CLIPPERS INSIDER: NBA CHINA GAMES
MEDIA DAY AND FAN APPRECIATION DAY CREATE BUZZ IN SHANGHAI
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/13/12
SHANGHAI–Media Day and the first-ever NBA China Fan Appreciation Day were essentially lumped into one event Saturday afternoon at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Complex.
The frenzied nature of basketball fandom in China was readily apparent. More than 100 media members were permitted to watch the final few minutes of the Clippers’ closed practice after reportedly more than 2,000 requested credentials. The group hurried to find a spot on the sideline opposite the benches on the facility’s practice court and immediately began snapping pictures, filming video with cell-phone cameras, and crowding along about 45 feet of the sideline.
Media Day was none too different in Beijing three days ago with players stationed a couple at a time off the court and being peppered with questions about basketball and their impressions of China so far. Head Coach Vinny Del Negro and Chris Paul spoke first. Of course, the news of the day was that Paul was likely to play Sunday in the final matchup of the 2012 China Games.
The Shanghai media was privy to the news, asking Del Negro if he’d play the 2012 first-team All-NBA performer and doubling back with Paul to see how he felt about taking the court for the first time this preseason.
Wallace Yang, a photographer from Time Out Shanghai, an English language publication about lifestyle and nightlife, said it was an honor to be granted permission to attend the event. “It’s my first time being here and being part of an NBA game, so I’m pretty proud,” Yang said. “It will be a good show. It’s pretty awesome this year’s China Games are going well and everyone’s playing really hard and showcasing their skills.”
Before Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom, and Grant Hill were brought to the large scrum, Paul shared a story about the first time he met 7-foot-6 former All-Star Yao Ming, who now owns the Shanghai Sharks in the Chinese Basketball Association and may be in attendance Sunday.
“Probably one of my best memories of Yao was my very first All-Star Game,” Paul said. “It was in New Orleans and we were in the locker room with Yao and this crazy picture I remember: his pants were actually taller than I am.”
About 10 minutes after the Clippers wrapped up their hour-long closed practice, they were introduced to fans in the sports complex’s main arena. Paul, Griffin, Odom, Hill, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler were greeted with roaring ovations in a somewhat surreal atmosphere. The lower bowl of the arena had white seats, which combined with a light-colored hardwood floor and white roof made the entire arena seem brighter than normal. Couple that with the combination of a buzzing fan base, constant music, and on-court performances from the Clippers dunk squad and Heat dancers, and the entire experience was a sight to behold.
From there, the Clippers ran through drills and scrimmaged briefly at the end. Griffin was the crowd’s darling. They’d cheer when he grabbed a rebound, dribbled up the court, and were pulsating when he dunked during the Clippers’ layup line.
Other highlights that drew a tremendous reaction from the crowd: Jamal Crawford making two hesitation dribbles, driving baseline and kicking to Eric Bledsoe for a 3-pointer on the left wing, Jordan flying down the center of the lane for a two-handed dunk, and Paul canning a 3-pointer on the first possession of the scrimmage.
Afterwards, Jordan addressed the crowd with the on-court announcer asking him what he liked best about China. His response was a fitting conclusion to the event: “The fans. The fans in China are great.”
CLIPPERS ARRIVE IN SHANGHAI
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/12/12
SHANGHAI–It was nearly sunrise by the time the Clippers arrived at their hotel in the Pudong district of Shanghai.
After trekking through security at the airport in Beijing, taking the nearly 3-hour flight, and walking through a practically vacant airport in Shanghai, the team was bussed another 32 miles to the hotel on the banks of the Huangpu River.
What once was considered a small agricultural area, Pudong has grown rapidly over the last two decades, emerging as one of the most cosmopolitan parts of China. The hotel is blocks away from the river with a number of places to shop and dine within walking distance.
Despite the early-morning arrival after their 94-80 loss to the Heat and Beijing, Friday was perhaps the first day Clippers players and staff had an opportunity for free time.
Head Coach Vinny Del Negro decided against holding a formal practice, instead allowing players to attend optional workouts at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center. Del Negro met with his coaching staff in the afternoon which was followed by a mandatory film session for the team later.
Friday evening is highlighted by a welcome reception in the hotel ballroom with NBA Commissioner David Stern expected to be in attendance. It will likely be similar to an event in Shanghai in which a traditional Chinese performance was conducted and the teams were introduced on stage after which Del Negro and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra addressed the crowd.
