capela, Nene and Gerald Green in the deal. 

Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks picked up both Capela, who has been the center of trade rumors for some time now, and Nene on Tuesday night.

Capela has averaged 13.9 points and 13.8 rebounds so far this season for the Rockets, his sixth in the league since Houston selected him with the No. 25 pick in the 2014 draft. He has been sidelined recently, however, while dealing with a heel injury.

Nene has averaged 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 42 games for Houston this season, though the 37-year-old has started in just two of them and is averaging less than 14 minutes per contest.

The Hawks dealt away both a future first round draft pick and Evan Turner in the deal.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves received Turner from the Hawks in the trade. Turner has played in just 19 games this season in Atlanta, averaging 3.3 points and two rebounds. They will also receive a first round pick from the Hawks for the 2020 draft.

Minnesota also picked Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley from Denver. Hernangomez has put up three points per game off the bench so far this year, while Beasley has added 7.8 points. 

The Timberwolves dealt away Covington, Shabazz NapierNoah Vonleh and Keita-Bates Diop in the deal. 

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets received Green and Bates-Diop in the deal, however are expected to waive Green, who is out for the season with a broken foot. They also picked up Napier Vonleh and Napier from Minnesota. 

Bates-Diop has averaged 6.8 points and three rebounds per game this season in Minnesota. Napier has put up 9.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 36 games with the Timberwolves, his sixth in the league. Vonleh has appeared in 29 games and put up 4.1 points and four rebounds in less than 13 minutes per contest.

Denver also picked up a future first round draft pick from Houston. 

The Nuggets dealt away Hernangomez and Beasley in the deal. 

Are the Rockets thinking about trading Russell Westbrook?

Rumor: Rockets could trade Russell Westbrook

Dan Feldman | NBC SPORTS

The Rockets traded two lightly protected first-round picks and two protected first-round swaps for an aging guard who’s highly reliant on athleticism and has a duplicative skill set with their incumbent star.

How’s that going?

Russell Westbrook hasn’t provided the desired upgrade over Chris Paul. Houston has performed better when James Harden plays without Westbrook than when Harden plays with Westbrook. Westbrook-led lineups have struggled when Harden sits.

Though unloading Paul’s contract was essential to the trade, the Rockets certainly hoped Westbrook would help them more.

Ryen Russillo of The Ringer:

I think Westbrook is available. We can talk about semantics Of course, Daryl Morey would trade anyone if he thought it made his team better. Of course, he would trade Westbrook if he could get off of that long-term money, if he thought the assets, the sum of the parts was better than having somebody that’s considered a top-10 player.

Is Daryl Morey actively calling people, saying, “Hey, I’ve got to dump Westbrook?” Well, of course, he wouldn’t do it that way. But there are people who believe Westbrook is available and that Daryl knows, “I’ve got to figure something out here.”

I’m sure people will deny this after they hear it on the podcast. I don’t care.

Russillo is right: Morey would trade anyone. By acknowledging that, Russillo gains credibility for this report. He seems to be implying there’s more to this. Still, I’m not convinced his sources are giving proper heft to Morey’s trade-anyone style. These are the types of things that could get lost in trade-rumor telephone.

Finding a Westbrook trade won’t be easy. The 31-year-old is earning $38,506,482 this season and due $132,633,438 over the next three years. That’ll dissuade other teams. Harden also wanted Westbrook in Houston and might not appreciate his friend getting dealt. That creates internal complications.

All along, the Rockets traded for Westbrook to boost their championship chances. The tough part: Houston won’t see how Harden and Westbrook perform together in the playoffs until after the trade deadline. The regular season reveals only so much. It’s on Morey to make an early judgement with limited information.

Is Morey actually looking more seriously into moving Westbrook than a typical player? Perhaps. But given the challenges of actually trading Westbrook, we might never find out.

James Harden drops 60 points in just three quarters in dominant win against Atlanta

Ryan Young | Yahoo Sports

It didn’t take James Harden long to notch yet another historic performance on Saturday night.

In fact, it took him less than 31 minutes.

Harden dropped 60 points in the first three quarters of the Houston Rockets’ 158-111 win against the Atlanta Hawks at the Toyota Center on Saturday, marking his fourth career 60-point game.

Only Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant have more.

“That’s greatness right there. Those guys are something that I’m trying to get to,” Harden said. “Hopefully when it’s all said and done, I can be mentioned in that group forever. Still a work in progress, but we’re working to get there.”

