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Rockets stars James Harden, Russell Westbrook prompted to only answer basketball questions after game in Japan

James Harden, Russell Westbrook

It is obvious that both the NBA and the Houston Rockets are doing as much damage control as they can in the midst of their spat against China. Rockets superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook were even instructed to completely steer clear of any non-basketball related queries during their postgame presser after Thursday’s game in Japan:

Harden and Westbrook had responded to similar questions earlier in the week, but clearly there’s an effort to avoid any further issues on the matter. Below is a clip of a reporter being completely shut down for asking a question pertaining to the China issue:

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s right to free speech earlier this week after Morey’s Hong Kong tweet initially set off this firestorm. NBA players and coaches around the league have mostly refrained from commenting on the matter when asked (Harden initially apologized to China), knowing these are murky waters they’re dealing with given the league’s financial interests in China.

China has taken numerous steps to sever ties with the Rockets and the NBA, but an exhibition game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets went ahead as planned on Thursday. There were no availabilities and corporate logos were removed from the court, but the game still happened. There’s another game scheduled for Saturday, and we’ll see where this story heads next.