Posts Tagged ‘China’

China earns Olympic bid

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — China won its 16th FIBA Asia title and is heading to the Olympics for the ninth straight time, thanks to a 78-67 victory over the Philippines on Saturday. China is the ninth team to secure a trip to Rio next summer.


After a hot start from the Philippines, China took control in the second quarter, led by as many as 16 points, and held on for a 11-point victory to wrap up FIBA action for the summer. Yi Jianlian had 11 points and 15 rebounds for China, while Andray Blatche finished with 17 points and five boards for the Philippines.

The Philippines’ Olympic dream isn’t completely dead. They will play in one of the three qualifying tournaments next July, where the final three bids will be earned. But they would have a hard time beating any team from Europe or the Americas.


FIBA will determine which three teams host the three qualifying tournaments and which three get the wildcard spots. The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that Canada has decided not to make a bid to be a host.

Preseason China Trip Could Impact All-Star Vote For Warriors

VIDEO: Warriors visit the Great Wall of China

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.

The China Experience, And What Comes Next For NBA Overseas


HANG TIME WEST – The girl — about 5-foot-2 and appearing to be in her mid-teens — was caught in the mosh pit, jostled by enthusiastic fans on the rope line outside the hotel the teams shared in Beijing and overly aggressive security guards who would get unnecessarily physical to control situations. And she didn’t care.

It was the first morning the Lakers and Warriors were in China, last Sunday outside the Ritz-Carlton. She had straight dark hair parted in the middle, down just past the shoulders, black-rimmed glasses with yellow temples, paper in hand. She also had a dark streak from right eye to throat, tears combined with mascara.

She was crying at the chance to see Warriors players, coaches and staffers walk past on the way to the bus to practice, most of whom stopped among the crowd for autographs and pictures. A.C. Green, the former Laker and current Oakland resident on the trip as an NBA ambassador, spent about 20 minutes, or until every one of the few dozen fans who wanted an interaction left happy. It was the teenage girl who spoke up.

“I love basketball,” she said in broken English. “It is the importance of my life.”

The Warriors and Lakers in China was a hard schedule even with the first-class travel, with a series of appearances in the name of NBA public relations when players would rather have had alone time, and it was an unwanted trip for many with the regular season coming fast. But it was undeniably an experience of unique sights and sounds. Just ask Green and the girl with black watery line down her face.

A basketball takeaway? The 14 assists and five steals by Andre Iguodala in Shanghai on Friday. It was exhibition play, and not exactly against the dream Lakers lineup on a night no L.A. starter broke 26 minutes, Iguodala the distributor is intriguing look when Stephen Curry is out, or maybe even when Curry is in and able to play off the ball. Toney Douglas may be listed as Curry’s backup, but Iguodala, the likely starter at small forward or shooting guard, said he feels comfortable at the point. He has experience in the pros, mostly from his 76ers days. If Iguodala can be successful there, Golden State can play very big (Iguodala, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green, David Lee, Andrew Bogut) as part of several lineup options coach Mark Jackson can deploy with a versatile roster.

Meanwhile, Jerry West delighting in the chance to go mostly unrecognized proved to be short-lived. He received a very loud ovation at the first game, Tuesday in Beijing, when he was brought to center court to be introduced with Dell Curry, Muggsy Bogues and Green, and so many fans interrupted West at his seat back in the stands that the Warriors executive was finally moved to the scorer’s table with security close. Team officials are ordinarily not allowed to sit there, but the rules are bent for The Logo in a different continent.

Kobe Bryant left China with his status for the regular season in as much doubt as when he arrived. Bryant has not ruled out opening night, Oct. 29 against the Clippers, and he continues to increase the workout activities in the return from a torn Achilles’ tendon. But he is also underlining patience. As much as he wants to be on the court as soon as possible, Bryant gets the risk of coming back too soon and playing before the injury is fully healed.

The Warriors landed in Oakland at 1 a.m. Saturday with plans for a very quiet Saturday and a light practice Sunday to get re-adjusted to California time, and then for a big week ahead for the entire organization: Talks on an extension for Andrew Bogut could accelerate, with both sides optimistic a deal can get done before or very early into the regular season. A Golden State insider, while cautioning a lot of negotiating remains, agreed with Bogut’s assessment that team and player are starting serious conversations in the same ballpark on dollars and with common ground on length and possible incentive clauses based on games played. There is no deadline, but Bogut, hoping to stay, either wants the contract done soon or table the issue until after the season.