Harden shot 16-of-24 from the field and 8-of-14 from the 3-point line in the dominant outing. His 24 field goal attempts mark the fewest ever in a 60-point game, surpassing Karl Malone. 

Atlanta simply had no answer for him, either, and couldn’t keep up offensively whatsoever. 

After taking a brief three-point lead in the first quarter, the Hawks fell fast. They finished the opening period with just 21 points, and soon found themselves in a massive 58-point hole near the end of the third quarter. 

By that point, the game was long over. Harden, who added 20 of his 60 points from the free throw line, sat out the entire fourth quarter while the Rockets finalized the 47-point win.

“He just didn’t feel us. He didn’t feel us with the doubles. He didn’t feel us with the blitz. He didn’t feel us with the extra defender running out at him,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “A lot of their guys have confidence … It’s kind of who James is, and it was amplified tonight.”

Harden, who added eight assists and three rebounds on the night, was just one point away from tying his career high, too.

Ben McLemore dropped 24 points and had a career-high 13 rebounds for Houston in the win. Russell Westbrook added 15 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

Trae Young led the Hawks with an impressive offensive night of his own, finishing with 37 points and seven assists while shooting 10-of-16 from the field. De’Andre Hunter added 14 points, and Jabari Parker dropped 11.

Watch a compilation of the best buckets from each of Harden’s 60-PT performances of his entire career. Harden now passes Elgin Baylor (3 60-PT Games) with 4 60-PT games and ties Michael Jordan (4)...

Despite being 2nd highest paid NBA player, Chris Paul Says He Felt Stabbed In The Back After Being Traded by the Houston Rockets

Daryl Nelson | ATLANTA BLACK STAR

After 14 years in the NBA, Chris Paul is still considered an elite point guard. But even the top players in the league aren’t exempt from falling victim to an organization’s bottom line to win a championship.

Paul was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in July for Russell Westbrook and two first-round draft picks, as well as two first-round swap options.

In 2017, when the native North Carolinian was traded to the Houston Rockets by the Los Angeles Clippers to play with James Harden, it’s safe to say the Rockets thought they had enough to at least make it to the NBA Finals. But that never happened, which might’ve led to Paul’s trade.

It’s something Paul spoke to Kevin Hart about on the comedian’s “Cold as Balls” series after Hart said the hoop star has been part of some big trade talks.

“Is it at a point where it’s just business or is it becoming personal?” Hart asked him. “Do you feel like there’s been times where, ‘Damn, that’s a little eye-opening, I got stabbed in the back?’”

“Every situation is different,” answered Paul. “But the team is going to do whatever they want to do. They’ll tell you one thing and do a smooth ‘nother thing.”

“This last situation was one of them,” the NBA star continued. “The GM there in Houston, he don’t owe me nothing. He may tell me one thing but do another thing. But you just understand that that’s what it is.”

Paul certainly isn’t the first NBA player who talked about how he felt after a trade. Isaiah Thomas, who was traded by the Boston Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, also spoke about it. But unlike Paul, he chose to blast his former team.

That’s because Thomas was the face of the franchise and led them to a conference final before being traded. And he spoke about how team owners may have too much control over players.

“I want them to see how my getting traded, just like that, without any warning by the franchise that I scratched and clawed for and bled for and put my everything on the line for. It’s like, man, with a few exceptions unless we’re free agents, 99 times out of 100 it’s the owners with the power,” wrote Thomas in 2017 for The Players’ Tribune

As for Paul — who, along with Westbrook, is the second-highest paid player in the league this season with a salary of $38,506,482 for 2019-2020 — the Rockets haven’t responded to him talking about feeling backstabbed by the trade.

Protesters voice support for Hong Kong before Rockets game

Kevin Arnovitz | ESPN

HOUSTON — A group of about 35 people staged a rally Saturday outside the Toyota Center before the Houston Rockets‘ 126-123 win over the New Orleans Pelicans to voice support for protesters in Hong Kong.

As fans filed into the arena, the demonstrators gathered in the entrance plaza, wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Fight For Freedom” on the front and “China, Stop Bullying” on the back. They held American flags as well as signs expressing support for free expression and criticizing the Chinese government. Two attendees held a large, gold banner that read, “Hong Kong’s fight is everyone’s fight.”

The rally was coordinated by two local groups: the Vietnamese Community of Houston and Vicinities and Texas for Hong Kong. The same coalition organized approximately 30 people on Thursday for the Rockets’ home opener, and they sat behind the south basket and stood holding their signs during stoppages in play.

