Now that the shock of the Rockets embarrassing Game 4 loss to the L.A. Lakers has worn off, we can now sift through the debris of our sorrows to try and make sense of why we played with such little urgency in a must win game.

The easy answer is that this is typical James Harden playing small in big moments, compounded by typical Mike D’Antoni not making any adjustments; while clearly telegraphing our strategy.

While partly true, there’s an additional wrinkle in this story which is the drama surrounding Danuel House and the, not yet clear, situation around his suspension.

The man has a family so I’m not going to speculate on details that could damage his reputation, but I can confirm he will no longer play with the Rockets for their remaining games.

Danuel House has left the NBA bubble. This reduces the Rockets already low chance of beating the Lakers 3 times in a row to near zero.

Without clear evidence and a statement by the NBA as to why he was suspended raises many questions, but one theory a friend of mine brought up, seems to make a lot of sense.

For the record, this is a theory based on speculation.

China

NBA revenue from China is estimated at $4.8 billion annually.

On October 4th, 2019, Daryl Morey jeopardized that entire $4.8 billion in revenue with the following tweet:

Morey’s tweet triggered a full national boycott of the NBA by the Chinese Basketball Association. Tensions have cooled a bit since then and some NBA activities and broadcasts have resumed, but the Rockets remain the odd team out.

The once beloved team of China, thanks to Yao Ming, is now the lightening rod of American evil and has been erased from the Chinese basketball lexicon.

With the NBA bleeding revenue thanks to Daryl Morey, Covid-19 cut even deeper, proving to be near cataclysmic for the league.

Covid-19 alone cost the NBA an estimated $1 billion in lost revenue that its trying to recoup with the NBA bubble program.

The combination Chinese boycotts and Covid-19 proved too lethal for the NBA to not respond.

Enter Houston Rockets

CCTV – China Central Television is China’s national broadcasting company. They continue to boycott all Houston Rockets games regardless of who they are playing and how far into the playoff they make it.

Also, Tencent who is China’s largest video streaming network is still unsure how to proceed with Rocket’s games, but its certainly not at ‘pre-Morey tweets’ broadcast levels.

With the NBA already short on revenue channels, the last thing the league needs is a NBA finals between the Houston Rockets and any of the less popular Eastern Conference teams, to be boycotted by a country with over 1 billion people.

That loss of revenue will impact brand reach, players salaries and league operating income. It’s very possible that the NBA decided that letting the Rockets progress in the playoffs will be bad for business.

Danuel House isn’t a mole for the NBA, but possibly a casualty of war and a less obvious tactic for sabotage than poor refereeing.

All this could be for naught if indeed Danuel House committed an act truly detrimental to the team and the greater integrity of the NBA bubble.

But if it turns out to be a minor offense not worth crippling the outcome of the Rockets post season against the Lakers, then the over reaction by the NBA has to be explained somehow.

One thing I have learned in my life is to always follow the money.

Update: 9/11 6:32 pm CST

We acquired an internal NBA email sent to its employees describing the details of Danuel House’s suspension.

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