Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings upbeat about India trip
The jury has been out for a long time on how much the National Basketball Association (NBA) pre-season offshore games actually help the players. Do these exhibition matches prepare them for the rigours of the tough battles ahead or do they end up as public relations and marketing exercises?
Many top European clubs in recent times have travelled to Asia and North America and the long voyages across continents—the coaches feel—leave their players fatigued, cause injuries and leave them under-prepared at the start of the season.
Questions on the importance, relevance and necessity of these games dominated an interaction Sacramento Kings small forward Harrison Barnes and his Indiana Pacers counterpart Doug McDermott had with media over phone on Thursday as a build-up for the historic NBA India Games 2019 which will see two pre-season games played in India for the first time. The same questions were put to general managers of the two teams—Vlade Divac of the Kings and Kevin Pritchard of Pacers.
The games will be played at the NSCI Dome in Mumbai on October 4-5 and both Barnes and McDermott said they were looking forward to playing in India.
Tackling the stress of long travel and keeping himself ready for the upcoming season is a bigger concern for Barnes as this would be his fourth overseas trip in the last six months. He had visited India in May before heading to Australia and China for the World Cup where he helped USA reach the quarter-finals and qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“I’ve been working with our staff to make sure my body is in peak shape. Despite the travel, I am feeling good and really fresh. I am excited to be playing (in India). I am hoping to continue to be in a good position as the season goes on,” he said.
With both teams in a rebuilding phase following the transfer and acquisition of new players, they are taking it as team-building exercise with the players getting to know each other before they go into serious preparation for the season.
“The biggest thing for us is spending time together and bonding. That’s what we are looking forward to the most about the India trip. We have spent some time together in recent weeks too and it’ll help us a lot going ahead that we spent some time together off the court as well,” said Barnes.
The Pacers have also made private videos of each player so that they get to know each other, said Pritchard.
Both Barnes and McDermott said that experiencing the culture of India, interacting with young basketball enthusiasts and tasting Indian food are among the activities on their plate for this trip. Barnes had tried some Indian delicacies on his previous trip and McDermott said he will try and steal him from the Kings’ camp so that they can go and explore the country.
The two added that their teammates are excited about visiting India and hope to learn about the country and people.