Programming note: Are you an early-riser? Catch the Warriors game against the Lakers in China on Friday, October 18 at 4:30 a.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
OAKLAND – Insofar as their 10-day trip abroad begins with two flights totaling about 13 air hours, the Warriors expressed a curious blend of appreciation and apprehension in the hours prior to their journey to China on Friday.
They’re looking forward to it – sort of.
They’re happy to be going – sort of.
They do, however, completely understand the purpose of the trip.
This is about spreading the NBA gospel, about coming into contact with adoring fans from afar, about selling the Warriors brand as well as that of the world’s greatest basketball league.
All this while simultaneously preparing for the most breathlessly anticipated Warriors season since a rookie named Chris Webber arrived in Oakland two decades ago.
"It’s going to be a grind,’’ coach Mark Jackson conceded. "Obviously, our schedule is a grueling one."
The team’s flight leaves Oakland around noon for a roughly five-hour flight to Anchorage, Alaska, where upon refueling they will embark on an eight-hour flight to Beijing. Shortly after arrival Saturday evening will come a team dinner, followed on Sunday by a trip to the Great Wall and a school visit. Monday brings welcome reception and dinner. The first of two games against the Los Angeles Lakers is Tuesday, after which the Warriors will fly to Shanghai.
After catching their breath on Wednesday, the Warriors on Thursday will bask in Fan Appreciation Day, which will include a clinic conducted by the players. Game 2 comes on Friday. The long trip back is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19.
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"Two games in the space of five days, but the travel is pretty tough,’’ veteran center Andrew Bogut said. "A lot of coffee, caffeine and a lot of sleeping pills."
Most coaches and players will be accompanied by wives or fiancées, even though their time together will be limited by the lengthy list of obligations.
Third-year guard Klay Thompson, who visited China a few months back, is looking forward to the food and a second visit to the Great Wall.
"They got a fun little bobsled ride on the way down," he said. "I’m excited."
This trip provides the team with an extended opportunity to bond, yes, but the more salient reason is to cash in on the global popularity of the NBA and its teams. The Warriors this week launched a website dedicated to the Chinese market (Warriors.com/china) and also opened an account with Weibo, China’s leading microblogging service.
Billions of dollars are at stake, and no league is better at monetizing itself abroad.
So it’s a business trip. It’s an opportunity to serve as ambassadors. It’s a chance to expand cultural horizons. It’s a trip all NBA teams either have made or will make, but the Warriors are delighted to have a full 10 days to recover.
"We have enough time to adjust between the time we get back and the start of the regular season last year," Thompson said. "It didn’t affect the Heat or the Clippers last year, so I think we’ll be good."