The Rockets have been at the center of the conflict between the NBA and China that was sparked by the reaction to a tweet on Oct. 4 by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. In the days that have followed, broadcasters in China, Chinese sponsors and the Chinese Basketball Association have severed or scaled back agreements with the NBA.

Chris Wong, a research scientist and Hong Kong native who has organized events in Houston to bring awareness to the situation in his home city, helped assemble participants from the local Hong Konger community for both Thursday’s and Saturday’s home games.

“My reaction [to the Morey tweet] was, ‘Great, someone is supporting and publicly speaking for Hong Kong,'” Wong said. “But the reaction from the Chinese government and the machinery in China was such an overreaction just for someone sending out a symbolic tweet. I was mad.”

The Rockets, who featured eight-time All-Star center Yao Ming for nearly a decade and played in the NBA’s first game in China in 2004, are one of China’s most popular NBA teams. The franchise has cultivated extensive commercial partnerships in the nation since drafting Yao in 2002. Although Tencent, an ESPN partner, has resumed streaming NBA games in China, the Rockets have not appeared on the platform in the opening week of the season.

Tram Ho, an internist who emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in 1982 after spending six months as a refugee in Hong Kong, said she was inspired to help organize the events in Houston by activists inside Barclays Center during a Brooklyn Nets preseason game. Tram, who counts herself as a casual Rockets fan first drawn to the NBA by retired Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon, attended both Thursday’s and Saturday’s games and believes the current friction between China and the NBA is a harbinger of a larger conflict.

“China is not only bullying the United States right now, but [it] has been bullying other countries in Asia and South China Sea for a long time,” Tram said. “I feel very sorry for Hong Kong, a democratic society. The two systems — it’s not going to work.”

Fanny Wong, a certified public accountant in her 50s who immigrated to the United States from Macao in the 1970s, held a sign that read, “Stand with Hong Kong, Be Taller than LeBron, who kneels down for ¥¥¥ [the symbol for Chinese Yuan].” She wore a James Harden-style costume beard with a red zipper over the mouth to symbolize what she characterized as the self-censorship of many NBA players.

“I can understand that a lot of athletes, they have a lot of financial investment,” Wong said. “What I would appreciate is that they be honest about that. Just say, ‘We have a lot of interests at stake there, and there are certain things we need to compromise.’ I’d respect that. They stood for justice somewhere else when there’s no financial conflict of interest. But then where there is a conflict of financial interest, ‘Oh, wait a minute. We don’t understand.’ To me, that’s a lie. I’d respect it more if they were honest about it.”

As game time neared, the group began to chant, “Stand for freedom, no censorship,” before breaking into staccato chants of “Morey, Morey, Morey” and then “NBA, NBA, NBA.”

“We are currently seeing people seeking profit over freedom,” Jean Lin, a 28-year-old Taiwanese-American research technician, said when asked how the situation with the NBA and China is instructive. “Making that money and reaching that big market in China becomes more prominent, disregarding true American values.”

James Harden slams ball on the court, hits himself in the face

Nick Schwartz | USA TODAY SPORTS

Rockets superstar James Harden had a chance to get the last shot of the half in a tie game against the Pelicans on Saturday night, but his attempt was deflected by Josh Hart as the buzzer sounded. Harden was upset with the outcome and likely felt that he was fouled – it’s James Harden, after all – and he reacted by throwing pounding the the ball into the court – only for it to bounce up and smack him in the face.

Hart’s reaction was priceless.

Harden, it should be noted, has struggled from the floor to open the season. Harden shot 2-for-13 in the Rockets’ season opener against the Bucks, and was 3-for-14 at halftime against the Pelicans.

Russell Westbrook and James Harden already got into a heated argument in their first game together as Rockets

James Harden-Russell Westbrook argument goes viral

SARA JANE HARRIS | SPORTING NEWS

The NBA season has just started, and it looks like James Harden and Russell Westbrook are already showing frustration toward each other.

A clip of the Rockets stars appearing to exchange words during Thursday’s game against the Bucks quickly went viral on Twitter.

Westbrook reunited with Harden when the Rockets acquired him in a trade with the Thunder during the offseason.

The two were not only teammates for three years in Oklahoma City, but they have been friends since age 10.

Westbrook downplayed his argument with Harden after the game, suggesting their close relationship will mean arguments such as these will sometimes be on public display.

