National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver has suggested the United States could play a pre-Tokyo 2020 exhibition match in China as the league attempts to improve relations with the country.
China’s relationship with the NBA suffered a major blow last year, after Houston Rockets official Daryl Morey tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Morey’s tweet caused a backlash in China, with the country’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) refusing to show NBA matches on television.
The Chinese Basketball Association, major broadcasters and sponsors halted their involvement with the Houston Rockets, with NBA also been impacted.
The NBA had said Morey’s post had "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable".
The response was criticised by several politicians in the US, who accused the NBA of prioritising revenue over human rights.
Speaking at an NBA All-Star Weekend press conference in Chicago, Silver suggested the league had lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to China’s reaction to the tweet but estimated the cost was less than $400 million (£306 million/€369 million).
Silver claimed the relationship could improve in the coming months, adding that discussions had been held over the possibility that the US national team may play matches in the country before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The team are expected to travel to Shanghai before travelling to the Japanese capital, with a possible match against France mooted.
NBA preseason matches could also return to China in October.
"We are not pressing them,” Silver said, according to ESPN.
“It's a decision that's outside of certainly our control, and I will say I'm often not even sure exactly where that decision lies.
"I think that our view as the league is we should continue doing the things that we've done in the past.
"I know that, from the data we look at, there continues to be enormous interest for the NBA in China, and my sense is that there will be a return to normalcy fairly soon, but I can't say exactly when, when it comes to CCTV."
USA Basketball announced a provisional squad of 44 players for their men’s Olympic team earlier this month.
LeBron James and Steph Curry were among the star names included on the list, which will be reduced to 12 players at a later date.
The possibility of arranging matches in China has been further complicated by the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to the postponement or cancellation of numerous sporting events in the country.