This preseason the Dallas Mavericks (1-0 in preseason) and Philadelphia 76ers (2-0) are taking part in a unique NBA experience, as they spend much of this week in China, representing the league in NBA China Game 2018. An ongoing outreach to the country, and a first for both organizations, this marks the 16th and 17th teams to play in China since 2004.
The Mavericks and Sixers play two games in China. The first, in Shanghai, takes place on Friday (eaarrrlyyy Friday morning in the states), and their second moves locations and happens early Monday morning. Don’t fret too much about all that travel and crazy hours. Let God Shammgod show you around their ride.
Here’s what we’ll be watching for in the first matchup:
What time is it, and who’s healthy?
Yeah, this game is really early (criminally early for you west coasters). The Mavericks have spent most of the week in China, both participating in outreach events and practicing. Hopefully their clocks have started to adjust, but the reality is it’s still a huge time adjustment. So don’t be surprised if they get off to a sleepy start.
Add to that the injury battle the Mavericks are stuck battling. As it’s been reported, Harrison Barnes is out for a while, and didn’t make the trip, and Deandre Jordan stayed behind due to a death in the family. Both Rick Carlisle and Dirk Nowitzki have come out and said that the Tall Baller from the G will be out for “weeks”, though he did make the trip. J.J. Barea and Dwight Powell have also battled early injury bug, and it’s not yet clear where they’re at in their rehab. So yes, this isn’t a healthy squad. It would be nice to have the full rotation play together in the preseason, but it’s seeming less and less likely.
By the way, speaking of the injury bug, we have....
These games in China seem like an ideal showcase for one Ding Yanyuhang, a name familiar to 2017 Summer League diehards (those might exist). Ding is the best player in the Chinese Basketball Association, and is currently signed to the Mavericks camp roster. Unfortunately Ding has dealt with injury as well, and hasn’t been a full practice participant. It was widely reported yesterday that he’s likely out for these two games. Here’s hoping he bounces back and puts on a show!
Opportunity for the young guns
With all these injuries there will ample opportunity for Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic to lead the way, and a number of young players with plenty to prove, to carry some momentum in to the end of camp. Rick Carlisle knows who his starters are, and has a good sense of the top of his rotation. But there are minutes to be had, and plenty of questions around depth off the bench.
Guys like Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, newcomer Ryan Broekhoff, and rookie Jalen Brunson had nice showings in the first preseason game in Dallas. But also look for Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo to get plenty of run.
Game management from Rick & Brett
Rick and Brett sounds like a bad 80’s frat comedy.
These coaches have a lot to manage in this China trip. Like Brice broke down for us, teams have a tough time bouncing back from the trip, and often underperform.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of playing time the coaches dole out. They obviously want to put on a show with the likes of young budding stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and up and coming Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. But they also have the long term in mind. How they handle this trip may prove important in the future.
How to Watch
The game tips off at 6:30 am CT, and can be watched on NBATV, or, you know, your DVR.