NBA sorry reporter's China question stopped

Reporter gets stopped for asking question about China (0:31)

CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane tries to ask James Harden and Russell Westbrook a question about China, but is stopped by a Rockets staff member. (0:31)

The NBA said it does not condone the Houston Rockets stopping a reporter from asking James Harden and Russell Westbrook a question about the recent China controversy.

During a news conference Thursday following the Rockets-Raptors preseason game in Tokyo, a reporter from CNN asked Harden and Westbrook if they would "feel differently about speaking out" about issues because of recent events.

A member of the Rockets' media relations staff interrupted, saying the players were taking basketball-related questions only.

"A team representative inappropriately interjected to prevent CNN's Christina Macfarlane from receiving an answer to her question," the league said in a statement Thursday. "We've apologized to Ms. Macfarlane as this was inconsistent with how the NBA conducts media events."

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set off the controversy Oct. 4 by posting a tweet -- which has since been deleted -- supporting protesters in Hong Kong.

China reacted strongly to the comments, canceling events during a visit to the country by the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets for two preseason games. The games themselves were in jeopardy, but the teams did play in Shanghai on Thursday with certain restrictions. Postgame media availability with players was canceled, and a scheduled news conference with NBA commissioner Adam Silver was scrapped. The game was not shown on television in China.

Silver, speaking in Japan on Tuesday, said he and the league are "apologetic" over the reaction that followed Morey's tweet, but he noted that "we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression."

Harden has also commented on the situation.

On Monday, standing with Westbrook after a practice in Tokyo, Harden said: "We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.

"We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them, and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as [an] organization."

On Wednesday, he said: "We all have freedom of speech; that is the world we live in. Everyone should [say] how they feel and their thought process, be able to speak it. Obviously some people are going to feel some type of ways, others are going to agree. That is just the world we live in. I am here for Adam Silver."

The protests in Hong Kong were sparked by a proposed extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be sent to China to face trial. Activists saw that as a threat to the legal rights that Hong Kong residents have under the current "one country, two systems" framework.