Beijing and Shanghai both have nice basketball facilities, but especially Shanghai, with Mercedes-Benz Arena and a second quality building in another part of town that was used for a Fan Appreciation Day. Shanghai as a whole has a very modern vibe. It has about six million more people in the city itself, yet seems to move smoother and is cleaner than the country’s government center.

One other thing about Beijing: Cabbies make the most ruthless of New York taxi drivers seem timid. It’s probably not only the cabbies, either. Traffic lines are suggestions, yielding to pedestrians an occasional happening.

And finally, there was Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni on Thursday in Shanghai, when asked what kind of restaurant he went to the night before with Yao Ming: “Chinese. But that would be just ‘food’ over here, right?”

New Bonds Begin To Take Root In China

SHANGHAI, China — The plan was to play the Lakers on Friday night, leave Mercedes-Benz Arena, bus to the airport, take off 1 a.m. Saturday, stop in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel and land in Oakland at 1 a.m. Saturday. Depart from one continent and arrive in another at the same hour.

The Warriors are into pulling off some tricks lately, ending their two-game series with the Lakers in China (a 115-89 Golden State victory Friday morning before 17,482 here) while trying to replicate the chemistry of last season with a new-look roster.

The most important personalities from last season’s promising finish are back. Stephen Curry and David Lee, emerging as leaders, and Andrew Bogut leading with a chip on his shoulder to offset the team’s nice-guy image, are all here. Coach Mark Jackson, a commanding presence in that room, returns to force feed so much positive reinforcement that players have no choice but to believe.

But two of the key veteran presences, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry, left as free agents. Although one of the newcomers, Andre Iguodala, is expected to fit in without difficulty, his arrival will likely trigger a lineup shuffle that will send either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson, both starters a year ago, to the bench, which could disrupt things.

“That was, I would say, the biggest factor in what happened last year with us and how we got the most out of our talent,” said Lee, the All-Star power forward. “Everybody was on the same page. We never had any issues within the team. This year, it usually takes until a little way through the regular season for that to come together. It’s not something that can be rushed. It’s just kind of something that happens. I think we’ve done a very good job of integrating everybody and getting everybody on the same page on the court and off the court.”

It’s all worked out, so far. The trip to China played a big part in it.

The Warriors were forced into close quarters with a schedule of appearances in Beijing and Shanghai. Significant others were on the trip, from the plane ride that left Oakland last Friday to some activities to the team hotels to the same long ride back. Teams often overstate the bonding effect of long trips, but there may have been real value for a team that relied so heavily on camaraderie last year.

“Probably the thing that you forget is that it forces you to spend time together and, moreso, with your significant other. There’s guys that brought girlfriends or wives, and we’re around them. They get to see me or their teammates as people,” Jackson said. “Valuable time. Not, ‘That’s the shooting guard’ or ‘That’s the center’ or ‘That’s the coach.’

“I’m not going to minimize the impact that those guys last year [who have left the team] had in the locker room, on the plane, on the bus, on the court. I don’t take it for granted. I have total appreciation for them and what they did. I’m confident that this group will develop chemistry. Jarrett Jack had a voice. Carl Landry had a voice. Those guys had a voice. They played a role. It takes time to develop that, but I’m very confident that these guys will be tied together and we’ll move forward.”

The Warriors are down to two exhibition games, a back-to-back in Sacramento and at-home against the Trail Blazers, before opening the regular season Oct. 30. Then, they’ll face the expectation, not the hope, of playing into May.

The quicker they can prove that this group can mesh as well as the last — and it may not happen for a while —  the quicker they will take their next step forward. They’re already on their way.

Barnes’ Injury Could Rattle Warriors’ Rotation; Lakers Mull Big Man Mix

SHANGHAI, China – The Warriors and Harrison Barnes are expressing confidence that the injury to Barnes’ left foot is not major and that sitting him for exhibition games is just precautionary. Still, the injury could have major repercussions for the second-year small forward and the entire rotation if it lingers into the season.

Coach Mark Jackson has maintained he has open spots at shooting guard and small forward. He says that Andre Iguodala is a candidate for one of the starting jobs, not an automatic after arriving as a free agent with a four-year, $48-million deal. With Stephen Curry set at point guard, David Lee at power forward and Andrew Bogut at center, Klay Thompson, Igoudala and Barnes are challenging for the opening lineup at the two other positions.

Now, though, Barnes has missed two games, most of another, and will not face the Lakers on Friday night at Mercedes-Benz Arena (7:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV) here before both teams return to California. There is no indication when he will play, only statements that the Warriors are simply getting him rest when the calendar allows.

