Nets players attempt to move on post-China trip

ByMalika Andrews ESPN logo
Wednesday, October 16, 2019

NEW YORK -- Sleepy-eyed Brooklyn Nets players, still recovering from the 12-hour time difference, practiced Wednesday for the first time since returning from their preseason trip to China.

Four days removed from their second and final game there against the Los Angeles Lakers, Nets players said they were ready to put the trip behind them.

"It's tough to block everything out," Caris LeVert said. "But at the end of the day we're human and we see those things. We just try to stick together as much as we could and focus our sights on the game."

The trip wasn't what players expected.

While the Nets flew to Shanghai, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent out a tweet supporting protestors in Hong Kong that created turmoil between China and the NBA. Community events there were canceled, posters promoting the Nets-Lakers games were stripped from the sides of buildings, the league went into crisis PR mode, and there was talk of the games being canceled.

LaVert said he never saw Morey's tweet, but heard about it upon landing.

The Nets have a unique tie to all of this; owner Joe Tsai lives in Hong Kong. Harris said the team spent time with Tsai on the trip and attended dinners at restaurants he recommended.

Tsai released a statement on Facebook reacting to Morey's tweet. It read, in part, "When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn't expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on something as politically charged and grossly misunderstood as the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened."

"Supporting a separatist movement in a Chinese territory is one of those third-rail issues, not only for the Chinese government, but also for all citizens in China."

Joe Harris said on Wednesday that Tsai suggested players "read the post and take it from there." Harris declined to get into specifics of the private meetings.

"Joe had a lot of stuff planned," Harris said. "We had great dinners. The team bonding. There was a lot of good opportunities to hang out. We weren't caught up with a lot of the stuff going on."

While players have returned to the states, the long-term implications of Morey's tweet and the NBA's relationship with China remains in question. If permanently damaged, players could lose money as China has been a hot spot for shoe sales.

Harris, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Nets before last season, said he isn't concerned.

"Personally, I already get paid way too much to play a game. I'm not too worried about it," he said.

Sources told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that Nets point guard Kyrie Irving was among those who spoke with commissioner Adam Silver in China amid the fallout from Morey's tweet. Irving, sources told McMenamin, said he was there to play basketball games, and if a requirement for those games was dealing with the fallout that Morey's tweet created, he would rather not play at all.

Irving declined to speak to reporters Wednesday, but did participate in practice.

"We're just focused on the season now," LeVert said. "That's kind of behind us. We're back here, our first regular-season game is next week. So that's kind of what we're focused on right now."

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