Before the NBA’s season opener Tuesday night, the Inside The NBA crew discussed the ongoing feud between the NBA and the Chinese government for a good nine minutes. In the Free Speech corner: Kenny Smith. In the Be Nice To China corner: Ernie Johnson and Charles Barkley. In a third corner: Shaq.
Shaq was a bit all over the place with his thoughts. He stuck up strongly for Morey and thought the Rockets GM didn’t do anything wrong with his tweet. “Daryl Morey was right,” he said. “Whenever you see something wrong going on anywhere in the world, you should have the right to say that’s not right, and that’s what he did.” At the same time, Shaq didn’t think it was fair of Morey to stay silent and have LeBron and other NBA players field the aftermath.
Charles Barkley agreed with Shaq on that point, but took it further. Barkley didn’t like how LeBron had to take the brunt of criticism for something Morey did, and he defended James’s weak statement on the grounds that the Lakers star is right to do whatever he can to appease people who give him money. “We don’t get to impress our values on other countries,” he said.
Smith took Shaq’s side. “If we don’t allow Daryl Morey to speak, it would be like saying ‘LeBron, shut up and dribble,’” Smith said. Johnson replied with a line straight out of the NFL anthem protest wars, claiming that “I don’t have a problem with what was tweeted; it’s more to me when it was tweeted.”
Johnson suggested that Morey should have simply written an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle after his team returned from China, which possibly overestimates the degree to which Morey cares about the Hong Kong protests and underestimates how much shit he would get for that. NBA commissioner Adam Silver is scheduled to join the show on Thursday in San Francisco to give his prepared takes on the issue.
In additional NBA-China news, this kid really seized his moment on camera.