But, Jackson said, “Unfortunately [the injury] has got to play a factor because you didn’t really get to see those units together, no matter who it is. The good thing is, I know all of these guys. I envisioned when we got Andre how I would utilize all of them and that hasn’t changed.”

If Barnes starts for the second season in a row, it will be in the front court, no matter who Jackson picks as shooting guard. If Barnes does not start, Iguodala will be the small forward and Thompson the shooting guard.

The Warriors have two exhibition games remaining after returning to the United States, Wednesday at Sacramento and Thursday against the Trail Blazers in Portland. Golden State opens the regular season Oct. 30.

Meanwhile, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he has not made a decision on the starting power forward and center. Pau Gasol gets one of the jobs. The decision for D’Antoni is whether Gasol plays power forward next to Chris Kaman at center or Gasol opens at center with Jordan Hill at power forward.

The Uncontrollable, Full-Contact Love For Kobe Bryant in Far East


BEIJING – There was no buildup, no slow rumble from an initial sighting growing into a crescendo as more people realized the moment had arrived. Just a burst.

Kobe Bryant emerged from the tunnel and the crowd instantly ignited in a way that could only mean one thing: Their eyes had been locked on that tunnel near one corner of the court inside MasterCard Center. The Lakers and Warriors were 1 minute 15 seconds away from starting the only NBA game in Beijing all year and the guy who wouldn’t play while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon, wouldn’t even suit up — or Friday in Shanghai — as the teams finished the two-game series, was commanding the attention.

Bryant in Asia is somewhere along the lines of phenomena and cultural connection he sometimes struggles to explain. North America, of course. Even Europe, because he spent so many years of his youth in Italy as his father,  Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played there. Adult Kobe routinely holds conversations in Italian. There is no tangible connection to the Far East, though.

And yet, madness. It was a Tuesday night in MasterCard Center this time, but really, it’s every time he visits the region for promotions or games, year after year. The only disappointment in this sighting was that he was in a dark suit, white kerchief in the breast pocket, long-sleeve dress shirt open at the collar and dark shoes. Anytime Bryant was shown on the overhead video scoreboard sitting on the bench, the crowd roared. When he joined Golden State’s Stephen Curry at midcourt just before tip to thank the fans for coming, the simple act of saying hello in Chinese – “Nihao!” – triggered another loud cheer.

“Well first of all, he’s playing for the Lakers,” NBA commissioner David Stern said in explaining special Bryant relationship here. “He’s been playing for a very long time, as viewership and interest in our game has grown dramatically. And he has come to this country quite often and understands what it is to cultivate a fan base which totally understands that he has, shall I say, the heart of a champion. His Chinese fans totally expect him, beyond all odds, to make a full recovery from his injury because they have come to have enormous confidence in his ability and his determination. I think that’s because he’s shown the ability and determination at different stages of his career to win, to play at his highest and to elevate his teammates.”

Bryant is ruling out a victory-lap season in Asia after hanging it up from the NBA, just as he dismisses the notion of a farewell in Europe as a full-circle moment – “When I’m retired, I’m retired,” he said. Given his popularity in the Far East, though, it’s not a crazy notion.

“It’s harder for me to walk around here than it is in the States,” Bryant said.


“Yeah,” he insisted. “In the States, you’re getting a lot of recognition – ‘Hi’ and they want autographs and pictures and so forth and so on. Out here, it’s uncontrollable. It’s uncontrollable. They really rush you and surround you. It becomes something where you can’t go out.”

Kobe Bryant is swarmed by fans shortly after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Kobe Bryant is swarmed by fans shortly after arriving at Beijing Capital International Airport.

Being beloved here is much more of a contact sport, the way fans surge to get close for interaction and security forces routinely get physical in seemingly calm situations. (Sunday, A.C. Green, here as an ambassador for the league, approached the rope line outside the hotel both teams shared. When a girl, appearing to be in her mid-teens, walked quick to be sure not to miss an autograph, a guard knocked her off stride with a forearm shove. It was left to Green to signal to security to ease up.) And Bryant can’t exactly take a lot of casual strolls in public in America, either. Now imagine that, multiply, and welcome to Bryantmania in the Far East.

“I think when I first started, I was just doing camps out here, just doing clinics,” he said. “I came out here, the reaction, the passion they had for the game was fun to be around. It was like you were teaching the game to people who really want to learn, have a thirst to learn. Because of it, I just kept coming back. When I first started coming to Beijing, there was no print ads, there was no billboards. There was nothing going on. It wasn’t what it is now. I just came out because I enjoyed it.

