What an absolutely nightmarish week for the NBA.
It’s not over yet – although if they were to suddenly announce today that the second Lakers-Nets game in China on Saturday is off and they’re bringing the whole kit and caboodle home it wouldn’t surprise me at all – but the damage done at so many levels really is incalculable.
Even with all the ugliness of the original Morey tweet, the exorbitant Chinese reaction (why in the world they went so hard after one innocuous tweet when so many others are taking on a stance on Hong Kong mystifies me) and the rather tepid initial reaction from Adam Silver (and give him credit for making a second, more obvious statement defence of free speech) yesterday was crazy.
I don’t know why, but the league caved to Chinese government wishes and cancelled all – ALL – media availabilities with players, coaches and an Adam Silver news conference around the game.
And in Tokyo, a rather over-exuberant Rockets team employee – quite wrongly – shut down questioning of James Harden and Russell Westbrook with a “this is just about basketball” admonition that led to the league apologizing to the questioner.
No, not a banner day at all.
I’ve been on the periphery of this league for some time now and I cannot remember a week as bad as this.
The Malice at the Palace was an ugly blight quickly resolved, Adam Silver met the Donald Sterling controversy head-on and got it fixed fast; this thing with China is going to linger and I’m kind of surprised it’s had life as long as it has.
The best thing might be is for both sides to retreat to neutral corners, to tone down any rhetoric, for the NBA to say goodbye to China right now and then let time heal part of the rift and some backroom diplomacy to handle the rest of it.
Both one thing I do not understand is the sudden outcry from far too many people – many who ridiculously espoused Stick To Sports in the past – taking players, coaches and management to task for not speaking up and having an opinion on something I guarantee you the majority didn’t know was going on until like 10 days ago.
I love that they talk about societal issues and the ones they try to bring to the spotlight – domestic violence, gun violence, racial inequality, class inequality – are issues that are real to them, they are close to their homes and their existences and their reality.
I want to hear what they have to say on those matters and I think it’s important they are heard and, for the most part, heeded.
Those are close-to-home issues, real in-your-life issues.
To ask them all of a sudden to have an opinion on such a nuanced, geopolitical issue as Chinese-Hong Kong relations is unfair and to chastise them in any way for not immediately speaking up is equally unfair.
All of them – I promise you – feel strongly about freedom of speech and freedom of expression. But to ask of them inside a week to come up with some definitive opinion on an issue that has never, ever touched their lives is silly.
Besides, there was this last night and it’s long but it’s okay.
End o’ rant.
So it’s real baseball time and while I basically only want good game but it’s nice to have a little rooting interest and it got me to thinking.
You can’t cheer for the Nationals because they were the Expos and that pain probably won’t ever go away and the Cardinals are just a bit self-righteous as an organization for me.
I suppose you could go for the Yankees because of Edwin and JA Happ but it’s still a bit like cheering for U.S. Steel, isn’t it?
That leaves the Astros and I really appreciate the way Verlander pitches and I hear some folks want the Blue Jays to sign this Cole bloke in the off-season so I guess it’s go Houston, go.
Just so I’m clear.
A 23-year-old highly-acclaimed professional basketball player made a three-pointer for the first time after playing 160 NBA regular season games and another 22 in the playoffs in some pre-season game against a JV team from the Chinese league and this is supposed to be a thing?
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The regular season cannot possibly get here quickly enough.
We’re running out of time for the Thanksgiving version of the weekly mailbag, my good folks.
Click on email@example.com, scribble something down and send it along. Like magic, I will have made up some kind of cockamamie answer and you’ll see it here Sunday morning.
It ended as many had expected with the better team with the best player winning and that seems just to me.
And now the WNBA faces arguably the most important off-season in the history of the league.
The collective bargaining agreement is kaput, there has to some new deal struck that finds some way for a more economical distribution of revenue and there absolutely has to be a sense of co-operation rather than confrontation and I presume the right middle ground will be reached.
Why should we care?
The WNBA is now a goal for all kinds of young Canadian women who have something to aspire to.
I’ve spoken often with all five Canadians in the league today – Kia Nurse, Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, Bridget Carleton, Natalie Achonwa and Kayla Alexander – and they all know how important the league is to teenage and college level players.
It cannot go away.
And once they solve this financial riddle and get things on steady path forward – and that might take three or four or five years – the league will eventually look to grow and Toronto is, I believe, a logical destination.
But getting the CBA done and finding an equitable way to split revenue while also figuring out to expand the pie so there’s more money to go around, has to come first.
The WNBA is important. It’s never been more popular but it’s never been in a quite this precarious a position before.
Best of luck to them in the biggest fall/winter ever. They’ve got to get it right.