USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick tells us why the Spurs will be hard-pressed to secure the top seed in the Western Conference.
USA TODAY Sports
The NBA is returning to China for preseason action. The Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves are scheduled to meet in Shenzhen on Oct. 5 and Shanghai on Oct. 8.
This marks the Timberwolves’ first time taking part in the NBA Global Games in China and the Warriors’ third time. They played in 2008 and 2013 as well. After these Warriors-Wolves tilts, 14 NBA teams will have played 24 games in China, which has become the unofficial epicenter of the games’ growth.
For the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, this means a return to where he had his favorite basketball moment in the Far East: Oct. 18, 2013, a Lakers preseason game in Shanghai. And as he remembers it, winning in a rout was the least memorable part.
“You had the Spaceship looking (Mercedes-Benz) arena that they have over there which is pretty amazing, and it was packed – no empty seat in there to watch us,” Curry told USA TODAY Sports recently. “I think that was the first time I understood exactly how big NBA basketball was in China.”
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If that wasn’t enough to convince him, of course, all those Under Armour shoe events in China in recent years brought the point home.
With an estimated 300 million people playing basketball in China, and the more popular players like Curry making it a regular stop on their personal marketing tours, these games have become a welcome addition to the NBA calendar for players. Even when they aren’t playing actual games.
The Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns made his first trip to China last summer as part of a Nike tour, which the Warriors’ Curry, Kevin Durant (Nike), Draymond Green (Nike) and Klay Thompson (China-based Anta) have all done several times with their respective shoe companies. Yet as part of the new collective bargaining agreement ratified in December, the next preseason will be cut by two games (eight to six) and one week.
For these teams that are crossing the globe to take part in the Global Games, the changes will have a compounding effect on their schedule and potentially complicate the timing of training camp. Still, as Thompson noted, it’s worth the extra miles logged to connect with the Chinese fanbase.
“It’s an even bigger market than the United States, (so) that’s why you see all the top players making a tour over there every year,” Thompson told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s exciting for us because you get to see a fanbase that you never get to see during the season, and it’s a huge fan base too. I’m excited to see that part of China.
“It’s just a different culture, a different world. You get to see a part of the world not a lot of people to get to see. China is a huge place, man. You’ve got so much history there…I’ve been able to see the Terracotta Warriors (in Xian), the Great Wall of China, been able to see some incredible sights.”
All while sacrificing some sleep to fit it all in.
“It’s really cool,” Thompson continued. “I never thought I’d have a fanbase across the world that big, so it’s something I don’t take for granted. I appreciate all the love they give us over there. It’s really amazing.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick.