The NBA is coming to India! The Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers will play a couple of preseason games in Mumbai on October 4 and 5. The matches are part of the NBA's effort to expand beyond North America and reach out to fans across the world. Called the NBA Global Games, they've become regular fixtures in England, China and Japan, and are now coming to Mumbai. One of the main drivers for that is Sacramento Kings' owner Vivek Ranadive, who is settled abroad but grew up in the city.
The teams have already landed in India, with the Kings arriving in rapper Drake's private jet Air Drake. So why exactly are they in India, and why is it a big deal?
- Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 3, 2019
What exactly are preseason games?
Before the NBA season begins, the preseason games are exhibition-cum-practice matches. They give the teams a chance to test their combinations and strategies, and to see where they stand as compared to their competition. For the rookies on the teams, it's an opportunity to show their teams that they're good enough for a spot once the regular season begins. For the veterans, it's a chance to prove they're still raring to go and the rookies need to wait.
For the fans, it's just more basketball to watch, and an indicator of where they should set expectations from their favourite teams.
These Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings, are they any good?
They aren't the best of the lot, but they aren't the worst either.
The Pacers have made the playoffs eight times in the last nine years, but they've lost in the first round the last four years. Their best years came during the Reggie Miller era when they made five conference finals and an NBA final in a seven-year span from 1993-94 to 1999-00.
The Kings haven't been as successful lately, last making the playoffs in 2005-06. They have been NBA champions once, but it was back in 1951 when they were based in Rochester and were known as the Royals.
Although the Pacers will travel to India without Victor Oladipo, their best player, they will have Malcolm Brogdon, who signed with them this year. Brogdon was the rookie of the year in 2017 with the Milwaukee Bucks, and would want to make a mark in his first season with the Pacers.
The best player on the Kings' current squad is 21-year-old DeAaron Fox. The youngster was eighth in the entire NBA in assists last year, providing scoring opportunities for others on his team. He also scored an average of 17.3 points per game.
Would watching those teams be fun?
Yes! NBA games are a lot of fun. First of all, the teams are evenly matched, so you can expect close games. Second, even though most of the action happens with the ball in players' hands, there are always other things to look out for. The NBA encourages players to express themselves freely, which means there's a lot of banter going on. An in-your-face celebration after dunking over an opponent is as much a statement as the dunk itself.
What should I look for when watching the game?
Keep your eyes on the ball. That's where most of the action is, most being the operative word. Focus on where the ball is, but try to keep the rest of the court in your peripheral vision. Players are always moving, trying to anticipate passes and create space where they can take a shot from, and that is a beautiful sight in itself.
If there's a particular player that catches your fancy, focus on him for a few minutes and watch how he becomes a completely different player when he goes from offence to defence and vice-versa.
Should I go to the game or watch it on TV?
As it is for any sport, watching on TV and watching live are completely different experiences. If you're in Mumbai on the dates of the games and can afford to go, definitely go. The NBA delivers one of the best live-sport watching experiences.
Basketball is fast-paced, there are rarely any dull phases in a game. There will be plenty of moments for you to scream out loud with thousands of fans, but equally exhilarating are those few seconds of silence when a player attempts a buzzer-beating shot (which are frequent, given a team has to shoot within 24 seconds of getting possession) and the ball is in the air going towards the basket.
From start to end, an NBA game takes about two and a half hours to finish, so it's not really a long time. And the periods of no play (breaks/time-outs) are filled with on-court entertainment of other forms (dance, music, etc.), so you'll definitely not want to look away from the court at any time.