“I think if you go back to the States, for example, fans have gone kind of through this progression of hero marketing. They kind of lived through that in the ‘80s with Michael, Magic and kind of having that fanaticism with fans. Now I think it’s evolved. With so many media outlets, it’s evolved to something beyond that. We’re a little more desensitized by celebrities (in the United States). Out here, not so much. It’s something that’s kind of relatively new.”

Last season was Bryant’s 17th in the NBA and still he was No. 3 in jersey sales in China, behind only Derrick Rose and LeBron James. (Bryant was also No. 3 overall worldwide and in the United States and Europe individually.) He has a relationship with Asia and here in the world’s most-populous nation in particular.

He has that burst.

“I don’t know,” Bryant said of what has become a never-ending popularity in the face of waves of younger players. “They (fans) really just gravitate. I think it’s a combination of the game, I think it’s a combination of kind of the ups and downs of my career, battling through injury and that sort of stuff, and the work ethic. Those are things that transfer very easily.”

NBA May Alter Start Times To Help Foreign Viewers See More Games

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.

Stephen Curry’s Challenging New World


BEIJING – The Chinese government, as part its policy of deciding when and where large groups may congregate, sent late word that the turnout planned for the Under Armour store would not be allowed after all. Eight people who won contests could attend as Stephen Curry of the Warriors appeared to promote a new shoe line. More than eight, authorities might shut down the event before the gathering could grow into a demonstration.

When Curry showed up Monday afternoon at the Joy City Mall, about 50 people were inside. That number included employees and several news crews, but also appeared to go beyond eight customers … depending how many of the customers were actually employees as props. Another 50 or so were outside in the mall, blocked from entering by a thick, clear, plastic-like divider that rolled down from the ceiling. Rules were being broken.

Inside, they cheered when he arrived, shouted “Curry! Curry!” when they wanted his attention and smiled when he took on challengers in Pop-A-Shot. Outside, when the divider briefly came up, they surged toward Curry as he gave out autographed posters and posed for pictures. He stayed 80 minutes, bragged about the brand and charmed the room like it was in Oakland.

There was a demonstration, all right.

This is a 25-year-old in breakout mode. In 10 or 12 months, Curry has gone from the guy trying to survive a flurry of ankle injuries and supposedly being a risky investment for the Warriors with an extension at $44 million over four years to being considered by many the best shooter in the NBA. Then came a star turn in the playoffs and, now, a man who can draw a crowd around the world.

“It’s been a whirlwind, but it’s been fun,” he said. “Stuff that I can involve my family with during the summer so I don’t miss much time with them. It’s all new and I’m just trying to make adjustments, figure out how to stay focused on what’s actually important.”

For all the expectation that Curry could one day reach these heights, when it did happen, it happened fast. This time a year ago, he was trying to prove he could stay healthy an entire season. Eight months ago, Western Conference coaches left him off the All-Star team.

Though he had impressed earlier, the real takeoff started in the second half of the 2012-13 season. The Warriors remained on a playoff arc and Curry was en route to finishing second in the league in free-throw percentage, third in 3-point percentage, seventh in scoring and seventh in minutes while setting a NBA single-season record with 272 made 3s. He followed that with the kind of dominating stretches in the playoffs that a player must have on the resume’ to truly be considered a superstar. He often carried Golden State past the Nuggets and then to a Game 6 against the Spurs before the joy ride ended in the West semifinals.

And then he followed that with the offseason. Curry signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour. He signed an endorsement deal with MoGo to promote the first flavored mouth guard. He and teammate Klay Thompson will be on one of three regional covers of the Sports Illustrated basketball preview. And Curry and coach Mark Jackson will be featured in a commercial for ESPN’s NBA coverage, cruising in an RV with Mike Breen.

“This summer, it kind of got carried away because everything happened so fast,” said his father Dell Curry, who played 16 years for five NBA teams. “Everyone wanted a piece of him.”

To where the concern grew within the family that Stephen would be pulled in too many directions.

“That’s what we were worried about,” Dell said. “But if it didn’t happen this summer, it won’t happen.”

The new season is a new test for Stephen. He played 90 of a possible 94 regular-season and playoff games in 2012-13, so at least the health concerns that shadowed him a year ago in camp have faded, even if he did have to deal with a reminder sprained ankle in the postseason. Now, he will have to handle the wave of attention that has rolled in.

Curry is like Golden State as a whole in that way — the playoffs were a coming out party and there went the element of surprise on the court. As the most recognizable of the Warriors, though, he will face the majority of the hazing. Opponents will probably play him rougher, as the Nuggets previewed in the first round, and certainly put additional focus in scouting and pregame prep compared to a year ago at this time.

