Gregg Popovich has an opinion on NBA-China controversy, Adam Silver

Sporting News

The ongoing and developing controversy between the NBA and China is a topic most people have decided to stay away from. Well, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich isn’t most people.

Before San Antonio’s preseason game against the Heat on Tuesday, Popovich offered praise for commissioner Adam Silver for how he’s handled the firestorm that followed a tweet from Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

“Adam is a very progressive leader,” Popovich said (via MySanAntonio.com). “We all remember how he handled the situation with the former owner of the Clippers (Donald Sterling, who Silver banned for life for racist remarks). It made everybody proud because it was the right thing to do. A couple of years ago, I was walking the streets in New York City during the gay pride parade. I turned around and here comes a float, and Adam is standing on a float with a big sign in support of LGBTQ. And I felt great again, just like I did with the Clipper deal.

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"He came out strongly for freedom of speech (today). I felt great again. He's been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous.”

Silver said early Tuesday in Tokyo that the league is “apologetic” and "regrets" that Chinese officials and fans were upset by Morey's now-deleted tweet in which he commented: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

Silver also said Morey had a right to freedom of expression.

"Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so,” Silver said in a separate segment Tuesday. “As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game."

Popovich acknowledged the courage it took for Silver to release a statement that left China's state broadcaster CCTV “strongly dissatisfied”

MORE: Russell Westbrook has mixed feelings after Rockets preseason debut | Kevin Durant says 'cool thing right now is not the Knicks' | Adam Silver clarifies comments on Daryl Morey's controversial tweet

“It wasn't easy for him to say,” Popovich said. “He said that in an environment fraught with possible economic peril. But he sided with the principles that we all hold dearly, or most of us did until the last three years. I'm thrilled with what he said. The courage and leadership displayed is off the charts by comparison.”

Since Morey’s tweet, several NBA fan events in China have been canceled and CCTV has said it will not broadcast the two preseason games between the Lakers and Nets later this week in Shanghai.

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