The Warriors departed Friday for a trip to the other side of the world, where they will play two of their preseason games this week against the Los Angeles Lakers in China before returning home to begin the regular season on Oct. 30.
The team will spend 10 days in the Far East, with a game in Beijing on Tuesday and Shanghai on Friday. Basketball has taken off in China ever since Yao Ming began a nine-year career with the Houston Rockets in 2002. There was even talk of starting an NBA league in China back in 2006, though that never materialized.
For now, the Chinese will have to settle for preseason games there for the second year in a row, after the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers played a pair of games in Beijing and Shanghai a year ago. This marks the seventh time games have been played there since 2004. Since 1978, games have been played in 40 different cities in 19 countries, including seven regular-season games.
For Warriors players, the trip offers some unique cultural opportunities that coach Mark Jackson said he hopes they appreciate.
“Any time you can experience that and see how someone else does things and how they live,” he said, “it's a learning tool and it's a great experience for us. … I remember my dad saying when I was a kid he would be fine staying in Brooklyn his whole life. And when we moved to Queens and moved to Long island, he was like I can't believe I really believed that. He got an opportunity to see and experience things before he passed that impacted his life and prepared him for the future.”
Jackson did say the schedule would be a grind, but that he didn't see any negative impact from traveling for a week and a half.
Swingman Klay Thompson only needed to point to last season's NBA champions to illustrate that the trip didn't mean the season would be any tougher.
“We have enough time to adjust between when we get back and when the regular season starts,” he said. “It didn't affect the Heat or the Clippers last year, so I think we'll be good.”
Thompson, who traveled to China last year, said he is most looking forward to the local food, as well as one thrill that the people signing his checks might not want to watch.
“I like the Great Wall,” he said. “They've got a fun little bobsled ride on the way down that's a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to that.”
As for the games, Jackson said it's business as usual for the Warriors, as they continue to work out their rotations for the regular season. He said he doesn't expect second-year guard Harrison Barnes to play in China, as he recovers from an inflamed toe. New big man Jermaine O'Neal did not practice Thursday with lower back pain, but is expected to take the court overseas.
Both games will be aired on NBA TV, though the DVR may become necessary, with tipoff scheduled for 4:30 a.m. Pacific time.
Tuesday: Warriors vs. Lakers, MasterCard Center, Beijing, 4:30 a.m. (NBA TV)
Friday: Warriors vs. Lakers, Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai, 4:30 a.m. (NBA TV and CSNBA)