Earlier this year, Harden predicted in an interview with GQ that things wouldn’t go perfectly at the start of the season.

“It’s like, yo, we’ll figure it out,” Harden said. “Everything isn’t necessarily going to be smooth at first, there are going to be ups and downs, and that’s part of an 82-game season. Hopefully, by the end of the season, we’ve caught a rhythm and everybody is on the same page going into the playoffs. That’s all you can ask for.”

Harden added: “There’s a different kind of relationship and communication that we have, a different type of excitement that we have for each other. We don’t really care or pay attention to what other people say or think.”

You Can’t Turn Steph Curry Into James Harden

Ray Ratto | DEADSPIN

Stephen Curry is one of the leading conduits of migraine headaches in modern American sports. That is to say, his name is invoked when migraines are inspired, which is correlation rather than causation.

Monday, for example, he was an innocent bystander when Michael Jordan said on the Today show that Curry wasn’t a Hall of Famer. This immediately caused the internet to vomit upon itself even though (a) Jordan was pretty clearly joking and (b) is technically correct in that one is not a Hall of Famer until elected to the Hall of Fame. Jordan may not be much for team creation (see Hornets, Charlotte, Freefall) but he knows the difference between the present and the future.

Tuesday, though, and more to the point, his head coach Steve Kerr downgraded Curry’s running mate Klay Thompson to “unlikely to play this season” after amateur doctors across the land with neither knowledge nor access had projected his return at around the all-star break. This exacerbated the running analysis that Curry’s already-high usage rate should spike beyond Hardenesque levels for him to win the Most Valuable Player award in an otherwise difficult year for the company. Some even postulate that a ball-dominant Curry makes them better, which is wrong for reasons that those of you stupid enough to continue will see below.

(Here is the point at which someone must surely say soon that Jordan makes the most sense of anyone on the subject of Steph. Everything else on the subject is either confusing, wrongheaded or flies in the face of everything that made Curry Curry.)

Thompson’s adjusted recovery timeline makes the Warriors significantly worse, since the optimistic view of their season assumed Thompson’s full return in time for a late-season return to full Warrior-hood. In other words, they’re likely to be worse, both individually and collectively. Bet the under on the 48.5 win total, based on: the time it will take D’Angelo Russell to acclimate himself as Curry’s new Thompson; Draymond Green’s ability to guard multiple people at once rather than merely alternately; Kevon Looney’s amiable work ethic vs. his physical limitations; and Willie Cauley-Stein’s eventual return to whatever the Willie Cauley-Steins of the world do.

As for Curry, though, the speculation that his usage rate could skyrocket and that he would therefore be more likely to put together a dazzling individual season of numbers flies in the face of the fact that removing quality teammates typically makes one worse rather than better. Defending Curry as teams are likely to defend him will probably help Russell’s numbers, but nobody is clamoring for that one way or another.

But even if Curry’s numbers did spike as some people expect, that would make him less appealing as a player because a ball-centric Curry is antithetical to the Curry that resides atop Jordan’s Not-A-Hall-Of-Famer-Yet list. Curry lives in a ball-movement universe and made his reputation not as a stand-alone consumer of the shot clock but as the most electric moving part in a gearbox full of them. The NBA is clearly getting away from the one-option-fits-all ball that once made Carmelo Anthony a thing, and Curry was a prime example of the game’s aesthetic advancement. And now people think he should regress for the glory of his own stat line because winning an MVP and missing the playoffs is somehow an equitable trade?

No. Curry is … well, was the heart of one of the great ensemble shows in sports history, and even wanting him to be something else (which is to say something worse) is either the heartfelt plea of a fan of another team or the yowling of an idiot. He shares with his teammates and his teammates share with him for a loftier goal, or there’s no real point to the exercise. Thompson is the key to that ball movement because he needs the ball in his hands less than any other person in the sport; he holds the NBA record for shots made before touching the ball, that’s how quick his release is. Without him, the meh washes over you like room-temperature high tide—you don’t notice you’re drowning until this seaweed plugs your nostrils.

Put another way, Stephen Curry as James Harden is simply not worth the minimal benefit of being a slightly more appealing MVP candidate.

But if you don’t believe that, remember that no city throws a parade for an MVP winner, and without the possibility of drinking straight from the bottle on a raucous city street while the cops do nothing except smile, sports may as well be insurance adjusting.


Ray Ratto only watches the NBA to see how many experts can be wrong simultaneously about anything.

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.”