The Clippers will be back in the gym Saturday with morning practice before playing the Heat at Mercedes-Benz Arena the following afternoon.
INSIDER: MEDIA DAY IN BEIJING
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/10/12
BEIJING–A throng of Chinese media lined up on a plastic floor cover along the sideline opposite the scorer’s table at MasterCard Center in Beijing. It was already a busy morning for the Clippers in China’s capital city, with NBATV filming their 2-hour practice, Blake Griffin wearing a wireless microphone affixed to the collar of his jersey, and more significantly the team preparing to play their second game of the preseason in a little more than 24 hours.
The next in a series of fulfillments during their weeklong stay in China meant speaking to the collection of local and international media assembled in the arena. Thirteen days earlier the Clippers went through Media Day at their Playa Vista Training Facility, they had a similar extravaganza Wednesday with members of the Chinese media.
Griffin, Chris Paul, and Vinny Del Negro were first up, getting engulfed by dozens of cameras, microphones and tape recorders.
“It’s like the playoffs pretty much,” Del Negro said about the media attention. “It’s a big city and there’s a lot of excitement for basketball and it’s good to see. It’s a global game now as everyone knows and China’s a big factor in all of it.”
Questions came at all angles from a contingent that seemed to waver between breathless excitement and hard-nosed journalist. One reporter congratulated Paul on his second gold medal. Another asked Griffin, who received the most attention of the group including Heat players who spoke later in the morning, what he thought of Paul as a teammate, while Paul, about 50 feet away, was asked a similar question about Griffin.
They were questioned about Thursday’s matchup with the Heat and the supposed rivalry with the Lakers and the team and the season, to which Griffin responded, “I’m really excited, not just about our starting five but our bench and everybody else. It’s going to be a good season. We just have to continue to gel as a group and come together.”
Lamar Odom, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford, who said he was humbled to know that he had following in China, spoke next.
Overall, the session lasted approximately 30 minutes with the Chinese press corps coming across as knowledgeable, courteous and definitively interested in the Clippers and the sport of basketball.
Asked by one reporter what his team could take from the experience, Del Nego said, “We’re going to take it as a positive. It’s an honor to be over here and everything’s been first class with Beijing and our accommodations with the league and everything.” MORE: TEAM IS FOCUSED
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/9/12
The section of the Great Wall the Clippers visited Tuesday afternoon could not have been more picturesque. The weather was clear and crisp, the sun fading behind a range of mountains to the west, and the wall itself was greatly preserved.
Immediately following practice, the team was bussed to an area called Mutianyu, located in HuairauCounty about 50 miles north of Beijing. The section in Mutianyu is known for its more pristine condition than neighboring areas of the nearly 4,000-mile Wonder of the World. READ ON | PHOTOS
CLIPPERS CONDUCT FIRST PRACTICE IN CHINA
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/9/12
CLIPPERS ARRIVE IN CHINA
Eric Patten Follow @ericpatten | 10/8/12
BEIJING–A crowd of fans and media awaited the Clippers as the team exited the terminal at Beijing’s international airport Monday evening in advance of the 2012 NBA China Games.
The greeting of camera flashes and gawking passers-by was preceded by a nearly 14-hour flight that arrived around 6:30 p.m. local time. The team and a large contingent of family members and Clippers staff were escorted through a vacant terminal before passing through customs and boarding charter buses next to a line of dozens of taxis.
To little surprise, almost everyone in the traveling party appeared groggy. The Clippers opened their exhibition season Saturday night with a 106-104 loss to the Denver Nuggets in Las Vegas. Fewer than 24 hours later they were halfway across the world.
There was a clear sense of excitement amongst the Chinese fans waiting at the airport. Several autograph seekers approached players, including superstar Blake Griffin, who is among the most popular NBA players in China. Some of the airport security were filming the team with cell phone cameras and one parking attendant stood atop a baggage cart to get a better look at the buses as they pulled away.
The team was bussed approximately 15 miles to their hotel, located in Beijing’s financial district. The highway there was lined with trees and dim yellow street lights, and traffic was sparse on an unexpectedly cool and hazy night. There were a limited number of billboards along the way but those for automobile companies, including one for Nissan featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
After arriving at the hotel the group attended a dinner buffet in a ballroom upstairs from the lobby with choices of steak, chicken, and fish as main-course options. Most of the players retired to their rooms shortly thereafter.
The team is expected to visit the Great Wall Tuesday following their morning practice. They play the defending champion Miami Heat in their second exhibition game of the preseason on Thursday at MasterCard Center.