SHANGHAI – The NBA canceled organized media sessions for the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets' trip to China to avoid forcing players to discuss the fallout between the league and the country.
"We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China," a statement read. "They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time."
The move was not at the request of the players specifically, according to a source, but the league arrived at the decision through discussions with players and the union.
The Lakers and Nets are free to speak to reporters on their own, independent of the NBA, according to a league official. The teams played in Shanghai on Thursday before leaving for Shenzhen on Friday for a rematch Saturday. Shenzhen is about 20 miles from Hong Kong.
In Shanghai, the Chinese government mandated that the NBA not hold news conferences before, during or after the game. Chinese officials also canceled two NBA Cares events in Shanghai, one for each team. On Wednesday, the NBA canceled a scheduled media session with all Lakers and Nets players and coaches just 15 minutes in advance of it.
The tensions between the NBA and China are in response to a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last weekend in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Commissioner Adam Silver, during a news conference in Japan on Tuesday, declined to apologize for Morey's tweet, citing his freedom of expression. Chinese state TV condemned Silver's response, saying Morey's tweet threatened China's sovereignty.