HANG TIME WEST – The other part of their China trip began Friday, with the start of voting for the 2014 All-Star game and the possibility that the Warriors playing in Beijing and Shanghai in October could help them with New Orleans in February.
It is one of the ancillary benefits of the preseason trip for two games against the Lakers, and it is far down the line even among those trickle-down factors, but it cannot be completely overlooked: Golden State has one returning All-Star (David Lee), another very strong candidate (Stephen Curry) and other possibilities (Andrew Bogut, if his minutes increase, and maybe Andre Iguodala), and now they have a new connection with the most populous nation in the world as balloting opens via several electronic platforms.
“That’s an interesting point,” Lee said. “With the sheer numbers, it can, I guess, make a difference.”
The problem for the Warriors is that it would have to make a huge difference in the fan balloting that determines the starting lineup for the midseason showcase, before coaches choose the reserves in their respective conference. A season ago, after all, Curry finished eighth among guards while Lee was 10th in frontcourt voting. They need a massive jump just to get in contention, and while playing catchup in popularity with Kobe Bryant, Jeremy Lin, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio, Steve Nash and Chris Paul in the top 10 of jersey sales in China in 2012-13 among West players alone.
But Curry in particular is better known everywhere after his star turn in the playoffs and subsequent major marketing deal with Under Armour that has included overseas personal appearances. The higher profile plus the good start to 2013-14 for a team that should challenge for the top half of the West playoff bracket, plus the new China connection, should generate a spike at the ballot box. The uncertainty is whether it will be enough of a bump, even with injuries to Bryant and Nash, for Curry to make up close to the 1.42 million votes he finished behind Bryant and the 760,000 votes he finished behind Paul, and that’s just to get into the conversation for starter.
“I haven’t thought about the voting,” Curry said. “It’s not motivation to do it. But I know if you come over to China and the hopefully the plans we have with the shoe company (Under Armour) and all that other extra stuff, it’s all part of a plan. All-Star voting is kind of secondary to all that.”
Lee similarly finished far behind the starters in the frontcourt, Durant (1.39 million more votes), Dwight Howard (756,000 more) and Griffin (698,000). He has the same benefit as Curry of the Warriors being more visible than a year ago at this time, but unlike his teammate did not seem to reach new individual levels of prominence since finishing 10th in fan balloting for the 2013 game before coaches sent him to Houston as a reserve.
As Lee noted, though: the sheer numbers. Even a small fraction of new support from China, a country with about four times the population of the United States and Canada combined, can impact.
“I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s a good point,” he said during the October trip to China. “One of the really cool things about being over here is interacting with a whole new fan base that we would have had no other way of interacting with unless we were over here. I hadn’t thought about it that way (with regards to All-Star voting). But with their huge population over here, I’m sure it’s going to make a lot more Lakers and Warriors fans after this week.”
The Lakers didn’t need the additional global presence. But the Warriors may soon find out if the visits to Beijing and Shanghai paid off with unexpected benefits.