OAKLAND — The Golden State Warriors hopped a flight to China on Friday to begin a week that will cover 15 times zones and more than 12,000 miles.
“A lot of coffee, caffeine and sleeping pills,” center Andrew Bogut said.
The trip, part of the NBA’s Global Games, will feature two games against the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s also a break from the monotony of training camp, a chance to build camaraderie and, of course, a step in promoting the league’s brand.
The Warriors land in Beijing on Saturday evening. After practicing Sunday, they’ll visit the Great Wall and a school. There’s a reception and team dinner Monday followed by the first game with the Lakers the next day.
The Warriors fly to Shanghai immediately after the game. They’ll meet with fans Thursday and put on a clinic. They’ll play the Lakers again Friday before returning home Saturday.
“Any time you can experience that and see how someone else does things, how they live, it’s a learning tool,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “It’s a great experience for us. I value it. And I think it’s going to be important individually and collectively as a team, especially for these younger guys.”
Jackson said he’s honored the Warriors were chosen by the NBA as one of a dozen teams to play internationally this year and will make no excuses about the rigorous travel schedule. The former point guard never imagined he’d have such an opportunity growing up, so he isn’t about to take the trip for granted.
“I can remember my dad saying when I was a kid he’d be fine staying in Brooklyn his whole life,” Jackson said. “And then when we moved to Queens and we moved to Long Island he said, ‘I can’t believe I really believed that.’ He got an opportunity to see and experience things before he passed that impacted his life and prepared him for the future.”
The NBA played its first international game when Washington visited Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel in 1978, six years before David Stern became commissioner. By the time Stern leaves this season, the league will have played nearly 150 of them, including 18 during the regular season.
Perhaps no market holds greater value for the NBA than China, a country of more than 1.3 billion.
The Warriors, with a large Asian population in the San Francisco Bay Area, are trying to expand their marketing efforts this week. The team launched a Chinese-language website and an account on Weibo, China’s largest microblogging service.
Lakers star Kobe Bryant is among the most popular players in China. While Bryant won’t play this week while rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon and right knee, he still plans to make the trip.
Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson and forward Harrison Barnes visited China this summer to help promote the NBA’s preseason games. Both saw firsthand how popular the NBA has become overseas and why the league — and its players — are investing in the country. So they don’t mind the extra travel.
“It didn’t affect the Heat or the Clippers last year,” Thompson said. “So I think we’ll be good.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP