Signs promoting NBA removed in China: ‘We are all witnesses’

LeBron James and the Lakers face the Nets in a pair of preseason games in China.

Chinese businesses and key sponsors continue to disassociate themselves from Houston Rockets and entire league heading into this week’s preseason games involving the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets.

As relayed by Howard Chen of ESPN, large banners promoting the Lakers-Nets games that adorned buildings were being torn down.

One such banner featured Lakers star LeBron James and Nets point guard Kyrie Irving.

“One big sign down, one to go. Two former Cavs teammates,” Chen tweeted. “We are all witnesses.”

The Lakers and Nets are scheduled for a preseason game Thursday in Shanghai, followed by another Saturday in Shenzen, for the annual NBA China Games.

But the strained issues between the league and the nation that lends its largest financial support are marching on and causing concern for all involved with pro basketball.

The problems started when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for the protests in Hong Kong — something that went mostly unnoticed in America but created a firestorm overseas. Morey deleted the tweet but Chinese fans immediately began to express disdain for the second-most followed team in the country.

The controversy continued when NBA commissioner Adam Silver made several statements, including one that supported Morey’s freedom of expression and democracy overall.

While Silver and the NBA are trying to walk the delicate balance of losing millions of dollars in sponsorship and fan support, others such as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have skirted or deflected comments, purposely avoiding the heart of the issue.

But the rage among Chinese businesses and fans on perhaps the league’s most important week there carries on.

NBA, China tensions continue to rise; preseason broadcasts off