The Golden State Warriors are touching down in China today, beginning an international trip just as most teams open their preseason. It’s a bit of a hectic schedule for a team that had a longer season than 28 other squads, but so it goes.
The Warriors will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves twice while in China: first on Wednesday, October 4, and again on Sunday, October 8. While the trip may be long, it’s an exciting opportunity for a team that suddenly is beloved in China.
Fueled by Golden State’s success, and constant promotional trips from stars Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson, China has fallen in love with the defending champs. It’s been a journey to reach their popularity though, and Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle painted a beautiful picture of the Dubs’ rise to fame in the basketball-obsessed country.
As Golden State gets set to try and defend their title, they are officially China’s favorite team:
“We want to be China’s team in the NBA,” Warriors President Rick Welts said. “We think we have all of the right factors in play.”
It is a goal that has been nearly a decade in the making for the defending NBA champions. Golden State first played in China in 2008. When Joe Lacob and his investment group bought the Warriors in 2010 for $450 million, they made a point to honor the Bay Area’s large Chinese American population.
Golden State began celebrating Chinese New Year and hosting Asian Heritage Nights. In 2013, it was one of the first NBA teams to start an account on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging service, and to create a website in simplified Chinese. Their 3.77 million followers on Weibo leads all NBA teams.
Fueled by their winning ways and the popularity of Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, three perennial All-Stars who visit China regularly on promotional tours, the Warriors surpassed the Lakers last season for the top-selling team merchandise in the country.
In August, typically their worst month for online traffic, the Warriors easily topped the league with 30 million social engagements in China on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Tickets to Golden State’s games against the Timberwolves sold out within an hour after they went on sale Aug. 18.
“Entering this trip, the brand of the Warriors definitely could not be higher,” said David Shoemaker, NBA China’s CEO. “I expect the reaction of our fans and partners to be as great as we’ve ever seen for a team traveling to China.”
While the love may be flowing in China, getting there proved to be a little difficult. A delay from a processing center resulted in Steve Kerr’s passport not making it on time, and the coach had to miss Golden State’s flight. Instead, he’ll be flying commercially, where we hope his back holds up all right.
The national anthem stays in the headlines
As it pertains to recent events, the NBA has taken a much more politically active and progressive stance than other American sports leagues. So it was a little bit shocking that commissioner Adam Silver stated that he expects players to stand for the national anthem, and that the league will enforce a rule mandating that.
Over at The Ringer, Haley O’Shaugnessy had an eloquent response on why Silver’s choice could be problematic. She highlighted Curry and LeBron James’ place at the forefront of NBA activism, stating, “With James and Curry leading the way, social activism is a big part of the league. It could be in the league’s best interest to nix the rule that prohibits kneeling during the anthem. But until then, there’s no stand for Silver to take.”
While many wondered what would happen at Saturday’s preseason opener, the Warriors did not make any statement during the anthem (the Denver Nuggets, however, linked arms). Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle broke down the Dubs’ decision to stand for the anthem.
Ultimately, the players and coaches believe their words, stances, and activism off the court are the ideal mediums for their voices to be heard. The quotes from the team’s leaders are very powerful.
Get ready for a new draft system
On Thursday, the NBA’s board of governors voted to reform the draft process, in an effort to limit tanking. 28 teams voted in favor of the reform, with the Oklahoma City Thunder voting against it, and the Dallas Mavericks abstaining, as they usually do.
Draft reform doesn’t figure to impact the Warriors anytime soon, but then again, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, the reform doesn’t figure to impact the league anytime soon, either. Lowe breaks down the limited impact that the reform will have, and where the league can go from here.
By the time the Dubs are ready to enter the lottery again – hopefully in a long, long time – perhaps more rules will have passed to alter the draft system.
Did he just say that…?
Josh Jackson, the 4th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns, made headlines for referring to Curry as “small and unathletic”. The media had a field day with what seemed like strong words from the rookie.
While Jackson surely got a quick lesson in choosing your words wisely when you’re in the national spotlight, he didn’t appear to mean any slight. He was asked in an interview what NBA player he was least like, and chose Curry because of their shot and size difference. The shot at Steph’s athleticism was definitely playful, but it didn’t stop the internet from roasting Jackson.
A harrowing Kerr-Trump connection
Steve Kerr has handled his criticism of Donald Trump with grace, class, and dignity. In a vacuum, it’s been remarkable, impressive, and inspiring. Once you learn the whole story, however, it’s even more admirable and stunning.
In an amazing bit of journalism, The Athletic’s Lisa Olson uncovered a Trump interview from 27 years ago. In it, Trump appears to insinuate that Kerr’s father, who was murdered by terrorists while serving as the president of the American University of Beirut, somehow deserved his tragic fate.
It’s a deeply powerful article that once again shows how brave, powerful, and thoughtful the Warriors’ coach is.
Camp invitees take advantage of the opportunity
When the Warriors signed Antonius Cleveland, Michael Gbinije, Alex Hamilton, and Georges Niang to non-guaranteed contracts, it was understood that none would make the active roster. Still, all four found a tremendous opportunity in signing with the defending champs, as depicted by Connor Letourneau for the San Francisco Chronicle.
Hearing the four young players talk about the opportunity is fascinating, even if Cleveland and Hamilton were cut after Saturday’s game.
Here comes Looney!
Every player, every preseason, talks about how they’re in the best shape of their life. For Warriors’ third-year big man Kevon Looney, that cliché is a reality. Anthony Slater of The Athletic had an interesting breakdown of Looney, who is healthy in the offseason for the first time since 2013.
This is a pivotal preseason for Looney, as the Warriors are quickly approaching the October 31 deadline to pick up his fourth-year option. Looney did look noticeably more athletic and comfortable on Saturday, so hopefully his luck is changing.