Sixers, Mavericks to play NBA pre-season games in China

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 6: Robert Covington #33 and Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers celebrate in front of Jeff Green #32 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during a timeout in the first quarter at the Wells Fargo Center on April 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images/AFP

NEW YORK, April 18, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – A Philadelphia 76ers squad powered by Cameroon’s Joel Embiid and Australian Ben Simmons will face the Dirk Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks in China in two NBA pre-season games, the league announced Tuesday.

The 2018 NBA China Games on October 5 in Shanghai and October 8 at Shenzhen will be the 25th and 26th league contests in China and feature two clubs that will be playing in China for the first time.

“These games will not only bring the excitement of NBA action directly to our passionate Chinese fans, but also provide our teams and players an opportunity to experience the rich culture and history of the country,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

In all, 17 of the NBA’s 30 teams will have played in China once the Mavericks and Sixers make their debuts.

“The 25th and 26th NBA games in China mark another milestone in our efforts to bring the authentic NBA experience to our passionate Chinese fans,” NBA China chief executive David Shoemaker said.

Aussie playmaker Simmons, an NBA Rookie of the Year candidate, averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists a game for the 76ers this season.

“Getting a chance to play all over the world has always been a dream of mine and I’m excited to play in China,” Simmons said. “I know the fans there are passionate about basketball and I’m really looking forward to the trip.”

African big man Embiid averaged team highs of 22.9 points and 11 rebounds for the Sixers, the 7-foot (2.13m) center becoming the first Philadelphia player selected for the NBA All-Star Game since Allen Iverson in 2010.

“It will be an honor to be the first 76ers team to play in front of the amazing fan base in China,” Embiid said.

The 76ers, who went 52-30 to finish third in the Eastern Conference this season, are facing Miami in the first round of the NBA playoffs. It’s their first trip to the post-season since 2012.

Philadelphia boasts one of the NBA’s most global lineups, with other international talents including Italy’s Marco Belinelli, Croatia’s Dario Saric, Turkey’s Ersan Ilyasova and Furkan Korkmaz and Frenchman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Mavericks finished 24-58, missing the playoffs for the second year in a row. They haven’t won a playoff series since capturing the 2011 NBA Finals over Miami.

Germany’s Nowitzki, a 13-time NBA All-Star who was the 2011 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, averaged 12.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game for Dallas this season.

“When I played in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I witnessed China’s enthusiasm for basketball firsthand,” Nowitzki said. “It will be a fantastic experience for our franchise to play in China for the first time.”

The Mavericks were the first team in NBA history with a Chinese player, with Wang Zhizhi suiting up for Dallas in 2001 and 2002. Wang also played for the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat before returning to the Bayi Rockets in 2005 and played until retiring in 2016.