Los Angeles Clippers Will Play In China

Dec 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mo Williams (25) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves guard Mo Williams (25) is defended by Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes (22) at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

According to a press release on NBA.com, the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte Hornets will play in China during the 2015 NBA preseason.

This is part of a direct marketing effort by NBA commissioner Adam Silver to expand the international market for NBA basketball.

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“Basketball is more popular than ever, and Global Games China 2015 is part of our ongoing commitment to growing the game in the world’s most populous nation,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “These games will not only bring the excitement of NBA action directly to Chinese fans, but will also provide the league another opportunity to experience the rich history and culture of China.”

The details of the trip are on NBA.com:

"The Hornets and Clippers will play the NBA’s first game ever in Shenzhen on Sunday, Oct. 11 at the Shenzhen Universiade Center, followed by a rematch in Shanghai on Wednesday, Oct. 14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Along with the games, Hornets players will participate in a variety of off-court activities, including NBA Cares community programs."

Given the long trip, the league will also give both the Clippers and the Hornets an extended training camp and preseason, to allow for the travel time and extra demands of an international excursion. More than anything though, this is about improving the Los Angeles Clippers brand and image.

China is already basketball crazy, with several professional leagues. The top professional league is the Chinese Basketball Association, or CBA. That league has been growing in stature and could one day rival the NBA in terms of revenue.

Recently, a team in the CBA signed former NBA player Andray Blatche to a record deal, one that rivals NBA salaries.

With global salaries growing, the CBA might start poaching players who have legitimate NBA careers, instead of just washed up former stars or failed lottery picks.

Which brings us back to the Clippers. By having NBA games in China, perhaps Silver and other NBA executives hope to keep the Chinese more interested in the American game, rather than their own rising domestic league.

Regardless of the motives from the league office, this is clearly an opportunity for the Clippers to improve their branding. The Donald Sterling saga hurt their image, and even with marketable stars like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (and twin brother Cliff), this team is still near the bottom of TV rankings.

This kind of international exposure can only have positive consequences for the team, its stars, and the NBA. Especially given the large Asian population in California, and the negative racist overtones that still haunt the organization.

A positive international trip will help the Clippers both locally and globally in overhauling their reputation. Perhaps, given the struggles of the cross-town rival Los Angeles Lakers, this will push the Clippers past the historically great Lakers in the eyes of the world.

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  • This is a huge opportunity, so let us all hope that the Clippers can control themselves. No one wants to see Matt Barnes or Blake Griffin cause an international incident.

    Barnes has been a steady source of revenue for the league office this year, fined for cursing at fans, getting ejected from games, and kicking stuff into the stands. Griffin, meanwhile, was arrested for allegedly stealing a cell phone and slapping a man at a nightclub, although the charges were eventually dropped.

    Steve Ballmer, new Clippers owner, addressed the recent news in an article on NBA.com:

    “We are looking forward to representing Los Angeles and the NBA as we bring our exciting brand of basketball to all of our fans in China.”

    Given how unlikable the Clippers are in the United States, maybe they need to make more international fans.

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