AFTER the blues of Beijing, the touring Team America arrived in China's biggest city and received an uplifting Shanghai surprise. A bevy of beautiful girls bearing bouquets for all the players, giant welcome banners, and the lenses of film crews and photographers formed an unexpected reception committee - all laid on by the tour sponsors, of course. The 22 basketball giants literally stopped the traffic as they led a procession of the curious and the fascinated across the street to the team buses. All a far cry from the disappointments of the day before. The visitors hardly made an impact on the general citizenry of the capital where the Team America v China series opened on Friday night. That game, although televised live to a potential audience of 400 million, had received little publicity and drew a crowd of only 8,000. But there was no lack of excitement for the organisers, with three hours to go before the first of a nine-match series between the rapidly improving China national team and the patchwork quilt Team America. At the centre of the whirl was Team America president and tour organiser Jerry Barisano wrestling with an array of items, from programme distribution to VIP seating and choreographing the opening ceremony. While Barisano was fixing problems, emergency team coach Tom McCarthy was still acclimatising, having arrived from the US only two hours before. David Miller, the 10th and final member of the squad to arrive, had lost his luggage in transit and needed a pair of size 13 playing shoes . . . luckily the same size as coach McCarthy. If these omens were bad, the worst had hit the Team America enterprise two days before, when their star attractions Manute Bol and George Gervin - a current NBA player with the Philadelphia 76ers and a once-great shooter with the San Antonio Spurs - had been forced to pull out of the tour. The omens proved correct as Team America's travel fatigue and woeful lack of practice was exposed by a Chinese team who recently won gold at the East Asian Games and who have been playing together for months. The rout finished with a scoreline of 114-94 to China. Coach McCarthy had warned his team that the games would be seen as an opportunity for China to put one over on all Americans. ''They won't differentiate between us and the Dream Team [the US gold medallists at the Barcelona Olympics] if they beat us,'' he had said. Indeed, initial confusion over the credentials of the visitors led to spectator inquiries as to whether Michael Jordan or Charles Barkley would be playing. But the crowd, several sporting NBA T-shirts and most waving big cardboard hands, did not take long to realise this was no dream team. Team America have only two players with significant NBA experience supported by professionals who have plied their trade in Europe, South America and America's CBA. Strangers thrown together for the first time, they could not hit it off immediately on the basketball court. Nursing wounded pride the morning after, the last thing the American journeymen needed was another journey. But, only four days after most had landed in Beijing, they were pushing their way through the chaotic bustle of the domestic departure area of Beijing airport. Coach McCarthy's pep talk cum inquest into the first match was conducted on the bus to the airport. It ended on a high note. ''I'm looking at that match as an exhibition game even though it was in front of 8,000 people and against a top national team. For us this is now an eight-game series and I know we're going to improve and win some games,'' said McCarthy. Yesterday's welcome in Shanghai chimed with McCarthy's words and the players' mood seemed to lift, too. It is not quite a team spirit yet but a couple of work-outs before game two at the flying-saucer-shaped Shanghai Stadium tonight and it could be a different story. If China win the second game they will carry off the Marlboro-USA Challenge Cup, which covers only the three games in China. A Team America win will make Wednesday's Guangzhou encounter the decider. The tour ends in Hongkong on June 26.