The Sixers on Tuesday will take on the Guangzhou Loong-Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association in their first game of the preseason.
Normally this wouldn’t be of much note outside of looking for Ben Simmons to take a jumper or Joel Embiid’s health.
But with the recent tweet of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the reaction since, it takes on a slightly different feel.
Morey on Friday tweeted out "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." Hong Kong has seen protests that have become violent in nature in opposition to a proposed extradition law. Morey subsequently deleted his tweet and he offered an explanation for his actions.
The Sixers didn’t offer up much on the subject Monday other than to acknowledge that they enjoyed their trip to China last season for a pair of preseason games and that they’re still looking forward to their game against the Loong-Lions Tuesday.
“The game will go on as planned,” Sixers senior VP of communications Dave Sholler said after practice. “First and foremost, we played in China last year and it was an incredible experience for our team and organization. We felt that support all of last year into this year. We love our fans there, the passion, the intensity they have for our sport. And I think most importantly, the game of basketball possesses an incredible power to bring people together. And as we play the Lions tomorrow, that’s what it’s about — it’s about that incredible platform basketball has provided to bring people together.”
Head coach Brett Brown gave a similar response when asked about the current situation with playing a team from China.
The team didn’t offer any comment specifically on Morey’s tweet or the subsequent reaction by the league, but Brown did offer something.
“[The league's response] did surprise me a little bit, but it's really all I feel personally I want to say about the matter,” Brown said. “I understand what's gone on since the comments. And I will just repeat, it's an easy few sentences, we had a great time in China and they just love basketball. … And that's my stance on it, and tomorrow night. And I hear your social question, but it's not my place to comment on that right now.”
When pressed about how he would approach a player that wanted to express themselves politically or socially in general, Brown didn’t elaborate much.
“I'm gonna let you down because I don't really have anything more to say,” Brown said. “I think people can do what they choose to do. You know, they're big boys, they can handle it however they choose to and I genuinely mean that, and that's how I would handle it.”
Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson and Kyle O'Quinn all spoke after Brown. None of them took a stance on the issue, saying they didn't feel informed enough on the matter to do so.
The NBA has become a league where players and executives have felt comfortable expressing themselves regarding social and political issues. That’s why some thought the league’s stance was a bit peculiar in that they seemed to be apologizing on behalf of Morey and put their economic relationship with China ahead of allowing a GM to speak their mind.
Commissioner Adam Silver clarified that he supported Morey even if he didn’t agree with his point of view.
"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 to Kyodo News in Tokyo.
This doesn’t seem like a situation that will be cleared up or swept under the rug any time soon.
And the Sixers are likely not done answering questions about it as they gear up for their first preseason game.
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