The Denver Nuggets have announced their 2009 preseason schedule. Apart from the two games in Asia, there is not much to write about.
They kick off the preseason against the same team they will battle in game one of the regular season, the dimwitted Utah Jazz.
The second game is a tilt at the Pepsi Center against Partisan Belgrade. At first I thought it would be a chance to see the Nikola Pekovic, the first pick in the second round of the 2008 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but after some research I found he was yet another player who has chosen Greece as he now plays for Panathinaikos. Feel free to check out Partisan’s roster here to see if anyone excites you.
They are the Boston Celtics of the Serbian Super Liga having won 25% of the league championships over the past 60 years. Check out their roster here and see if anyone rings your bell.
Right off the bat, one of the two preseason games that you will pay regular season prices for to watch at the Pepsi Center is against a non-NBA squad. The other team you will get a chance to check out live at the Pepsi Center is Minnesota. So Nugget fans will not get a chance to see an NBA caliber team at the Pepsi Center until the regular season starts (I kid Timberwolf fans…but not really). I realize teams probably do not want to travel very far during the preseason, teams fleeing the country excluded, but can’t we get a team outside the Northwest Division to play in the Pepsi Center?
Denver will play Portland at the Rose Garden and then wrap up the preseason schedule with a back to back, I guess the 22 of those they have during the regular season were not quite enough, against the Los Angeles Lakers in Anaheim and San Diego.
Half of the games are against playoff teams so there is a chance we can get a read on how prepared the Nuggets are to start the season. If they are riding high on last season’s accomplishments, we should be able to tell in the contests against the Trail Blazers and Lakers.
You may recall that the Denver Nuggets will be playing the Indiana Pacers in Taipei on October 8. That will not be their only stop in the Orient.
The NBA has announced that the same two teams will play in Beijing on October 11. I think everyone expected to have at least one other date added as it would make little sense to fly 35 hours or however long it takes to get over there for only one contest.
The game will be played in Wukesong Arena, formerly the Beijing Olympic Basketball Arena, which has been refurbished and holds a capacity of 17,022 spectators. According to Sun Kanglin, President of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Sport, it will be the third time NBA teams play each other in Beijing. It will also be one of five NBA games played outside the United States this preseason. In addition to the Nuggets and Pacers playing in Taipei and China the Chicago Bulls will face the Utah Jazz in London, the Jazz will play Real Madrid in Spain and the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers will face off in Monterrey, Mexico.
Hopefully, the Nuggets and Pacers games will be televised on NBATV, but there has been no word yet on any broadcast plans.
The NBA will announce today that the Denver Nuggets will be playing the first ever exhibition game in Taipei on October 8, 2009. The Nuggets will face off against the Indiana Pacers at the Taipei Arena.
There are two things that come to mind when I read this release. First of all, from a basketball perspective I do not think it is ever good when your team has to travel thousands of miles to play a game. That is a long trip and it will take time for the Nuggets to recover once they return. The NBA has played games in Asia in the past and they seem to do a pretty good job of scheduling a long break for any team who is returning from a trip to that part of the world. I am sure the Nuggets and Pacers will have a week without any additional preseason games once they come back from Taipei, but it will still be a physically draining experience that might impact their ability to practice for a few days after their return to Denver.
The other interesting thing I noticed is that there are two references to Taiwan in the press release. Taiwan is a country on the island of Formosa off of the coast of China. The nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek fled there after being defeated by the Communist forces of Mao Zedong in 1949 marking an end to the Chinese Civil War. Communist China has never recognized Taiwan as a legitimate country and they throw a hissy fit whenever someone in the international community refers to Taiwan as Taiwan or the Repulbic of China.
The two governments struck a compromise that would allow Taiwan to participate in international competition as long as they are referred to as Chinese Taipei.
Now, when the NBA says the Nuggets and Pacers will play in Taipei, they are referring to a city in Taiwan and using the term that Communist China prefers. The NBA press release announcing the game there did not mention where Taipei is thus not mentioning Taiwan. However, in a quote from Tim Chen, the NBA Greater China CEO, has the following quote:
“October 8th will be an historic day for the NBA and for the millions of basketball fans in Taiwan,” said NBA Greater China CEO Tim Chen. “Taiwan fans are very passionate about the game and we are honored to be able to present a matchup of these two great teams for them.”
I find it interesting that in the bulk of the press release the NBA almost goes out of its way to avoid mentioning Taiwan, but then the man who you would expect to be the most sensitive to the issues involving using the name Taiwan says it twice.
I am never as smart as I think I am so I am probably reading something into this that is not there, but I would think Chen’s use of the term Taiwan is intentional. His use of Taiwan could be a slap in the face of the government of Communist China or it might be no big deal at all. I tend to think it would be considered the former due to the effort Communist China has gone to prevent Taiwan from being considered Taiwan for decades.
In m y mind it certainly is possible Chen is challenging China by his use of the term Taiwan. We have seen Ping Pong Diplomacy in China that lead to the normalization of relations between the United States and China in the 1970′s. Could some roundball diplomacy lead to some normalization of relations between the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan?