Sixers, Mavs Kick-Off NBA China Games in Shanghai
The Philadelphia 76ers (2-0) kick-off the NBA China Games on Friday with their first of two match-ups against the Dallas Mavericks (1-0). After a 23-hour flight that included a weather delay during their re-fuel, the Sixers have already been throughout the basketball-crazed community in Shanghai. Tip-off is set for 7:30 a.m. EST on Friday morning. The two teams will play again on Monday in Shenzhen.
Here's a look at some of the Sixers' stops since arriving in China:
The Sixers got to take a trip to London for a game against the Celtics last year, but China is a much bigger country than England. Per NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Chinese Basketball Association estimates that 300 million people play the sport in the country.
“It’s insane. It’s really insane,” Markelle Fultz said. “Just being able to drive down the street and see yourself or one of your teammates on a poster just driving on the bus. It’s pretty crazy just to see all the way out here in China and how global the game has become. It’s pretty cool.”
Storylines heading into the game...
1. Simmons vs. Doncic: We all know what Ben Simmons is capable of on the floor. He pushes the pace, runs the fastbreak, can get to the rim with reckless abandon and has phenomenal court vision to benefit his teammates with passes. Simmons and the Sixers will be tasked to slow down Slovenian rookie, Luka Doncic. The No. 3 overall pick from the 2018 draft impressed in his preseason debut against the Beijing Ducks, scoring 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. He also added six rebounds, three blocks and two assists in 30 minutes of action. In some respects, Doncic has a lot of the same skills that Ben has, but can also shoot from all areas of the court. This match-up should be a fun one.
2. International Influence: 2018 marks the seventh year that the NBA China Games have taken place and between the Sixers and Mavericks, there is a slew of international players from different countries. To be more specific, there are a combined 15 international players from 12 different countries on the team rosters. On the Sixers, Simmons and Jonah Bolden represent Australia and they are joined by fellow international teammates Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Dario Saric (Croatia), Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey) and Norvelle Pelle (Antigua and Barbuda).
3. Gastroenteritis Strikes Again: Another year of Sixers basketball is upon us and it wouldn't be complete with out the first cases of gastroenteritis. Norvelle Pelle was unable to make the trip due to it while JJ Redick could miss Friday's game due to the stomach bug.
4. Fatigue & Jetlag: While the trip to China will provide the Sixers and Mavericks with an opportunity to spread the game further around the globe, the travel time and fatigue from it also plays a part. Warriors forward Draymond Green called the risk to players a huge problem in an article on USA Today. He notes that conditioning and eating healthy are the areas most affected. Meanwhile, Golden State head coach Steve Kerr endorsed the trip's experience, but also said it isn't a way to prepare for the NBA season. Here's Brett Brown's take on the matter:
“I feel very organized in relation to having a handle on our guys’ health,” he said. “There’s a little bit of a coaching feel but there’s a lot of it that’s just load management and data. The stuff we have at our practice facility, how our guys are wired up, really lets us handle them responsibly. This lead-up has been well cared for. … I think we’re organized and I think that we’ll manage it well.”
5. Mavericks notes: The Sixers won't get the chance to play against Dirk Nowitzki due to left foot soreness and DeAndre Jordan skipped the trip due to a death in the family. The Sixers will get their first look at the Greek Freak's brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo, who scored eight points in nine minutes in the Mavs first preseason game. Dallas is also going to be without a pair of starters with hamstring injuries.
Tip-off: 7:30 a.m. EST
Location: Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai, China
TV: NBA TV
Brandon Apter is a Sixers contributor to 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @bapter23.