Houston Rockets

Sixers react to Rockets GM Daryl Morey's comments about situation in Hong Kong

Sixers react to Rockets GM Daryl Morey's comments about situation in Hong Kong

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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NBA drama doesn't stop as Rockets reportedly trade for Russell Westbrook

NBA drama doesn't stop as Rockets reportedly trade for Russell Westbrook

The last two weeks have been not short on drama in the NBA.

The latest major move in the league came Thursday night as ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported a trade between the Thunder and Rockets that will send Russell Westbrook to Houston.

According to The Athletic's Sam Amick, Paul might be on the move again soon, with Miami a possible destination.

As far as the Sixers are concerned, the immediate focus will remain on winning the Eastern Conference — a goal James Ennis is very confident they can achieve (see story).

Paul and Jimmy Butler teaming up in Miami would certainly be interesting, though it's difficult to analyze the threat they'd pose at this stage without knowing what the Heat would be giving up in a hypothetical deal.

If Westbrook and James Harden manage to gel along with Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela and company, the Rockets could be another contender in the West. However, the ball-dominant duo does not appear to be the most natural fit. The pair played together with Oklahoma City from 2009-2012.

A footnote for the Sixers is that the team owns the Thunder's 2020 first-round pick, which is protected 1 to 20. If the pick does not convey in 2020, it will become Oklahoma City's second-round picks in 2022 and 2023. Given that the focus for Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti seems to be more on building for the future than contending in the present, the latter scenario appears much more likely.

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NBA free agency rumors: Jimmy Butler to take meetings with Rockets, Heat as Sixers don't 'rule out' sign-and-trade

NBA free agency rumors: Jimmy Butler to take meetings with Rockets, Heat as Sixers don't 'rule out' sign-and-trade

Updated: 7:51 p.m.

This is not the news most Sixers fans want to see.

Jimmy Butler will take free agent meetings with both the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

It was clear that both teams had an interest in Butler. Now it appears that feeling is mutual. The fact that the Sixers “haven’t ruled out” working with both teams doesn’t seem to bode well, either. 

This could all be posturing. Perhaps this is all just a negotiating tactic to ensure the Sixers offer Butler a fifth year. Since they own his Bird rights, they’re the only team that can do so. The sides will reportedly meet "soon," while a couple suitors with cap space are also in the mix.

If you’re looking into the sign-and-trade option, the Heat likely have the better assets, centering around young wing Josh Richardson. The Sixers can also just let Butler walk and use the cap space his departure creates if Houston and Miami don’t offer packages that appeal to them.

All along, reports have said that the Sixers’ No. 1 priority was retaining Butler and Tobias Harris — and that could still be the case. If the team is unable to re-sign Butler, you’d have to think their attention would immediately turn to securing the 26-year-old Harris. 

A lot can happen between now and Butler’s meetings. Teams can start negotiating with free agents at 6 p.m. Sunday. The Sixers should be awfully busy around that time.

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