BEIJING – Commissioner David Stern raised the possibility the league will adjust the time some games start in an attempt to appease fans outside North America who now must either stay up late or wake up early to watch games on television.
It’s unclear at this point whether the adjustment will be for regular-season games, preseason games or both.
Speaking before the Warriors beat the Lakers 100-95 before 17,114 at MasterCard Center in the first of two preseason meetings between the teams in China, Stern said former Rockets star Yao Ming brought the idea up in hopes of making future games more accessible to international audiences. Stern gave no indication a decision was near, but was also clear that the league will have to consider what could be a radical suggestion, depending on the new times, at some point.
“I think that the NBA is going to have to wrestle over the next decade as more and more of our viewing audiences are outside the United States is what’s the best time for games to be played so that those fans can enjoy them live as opposed to having to get up in China to watch an NBA game at 7 o’clock in the morning,” Stern said. “I think that’s a fun problem that we’re going to be addressing because so much viewing is happening outside the United States now.”
Any dramatic move would obviously be met with resistance from fans in the United States and Canada, not to mention some of the teams themselves, if times of tipoff are moved much earlier than the current 7 or 7:30 p.m ET. One option that will undoubtedly be discussed is altering only weekend games, when schedules for spectators are more flexible and it is not unusual for early-evening or day starts.
Stern’s comments came as the NBA underlined the desire to continue to strengthen its relationship with China by announcing a partnership with Yao to develop and operate an after-school program called the NBA Yao School. The project is scheduled to launch in February in Beijing, with the hope that similar facilities will open in other parts of the country, including his native Shanghai.
The league has made increasing its presence in the world’s most-populous country a priority in recent years and returning to China for future exhibition games seems an automatic. There are, however, no plans to play regular-season contests anywhere in Asia, incoming commissioner Adam Silver said.
“As you know, we’ve played regular-season games in Asia in the past,” Silver said. “But one of the benefits of playing preseason games here in China is that there’s more time in the schedule for the players to be part of the community, to do charitable events, to conduct clinics and to get to see the country and to get to be more knowledgeable about the culture here. Our regular season is so tight in terms of the number of games, that while we could do it logistically it would mean a team coming in and playing and turning around and leaving right after the game. As Yao well knows, it’s a very tight schedule. So while it’s something we’re going to continue to look at, we think there’s much more benefit that comes from our partnership with the CBA (Chinese Basketball Assn.), with Yao Ming and with the Chinese people by playing preseason games here.”
The league has not staged a regular-season game in Asia since the Kings and SuperSonics opened 2003-04 in Saitama, Japan. Several countries in the region have hosted exhibitions and China has had games in four cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Macao and Guangzhou.
The 2013-14 edition opened with David Lee scoring 31 points in 12-of-16 shooting, Stephen Curry adding 24 points and Andrew Bogut 14 rebounds along with nine points to lead the Warriors to their second win in four preseason games. Nick Young had a game-high 18 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 2-3, while Chris Kaman contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. Steve Nash started and played 18 minutes in his first game action since spraining his left ankle Friday against the Kings, making three of four attempts with eight points and four assists.
The teams play Friday in Shanghai — 7:30 p.m. ET local time, 4:30 a.m. in California – before returning to the United States for the final stretch of the preseason.