Irving Aggravates Injury, Nets Hold Off Lakers In Shanghai

Associated Press
October 10, 2019 - 11:30 am

SHANGHAI (AP) -- Kyrie Irving flew halfway around the world to play for 66 seconds.

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Irving aggravated his facial fracture shortly after tip-off in his preseason debut for the Brooklyn Nets, who beat the Los Angeles Lakers 114-111 in the debut of this year's two-game NBA China Games series on Thursday in Shanghai.

Spencer Dinwiddie, who replaced Irving, led the Nets with 20 points and Taurean Prince finished with 18 for Brooklyn.

LeBron James scored 20 points for the Lakers, who got 18 from Rajon Rondo and 16 from Anthony Davis.

The Lakers' Demetrius Jackson in action against the Nets' Taurean Prince during a preseason game as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Oct. 10, 2019 in Shanghai, China.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The game was normal, unlike the rest of the trip to China.

The game was played after several events to promote the NBA's annual appearance in China were called off. It was part of the rift between China's government and the league — started by a since-deleted tweet from Houston general manager Daryl Morey that supported anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

The U.S. and Chinese national anthems were not played before the game. All media events Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Arena — including pregame availabilities, postgame news conferences and a long-scheduled media session with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — were canceled.

But fans came in droves, nearly every seat in the 18,000-seat arena appeared filled and they cheered for James loudest of all — as usual. James has made almost-annual visits to China during his NBA career to promote the game and his personal brand, and his popularity there is enormous.


Given fan reaction to James there this week, including being mobbed by well-wishers who chanted and snapped countless pictures with their phones as he walked through a Shanghai mall on Wednesday, not even the politically charged unrest between China and the NBA could dampen how revered he is in the world's most populous country.

It was a topic again in Tokyo on Thursday, where Houston and Toronto finished their two-game series. The Rockets, of course, have been at the forefront of the rift between China and the league because of Morey's tweet.

"You know what? It's a tough situation," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said after Houston's 118-111 win over the reigning NBA champion Raptors. "Very difficult. Adam Silver speaks for the NBA. I work for the NBA. I go with Adam. Commissioner Silver will do the right thing."

Irving tried to play through his left-side facial fracture, an injury that occurred in a pickup game last month. He was wearing a clear mask in an effort to protect his face, but bumped into Rondo while playing defense just 1:06 into the contest.

Irving's face made contact with Rondo's upper arm. The Nets guard immediately winced in pain, took the mask off and motioned to the bench that he needed a substitute.

If that wasn't concern enough, the Nets lost their other starting guard just 22 seconds later. Caris LeVert left with 10:32 remaining in the first quarter after being poked in the eye and didn't return.

James made 7 of 15 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range and added six rebounds in 24 1/2 minutes. The Lakers and Nets play again Saturday in Shenzhen, China.

There are five games later Thursday: Oklahoma City plays host to the New Zealand Breakers, Portland hosts Maccabi Haifa, Phoenix is at Sacramento, Minnesota goes to Golden State and Denver visits the Los Angeles Clippers.