MANILA, Philippines – The NBA Global Games is upon us.
The Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets are scheduled to fly to the country on Monday, or three days before the two clash in the country's first ever NBA pre-season game at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
"They're all flying to Manila on Monday," NBA country manager Carlo Singson told The STAR on Friday.
Filipinos will get a real treat come Oct. 10 as the Pacers and Rockets have some of the NBA's top players and both are expected to make it the playoffs.
Indiana will have team president Larry Bird, a Hall-of-famer who is a member of one of the championship 80s teams of the fabled Boston Celtics, stars Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert as its main attractions.
For Houston, Bird's former Celtics teammate Kevin McHale, and popular players Dwight Howard and James Harden as well as Asian star Jeremy Lin will draw interest from this basketball-crazy nation.
Both McHale and Indiana coach Frank Vogel are looking forward to their Phl visit.
"Well, I haven’t heard a lot. I know that Manila is one of the nicest cities in Asia according to my friends who’ve been there. I have a friend in my neighborhood who is from the Philippines," said Vogel in a recent teleconference.
"We are really looking forward to visit and tour it and interact with the people there. We also heard that NBA is very big in the whole of Asia but particular in the Philippines. There is a tremendous following and support for our games so again we’re looking forward to witnessing that and interact with people," he added.
"Yes, I've heard about the Philippines and basketball. They really love basketball and they have a big following. I think it'll be fun as I said earlier," McHale said in a separate teleconference.
"It's good we'll get to see a new country. We'll get to go to a country we may never go again. On top of that we'll get to play one of the top teams of the league," he added.
Vogel, who came one win closer from dethroning the Miami Heat and making it to last season's NBA Finals, also talked about the return of Danny Granger and the acquisition of Argentian star Luis Scola from the Phoenix Suns early in the year.
“He’s 100 percent healthy. His knee has recovered. We give light workload for his knee to make sure we don’t overdo it. He’s good to go. He’s been playing in our practices 100 percent the entire length of practice. We’re really excited about that," said Vogel, referring to Granger, who only played five games last season due to patellar tendinosis.
As for Scola, Vogel said "He’s going to be in a new position that he’s never been in history, like coming off the bench. He’s a starter I guess since he was 15 years old. We’re gonna be bring him off the bench. He’s gonna be an extra frontline with David West and Roy Hibbert. Scola might play starter minutes, but still just coming off the bench."
On teams to beat, McHale and Vogel had a different perspective.
"If we're gonna advance to the playoffs, we have to beat big teams like Oklahoma City, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers so there are a lot of good teams," said McHale.
"Looking at each conference, there’s five powerhouse teams. We obviously have Miami, San Antonio. Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington they’re gonna make some noise. If those five teams will be the teams to lead and if San Antonio is gauged to win 50 games no matter who’s in uniform and who’s hurt. Houston and Oklahoma City," said Vogel.