CLIPPERS OFF TO CHINA

The team is headed to Beijing and Shanghai to play a two-game exhibition series with the defending champion Miami Heat.

The Clippers are somewhat accustomed to helping build the NBA’s brand internationally. Since 2001, the franchise has represented the NBA in Russia, Mexico and Japan.

Until now, they have never been to China.

Venturing to the world’s most populous nation and one of its economic giants is not new ground for the league. They have played 13 games in the country since sending the Yao Ming-led Rockets to Beijing and Shanghai in 2004 to face the Sacramento Kings. They have also worked charitably in the country including numerous NBA Cares events and the league’s Basketball without Borders program.

Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro called it “a great honor” for the league to choose the Clippers to travel overseas to face the Miami Heat in a two-game, two-city, week-long extravaganza.

They will begin in Beijing, with a planned visit to the Great Wall, an NBA Cares activity, and a number of other events throughout their nearly four days in the city.

Caron Butler, who has been to China seven times including a trip this summer to help deliver hearing aids to upwards of 7,000 hearing impaired children and adults, talked about he’s looking forward to the historic Chinese capital. “The culture was unbelievable, going to sightsee and going to the Great Wall, going to different Emperor’s tombs and things like that; also trying different foods. I mean, it was pretty spicy but it was something different and something that I actually enjoyed and liked. I just loved the cultural experience.”

Forward Ronny Turiaf, who is of French descent and is a self-proclaimed travel lover, added, “I’m fascinated by the Asian culture. My favorite part of it is the difference. I’m the type of guy to really embrace cultures because it makes this world such a beautiful place. To be able to see what other people view and different mindsets and all that stuff and I think that’s what makes it fun.”

It is still a basketball trip for the Clippers and Heat as well. The teams play their first game Oct. 11 at the MasterCard Center in Beijing before jetting to the coastal city of Shanghai following the game. Three days later, they play at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena before returning home.

“The game is global,” Del Negro said. “It’s not a vacation for us, but we want to enjoy the experience and continue to bond as a team and learn each other. It’s a working environment for us. We can’t waste days.”

There may be time to shop, visit the Bund or the Forbidden City, or sample the cuisine, but it will be few and far between. Considering the tightly booked schedule, days will most certainly not be wasted. The Clippers practice on all of their off-days except two, both reserved for travel, and will conduct shoot-arounds prior to each game.

Even from a basketball perspective, the trip seems meaningful for the organization.   

Asked what it says about the Clippers to play twice nearly 7,000 miles away, guard Jamal Crawford said, “I think it shows that we’re exciting, that we’re a team on the rise, that we’re serious about winning. If you look at the coaching staff and the great summer we’ve had, along with the superstar players we have here, it just shows that this organization is definitely on the rise.”