Rockets, Pelicans enjoy team bonding at Great Wall of China

MUTIANYU, China — If the growing international influence in the NBA is about breaking down barriers, it as also about scaling walls.

Namely the Great Wall of China, which the Pelicans and Rockets toured Monday as part of their NBA Global Games experience.

After making the trek along a stretch of the 2,700-year-old wall, New Orleans’ Omer Asik fully embraced the experience by taking a 5-minute toboggan ride along an aluminum chute back down to the bottom of the mountain.

“I’m a little scared,” admitted the 7-footer, before nervously strapping a Go-Pro camera onto his head and going for the ride of his life. But Asik could be heard giggling and laughing and greeting Chinese workers all along the ride. “I went a little bit slow. It was fun.”

A couple of veteran Rockets who were making their first trips to the wall cheerfully debated about some of the other wonders of the world they have seen.

Brazilian-born Nene claimed credit for the breathtaking beauty of Iguassu Falls, which runs along the border between his own country and Argentina. Teammate Pablo Prigioni, of course, argued that the falls were prettier from the Argentina side.

“You have the backyard view,” chided Nene. “We’ll settle this when Argentina gets the Internet one day and we do research.”

Rockets veteran Corey Brewer was making his first trip to China and the wall.

“I’m really happy I came,” said Brewer. “It’s crazy to really see how big the wall is and how beautiful it is. You can see why it’s one of the seven wonders of the world.

“It’s hard to envision and comprehend until you actually go up there. You can see pictures in books, but it doesn’t really let you know. Once you get up on the wall there’s a whole different kind of appreciation for what it is and what it took to build it.”

While the weeklong excursion to China does make for an interruption to a regular preseason, Brewer believes it has been an experience that will pay dividends down the line.

“It’s been great,” he said. “I think it will help our chemistry a lot. You get away out of your comfort zone and stay together all the time and I think you become closer. I do think that’s happening with us. It started with the beginning of training came and is continuing here and getting more intense in China. I think it shows in us playing good basketball in our first two games. It’s really working out for us right now.”

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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