NBA all set to woo India fans in Mumbai
A pre-season game thousands of miles away from their regular field of action is not a preferred way of gearing up. Hence, teams usually take such matches a bit lightly.
Despite that the NBA India Games—two pre-season matches involving Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers here on Friday and Saturday—have a special significance as it is the first time it is being held in India. That could put extra pressure on the players to give a mesmerising show to attract new supporters in a country dominated by cricket. The players are aware of this fact and therefore want to be as competitive as possible.
“Hopefully, we can come out, put on a good show and just keep it exciting. If it’s exciting for someone who is watching basketball for the first time, then he or she becomes a fan and hopefully, the game will continue to grow in the future,” Kings’ De’Aaron Fox said on Thursday.
Also, the Kings are rebuilding their squad, all the more reason to try different combinations. “It’s about getting our team to come together. No matter who is on court, it’s going to be very high level basketball because both teams know how important it is to us and to the NBA,” said Kings head coach Luke Walton, who took charge in April.
Both teams are expected to put their first-choice players on court for a substantial period as it will give them a chance to test combinations. “I won’t say they (regulars) will play in the high 30 (minutes), but definitely in high 20s,” Walton said.
Another reason for the Kings to be more competitive is that they are playing in the home town of owner Vivek Randive, who was born in Mumbai. “I’m happy to be back in the city of my forefathers. These games are a first step in a long journey. I fully expect these games will continue and hopefully multiple players will come out of India and play in the NBA. And hopefully, we will have more arenas to play these games,” he said.
The Pacers are taking this trip as an opportunity to bond well before the regular season, which opens on October 22.
Not only for the players, it’s a good bonding opportunity for NBA and India. A good show on Friday and Saturday will cement the ties further.