The Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are officially booked for the NBA Global Games China 2017, with exhibitions in Shenzhen on Oct. 5 and Shanghai on Oct. 8.
The league revealed the dates Monday while confirming the teams, whose participation had been previously reported.
“I’ve never been to China, so I’m looking forward to my first visit,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr told ESPN. “I’ve heard from [Warriors players] about their trip three years ago before I was coach here. … I’ve heard about just the craziness that exists — the incredible fan support that we will have from the Chinese NBA fans. That will be fun to experience.”
The game in Shenzhen will be played at Shenzhen Universiade Center, and the Shanghai game will be held at Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Golden State has played in China twice previously — at Guangzhou and Beijing in 2008, and at Beijing and Shanghai in 2013. This will mark the first trip to China for the Timberwolves. Minnesota has previously played overseas in Japan, the Dominican Republic, Turkey, England, France and Mexico. The Timberwolves will become the 14th NBA team to play a preseason game in China; 22 previous NBA games have been held in greater China since 2004.
Both Kerr and Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said they look forward to the trip as a chance for players to bond off the court and experience a new culture.
“There are a lot of benefits, and the good outweighs any negative,” Thibodeau told ESPN. “The one negative is probably the travel part of it. When you do have the opportunity to go there, you’re representing not only your team, but the NBA and our country. It’s an honor and a privilege, so we’re looking forward to that, and from the team-building perspective, the time that you spend together early in camp is very beneficial to the team.”
The Warriors and Timberwolves are linked to China by numerous factors.
Jiang Lizhang, founder of the marketing firm Double-Edged Sports, became the first Chinese owner in NBA history when he purchased a 5 percent stake in the Timberwolves last summer. Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio played for Spain as a 17-year-old when it won the men’s basketball silver medal in the 2008 Olympics at Beijing.
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said he’s eager to show fans in China the high-flying brand of basketball his team plays.
“We’re appealing with the highlight dunks and the highlight plays, because we have such great athleticism on our team,” Towns said. “To be able to introduce our new culture of basketball in Minnesota to the Chinese fans is going to be an amazing experience and an amazing opportunity.”
The trip will coincide with a shift to fewer exhibition games for the 2017-18 season, as teams will open training camps approximately a week earlier than previous years. Thibodeau said the Timberwolves will play only two exhibitions aside from the ones in China, one before the trip and one afterward.
“Organizing your camp to get everything in and to be prepared for the start of the season, it will be a little bit different from that perspective,” Thibodeau said. “But I think we have plenty of time to get all those things done.”
Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the Houston Rockets when the team and Shanghai native Yao Ming visited China in 2004. He was also a member of the Boston Celtics staff when that team played 2007 exhibitions in Italy and England and went on to win the NBA championship that season.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Yao, and I hope he has the opportunity to spend some time with our guys,” Thibodeau said. “The thing that I remember the most about China is the way Yao handled everything. It’s incredible — his popularity. Everywhere he went, it was a mob scene. So it was like being with the Beatles. You would get on the bus, and the fans would just swarm the bus. But he handled it with such class and dignity.”
As a player, Kerr competed in preseason games overseas with the Chicago Bulls in France and the San Antonio Spurs in Italy. The Warriors coach said he appreciates the chance to serve as a basketball ambassador, and he doesn’t expect any effects from travel to carry over into the regular season.
“We realize it’s a global game,” Kerr said. “We’re representing the league, and these are some of the ways that we spread the game around the world and share it with the world.”