Except that if Curry backslides, there will be individual scrutiny about the negative impact of fame. Gaining a lot since the second half of last season also means facing a burden.

The Joy City appearance, at least, went about as well as could be expected. Curry said he was pleased with the event, even with the government restrictions. At 6 p.m., as the event was wrapping up, the divider was still down, blocking the usual entrance between the store and the mall. And a couple dozen people were waiting on the wrong side anyway.

Yes, there definitely was a demonstration.

Bryant Ramping Up Practice Workload; Nash Expects To Play Tuesday


BEIJING – Kobe Bryant said Monday he expected to increase his workload in practice later in the day, giving the Lakers good news on the medical front on back-to-back days, a record by their standards the last couple seasons.

Speaking before practice at MasterCard Center, where the Lakers and Warriors will play an exhibition Tuesday night local time (7:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV), Bryant cautioned that he still does not know if he will play in the season opener Oct. 29 against the Clippers. He said he could not estimate so much as when he will participate in a full practice, the next major step in the recovery from a torn Achilles’ tendon. But he left no doubt there have been improvements.

“I feel pretty good,” Bryant said. “I’m stepping it up. I’m looking forward to today’s practice and seeing what I can do from a conditioning standpoint. Rev it up a little bit.

“I haven’t pushed it-pushed it yet. I’ve done some pretty heavy running on the treadmill over the last few days, more than I’ve ever done before. I’ve never been a big treadmill guy, but it was necessary. Today, hopefully I can get out on the court and run. I feel like I can kind of pick up the pace and that I can keep doing that.”

Meanwhile, the other starting guard, Steve Nash, reported no ill effects after participating in the full practice Sunday and said he expects to face the Warriors on Tuesday. Nash, who struggled with his health last season, sprained his left ankle last Friday against the Kings in Las Vegas.

“I plan to play tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes,” Nash said. “I’m not worried about it. I think this is going to be a month of ups and downs, trying to get in condition to play. That’s what this time of year is for.”

Jerry West Gets The Chance To Not Be Jerry West


After he survived the steep half-mile walk that could have taken the place of an NBA conditioning session, after he endured a gauntlet of vendors shouting from both sides of the incline and stepping in front of shoppers to take a charge if it meant selling the kitsch, and after the uneasy gondola ride another 1,900 feet into the grey sky, Jerry West stood on the Great Wall.

He stared out over the valley lush with green and fall accents of red and gold. He smiled.

The Sunday visit with the Warriors, in his role as a minority owner with a voice in basketball operations while making appearances around the Bay Area, was an escape. A vacation, one of his former players, A.C. Green, called it.

A vacation from being Jerry West.

Fans scream for the attention of current players, not the man who became the logo for the entire NBA. Security forces dressed in black army boots, black pants and black shirts with white lettering and with black ear pieces are everywhere in cushioning the rosters of the Warriors and Lakers, the teams that play here Tuesday and in Shanghai on Friday as part of the league’s Global Games. While all this is happening, one of the greatest players in history is mostly unrecognized.

“You know what?” he said, standing on the Wall. “It’s really fun. It is. It’s nice.”

In an hour of walking among hundreds of Chinese residents with wife Karen as the Warriors toured the Mutianyu section of the historic structure, and mostly roaming away from the security detail, West is stopped three times. Two of the times are by American fans. One of those times, by a couple from Los Angeles.

“I was there when you made your 55 footer, by the way,” the man from Los Angeles tells West while walking away, referring to the famous buzzer-beater against the Knicks in the 1970 Finals.

West smiles in acknowledgement but also knows the truth: If everyone who said the same thing actually was there, capacity inside the Forum would have been 100,000.

Only near the end of the tour is West approached by an Asian, a man appearing to be in his early-20s. West smiles, shakes his hand and signs an autograph.

“I think coming to a foreign country and seeing people who are enthusiastic about it (the NBA) but not crazy-crazy, it refreshes him,” said Green, the former West first-round pick who is here as an ambassador for the league. “…. This is a vacation for him. He can really enjoy being here with Karen and just take in the culture and embrace that without a super-demanding schedule or interacting with demanding people.”

West is in good spirits as he takes the gondola ride back down the mountain, followed by the return trip through the rowdy venders to get to the bus for the two-hour drive through traffic to the team hotel. The history buff, in China for the first time, got to see the famous Wall. And he got to see it as a normal tourist.

He got his vacation.