Macau games will be no holiday for Cavs, Magic
The Venetian will provide the glitz and the NBA the glamour when the Orlando Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers face off in Macau on Saturday. The Magic and the Cavaliers will play a doubleheader in Shanghai and then Macau and so close to the big tip-off this is much more than a marketing exercise for the players.
'We'll try to enjoy it, but at the same time we'll try to win,' said Cleveland's Daniel Gibson, a second-year guard who stunned fans with a 31-point eruption in the Cavaliers' game six win against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals last season. 'I know as a team we are competitive, when we step out we are looking forward to beating the Orlando Magic, and they are looking forward to beating us, too.'
The Cavaliers were the surprise package of the NBA last year, reaching the finals, but their fairy tale journey had a nightmarish ending with a 4-0 demolition by the San Antonio Spurs. Team management opted to return this season with a similar supporting cast for star player LeBron James, and Gibson said this was a sign of their faith.
'We have the pieces to win. We feel they [the management] trust us, and that we have what it takes to get the job done,' he said.
The NBA roadshow caused a stir when it rolled through Europe this week, and the league will be pulling out all the stops in China. Fans in Macau can expect all the sights and sounds of a regular NBA game - mascots, dancers, cheerleaders and exciting half-time entertainment.
The only thing that appears to be missing is comedy - although there could be a few sniggers from the crowd when struggling Team China come up against the Magic on Thursday evening, also in Macau. China had a woeful summer - they were 1-3 in the NBA Summer League and at an August tournament in Turkey went 0-3 against Latvia, Poland and Serbia - and without Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, Jonas Kazlauskas' team should be cannon fodder for Magic stars like centre Dwight Howard.
'I'll always cherish my visits to China,' said Howard. 'I can't wait to come back. We need to try and work on defence, that's what stopped us a lot last season.'
Wang Zhizhi is the main scoring threat for China, but Howard is much more likely to get the desired defensive workout against the Cavaliers.
Orlando were swept in the first round of the play-offs last season by the Detroit Pistons, but free-agent signing Rashard Lewis gives the team a second All-Star to take some of the pressure off Howard.
The teams look evenly matched: Orlando have better range and more athleticism, Cleveland a tougher defence and the league's most talented player in James.
With both teams shaping up to be in the thick of the post-season scramble, look for some serious markers to be laid down in front of the sellout Macau crowd.