One down, three to go. The Brooklyn Nets opened up the preseason schedule with a 48 point win against Sesi Franca of Brazil on Friday night at Barclays Center. The Nets will be here for the next two games before going home to Brooklyn. Where is here, you may ask? Why China, of course!
After days of back-and-forth recriminations over Rocket GM Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protesters, Shams Charania reported at 7:36 p.m. ET that the game apparently is on.
Joining the Nets will be the Los Angeles Lakers. It's been another wild offseason for the purple and gold as they made moves that they hope will break their franchise record six season playoff drought. They got their preseason off to a nice start with a win against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Where to follow the game
NBA TV has us covered. Tip off will be at 7:30 in the morning so grab some breakfast as you take the action in. In addition, YES Network announced late Wednesday that they too will cover it. Previously, the slot had been given over to MLS Soccer. As with so much else about this game, there was no explanation.
Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw have been the voice on the NBA TV’s international preseason games. Will they do the duo again Thursday?
Kyrie Irving will make his preseason debut and rock the mask to ensure his facial fracture doesn't get worse. Joe Harris will play too as the team has been easing him back into things after he played for Team USA during the summer. Kevin Durant won't make the trip.
Kyle Kuzma is out after suffering a foot injury with Team USA over the summer. Our old friend Jared Dudley has been dealing with some knee soreness and will probably sit this game out as a precautionary measure.
There's a lot to digest here, so we'll do our best to cover all the bases. On Friday night, Morey tweeted an image in support of protesters in Hong Kong. About an hour later, Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta quickly denounced Morey and distanced himself and the team from Morey's personal politics. Jen Kirby has an explainer on the protests over at Vox.
Nets owner Joe Tsai jumped into the party with a statement that criticized Morey in a direct manner.
From there, the league put out two statements that generally stood behind Morey's right to say what he wanted because freedom of speech and expression is a vital American ideal.
That...didn't go over well with the Chinese government. Their government has essentially gotten the Rockets out the paint and they've cut down on the promotion of the game considerably. It's gotten to the point where it's fair to ask if the games will take place at all.
Normally, someone's personal politics wouldn't matter, but the league and players' bottom lines are in the crosshairs. Sponsors have already suspended ties with the Rockets and the NBA's broadcast partners in China have also suspended the airing of Rockets games. The shoe company, Anta, also suspended ties with players who had deals with their brand.
Since Saturday, the NBA has faced some criticism from people wondering why they didn’t initially back Morey up in a more demonstrative manner and from others who think they’re clever by dismissively using the word “woke” to chastise the league and players. We can ignore them though.
Now, back to local business ... Maybe.
Kyrie Irving is set to play, and we'll get to see how he looks within the framework of Kenny Atkinson's offense. Irving is one of the league's most dynamic scorers and can score on all three levels (three, midrange, and the rim). He won't be on the court long, but I'm sure he'll put on a show for the Chinese fans while he's out there, assuming the game happens of course.
The Lakers started Avery Bradley in their backcourt on Saturday night, and he would be a better fit for Frank Vogel's starting lineup instead of Rajon Rondo. Bradley is coming off a bad season, but a change in environment, better health, and the pieces around him should make for a better campaign.
If I told you someone averaged 27 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists a game on 51 percent shooting from the field, you'd probably say "Damn, that player had the best season of their careers!" But when you're LeBron James, that isn't good enough. By his standards, James had a disappointing first season in LA and figures to bounce back in a major way. Now that the roster is more suited to his game, look for him to dominate like the good old days.
Player to watch: Taurean Prince
Throughout preseason, Kenny Atkinson will look to figure out his rotations and most importantly, the starting lineup. At power forward, Prince is the early leader in the clubhouse. Prince had a good showing on Friday night, and with Wilson Chandler and Rodinis Kurucs each dealing with their off-the-court issues, Prince will have even more opportunity to establish himself as the full time four once the season starts.
So yeah, Anthony Davis is a Laker. And yeah, he's still REALLY good. AD made his preseason Lakers debut against the Warriors and was the best player on the court when he played in the first half. AD was sensational, scoring 22 points and grabbing ten rebounds in just one half of play. Whew!
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- Brooklyn Nets Game Notes - Brooklyn Nets
- Los Angeles Lakers Game Notes - Los Angeles Lakers
- NBA postpones media sessions in Shanghai amid China rift - Tim Reynolds - AP
- Will the Lakers face the Nets in China? Teams play waiting game amid turmoil - Tania Ganguli - Los Angeles Times