The league is currently facing a backlash from China after Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.
He has since deleted the post but all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners have now suspended ties with the league as it continues to grapple with the fallout.
Harden, in particular, seemed happy to answer the question but was prevented from doing so by the media officer off-screen, despite Macfarlane’s follow-up question.
Later a Houston Rockets’ media relations employee told CNN that the reason the players did not answer was because they had answered the question several times already.
Earlier, Macfarlane was able to ask Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni if he had a message for Chinese fans who might have felt let down by the NBA over the spat.
“It’s a tough situation, very difficult. Adam Silver speaks for the NBA, I work for the NBA, I go with Adam. Commissioner Silver will do the right thing.”
Tim Frank, an NBA senior vice-president, later called Macfarlane to personally apologize for what happened when she attempted to ask her question to Harden and Westbrook.
READ: Pride at stake for both China and NBA over $4 billion fallout
Press conference transcript
Macfarlane: The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and its coaches being able to speak out openly about political and societal affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week and the fallout we’ve seen whether you both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?
Rockets’ PR: Excuse me, we are taking basketball questions only.
Macfarlane: It’s a legitimate question.
Rockets’ PR: It’s not.
Macfarlane: This is an event that’s happened this week during the NBA.
Rockets’ PR: It’s already been answered.
Macfarlane: This is a question that’s not been answered. James?
Watch the video at the top of the page to see what happened.