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NBA objects to Rockets’ handling of media question about China

RocketsWire logo RocketsWire 10/10/2019 Ben DuBose
James Harden looking at the camera: Getty © Getty Getty

The NBA said Thursday that a Houston Rockets team representative "inappropriately interjected" in a postgame press conference in Japan when a reporter attempted to ask James Harden and Russell Westbrook a question about the ongoing fallout from China.

The reporter in the exchange was CNN anchor Christina Macfarlane. Courtesy of CNN, here's a transcript of what happened:

Macfarlane: The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we've seen whether you both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?

Rockets' PR: Excuse me, we are taking basketball questions only.

Macfarlane: It's a legitimate question.

Rockets' PR: It's not.

Macfarlane: This is an event that's happened this week during the NBA.

Rockets' PR: It's already been answered.

Macfarlane: This is a question that's not been answered. James?

According to CNN, a Rockets' media relations employee later told the network that the reason the players did not answer was because they had answered the question several times already.

To that point, Rockets' coaches and players did answer numerous questions about the China controversy at media availabilities after practice on Monday and Wednesday, and at the postgame press conference following Tuesday's game.

The controversy began Saturday, when GM Daryl Morey tweeted an image in apparent support of a Hong Kong protest movement. The situation escalated Sunday, when Chinese sponsors and organizations suspended their ties with the Rockets over Morey's comments.

Then, on Tuesday, the scope of the backlash moved beyond just the Rockets and extended to the NBA as a whole. As leaders of the team, Harden, Westbrook, and head coach Mike D'Antoni responded to several questions throughout the week as the fallout progressed.

Though the topic had been previously addressed, the NBA weighed in by explaining that Thursday's question should still have been allowed to proceed. From Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press:

Thursday's game, a 118-111 victory by the Rockets over the defending champion Toronto Raptors, was the second of a two-game preseason series in Japan between the two teams.

The Rockets are now flying back from Tokyo to Houston after being outside of the continental United States for the last 10 days. Once they return, American media in Houston will undoubtedly have even more questions for the team about the incident.

In all, the backlash from Chinese organizations could cost the Rockets between $10 million and $25 million, according to a report earlier this week from Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen.

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