Silver: Basketball diplomacy positive in China

NBA commissioner Adam Silver continues to deal with backlash over Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's social media support for democratic uprising in Hong Kong.

Silver spoke on the topic again Monday on ESPN's "Get Up" morning show, an appearance focused primarily on the start of the 2019-2020 season on Tuesday.

Silver said reports of player uprising in China, where he met with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers amid uncertainty about whether exhibition games should be played during the turmoil in that country, were overblown.

"This was an opportunity where it wasn't necessarily two teams in an adversarial position," Silver said. "We came together and talked through it. 'How do you guys collectively feel?'"

Since the teams returned from China after two exhibition games were played but no media access was granted to reporters on the scene, LeBron James has been criticized for saying Morey wasn't informed when he offered support for Hong Kong.

"These players, take LeBron who has an incredible track record, changed people's lives in the United States," Silver said. "Freedom of speech is also freedom not to speak. I'm very sympathetic."

Silver said he couldn't get into specifics regarding his current conversations with Morey, but said they've agreed to focus on moving forward. Silver added that Morey would not be fined. He said it was no different in terms of expression than NBA players taking a political position in the United States.

"When it comes to expression -- it's a broad concept," Silver said. "Free expression is a complex issue. There's also a lot of misunderstanding in China. They're saying, 'Aren't you the same commissioner who stops people from talking about officiating?'"

Silver said the current relationship between the NBA and China is a work in progress.

"This has been a very difficult moment between the NBA and China," Silver said. "My belief is ... we will get back on track. People need to step back. Everybody has made their points. There is no secret here about what's going on in China. ... Basketball diplomacy and engagement is positive. That's what we're turning back to."

--Field Level Media