MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) The Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers will stage the first ever NBA pre-season game in Southeast Asia when they play at the Mall of Asia Arena on October 10, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced Tuesday.
For the first time in the history of the basketball-crazed country, Filipinos will get the chance to watch an actual NBA game between two young squads.
Stern himself confirmed the news via a taped message shown at a press conference at the MOA Arena.
“We are pleased to be able to return (to the Philippines) with a game featuring the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets, two young and exciting teams with a terrific array of players,” Stern said.
In a separate press statement, Stern said the game at MOA Arena “is an exciting opportunity to connect with the passionate basketball fans in the Philippines and across Southeast Asia.”
Also shown during the press conference was a video message from Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who said they were “excited to come to the Philippines and play at the MOA Arena.”
“We’d like to thank the NBA and the SM group for inviting us, and we look forward to putting on a great show for Filipino fans,” McHale said.
The Rockets will feature All-Star and former Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, as well as Asian-American sensation Jeremy Lin, who spawned the “Linsanity” phenomenon when he played for the New York Knicks last season.
Meanwhile, the Indiana Pacers will feature four All-Stars: Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, and David West.
NBA Asia vice president and marketing manager Scott Levy said the game will “add to our already long history of international NBA games, including 139 regular and pre-season games” that have been played across the globe.
Levy said the NBA and SM will have a variety of events throughout 2013 as part of the build-up to the pre-season game.
Among those events are viewing parties, grassroots basketball events, as well as appearances by NBA talent. There will also be community events under the NBA Cares umbrella.
“This is definitely sports history in the making,” said SM president Hans Ty, who personally flew to Orlando during last year’s All-Star Weekend to discuss with Stern the possibility of holding a game in the Philippines.
“The Filipinos are one of the biggest basketball fans in the world. It is only fitting that we bring the NBA pre-season game to the Philippine shores,” he added.
The Houston-Indiana game is part of the NBA’s comprehensive global games schedule that features eight NBA teams playing in eight cities in six different countries this October.
Aside from the Pacers and the Rockets, the Chicago Bulls, the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Oklahoma City Thuder, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Washington Wizards will all go on the road during the pre-season.
Pre-season games will be played in Istanbul, Spain, England, Taiwan,
Although many NBA stars have visited the Philippines over the years, this is the first time that two NBA teams will play an official game in the country.
In July 2011, a group of All-Stars including Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, played a two-game series against PBA All-Stars and the Gilas Pilipinas national team while the NBA was in the midst of a work stoppage.