NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to make it clear he did NOT apologize to the Chinese government for Daryl Morey's pro-Hong Kong tweet ... but he still wants to save the NBA's relationship with the foreign power.
"I'd hate to see this relationship end over this incident," Silver told TMZ Sports in New York.
When asked specifically if he would be open to going back to China to play more NBA exhibition games next year, Silver told us, "Nothing is off the table."
"We do need to reset with the Chinese government and everybody has to establish what the rules of the road are going to be going forward."
Silver touched on a variety of China-related topics during our conversation ... here are some of the hit points:
-- Silver says he's spoken with Daryl Morey several times since the initial "Stand with Hong Kong" tweet to make sure he's "getting through this okay."
-- Silver says Morey has been getting "pressure" from hundreds of millions of Chinese people but he's also happy Daryl is getting support from people in the U.S.
-- Silver says he has NOT spoken about the issue with Donald Trump but has had conversations with people in Trump's administration.
-- Silver also says he consulted former NBA commish David Stern about the issue since Stern is still an adviser to the league.
-- Silver also admitted he was "bothered" that the league's initial statement about the Morey tweet was interpreted by many to be an apology to the Chinese government.
The initial statement read, "We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."
"While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them."
Silver explained to TMZ Sports ... "It bothered me that in saying we regretted upsetting hundreds of millions of Chinese fans while at the same time supporting Daryl Morey’s speech, it bothered me, I’d say, that it was interpreted as an apology to the Chinese government."
"We certainly didn’t apologize to the Chinese government."
"We supported Daryl from the get-go in terms of his ability to tweet. We also made clear that there were consequences from that speech. And, I think that was no doubt frustrating to a lot of people in the NBA community because it was incredibly disruptive. But, you know, we accepted that. Daryl knew we accepted that. There was not much we could do about that. But, I think it bothered me that somehow even though we – I felt were holding the line in a way that many companies haven’t been able to in China, meaning there was no discipline of our employee, there was never a suggestion that we weren’t supporting him."
Silver added, "In fact, I spoke out in favor of freedom of expression. Somehow, there was a sense from some people that that was the equivalent of kowtowing to the Chinese government. I certainly didn’t see it that way, but people are entitled to their opinion."