One of the NBA's most bankable superstars is more than ready to move on from the NBA's controversy with China that hit a fever pitch last week when two teams visited the country on a preseason tour.
"I'm staying out of it," said Houston Rockets guard James Harden when asked by a reporter in Houston on Sunday after a practice session. "I'm focusing on what we have and trying to get better. We're a week and a half away from the regular season."
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set off an international crisis between the NBA and the Chinese government more than a week ago when he tweeted support for the Hong Kong protesters. Morey quickly deleted the tweet, the NBA said in a statement it felt Morey's tweet was "regrettable", and Morey issued an apology.
However, the incident flared up again last week while the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers were in Shanghai for the first of two preseason games when NBA commissioner Adam Silver backed Morey's right to freedom of expression and then issued a second statement doubling down on the league's employees' rights to free speech.
The Chinese government in turn ended up axing multiple events scheduled to take place in Shanghai last week, including two NBA Cares events, while the two teams' open practice sessions were cut off to the public and media. The NBA responded by shutting down all media appearances for its players. The Nets and Lakers played again in Shenzhen on Saturday before returning home.
Harden said his team, which now features off-season acquisition Russell Westbrook, have been staying away from the issue as much as possible. Harden did comment on the situation last week while his team was in Japan playing two preseason games against the Toronto Raptors.
"We apologise. We love China," he said while in Tokyo. Harden also got in trouble earlier in the year when he was stopped while riding a scooter in Shanghai.
The NBA season kicks off Oct. 22.
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