For many of the players on the Sixers, their journey for the NBA China Games — starting with the first of two games against the Mavericks on Friday in Shanghai — is a unique opportunity, a chance to experience an unfamiliar culture, to represent the league, to help grow the game in a country already obsessed with basketball.

For Brett Brown, it’s nothing new. He estimates he’s traveled to China 20 to 25 times during his time coaching in Australia. He knows the difficult realities of long flights, of energy-sapping jet lag. 

“I know this South Pacific trip well, and it is fatigue,” Brown said Monday. “I did have a chance to speak to (Warriors coach) Steve (Kerr) about it, and the Golden State people and other teams that have gone over there, (Timberwolves coach Tim Thibodeau) and those guys, and it is a different rhythm to a start of a year.”

The Warriors have been blunt about how tough it was to prepare for the season after participating in the NBA China Games last year, playing two games against Thibodeau's Timberwolves. Golden State started the regular season a sluggish 1-2.

Draymond Green called the risk to players’ health “a huge problem,” per USA Today

Kerr said the trip was a great experience but “not the way to prepare for the season.”

Brown knows it will be a challenge, and he’s confident his team is ready.

 

“I feel very organized in relation to having a handle on our guys’ health,” he said. “There’s a little bit of a coaching feel but there’s a lot of it that’s just load management and data. The stuff we have at our practice facility, how our guys are wired up, really lets us handle them responsibly. This lead-up has been well cared for. … I think we’re organized and I think that we’ll manage it well.” 

It's not an easy balance for Brown — figuring out how to mix taking care of his players and getting them ready for the regular season with allowing them to enjoy a different culture and exposing them to the fervent world of basketball in China.

“I remember going over there to Tiananmen Square and seeing probably 75, 80 outdoor courts, and you can’t get on the courts, they’re all being used," Brown said. "I think there are probably 30 seven-footers in their Under-20 program, their national program.

“The population and the interest — it’s their most popular sport — and the attendance and the participation, it’s wild. It’s just maniacal.”

The Chinese Basketball Association estimates that 300 million people play the sport in the country. And you can bet many of them know all about Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and “The Process.”

“I think that when you really get over there and you feel (Chinese) basketball and you feel the passion and the interest and the maniacal, passionate fans and the reaction that they will have to Jo and Ben, you realize that it’s a global game,” Brown said. “And we have a responsibility, we have an opportunity, and I think it’s a credit and a real statement to the NBA in relation to how they marketed us. But it’s going to be a very hectic, populated trip that we are looking forward to.”

The NBA has played 24 games in China and every single contest has sold out. Expect the Mercedes-Benz Arena to be packed for Friday's game at 7:30 p.m. Shanghai time, 7:30 a.m. on the East Coast. 

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