NBA (National Basketball Association)

NBA trips to China putting players’ health at risk, says Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green

NBA faces quandary of finding right balance between global growth and the prioritisation of the player experience

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 2:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 October, 2017, 9:52pm

Flight delays, visa hitches and health concerns will likely make the Golden State Warriors – and other NBA teams – think twice about more trips to China in the future.

A week in China has thrown up all sorts of issues for the NBA champions, who play their second game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Shanghai tonight after losing their opener 111-97 in Shenzhen on Thursday.

The cost comes to the actual basketball, especially when factoring in the NBA’s shortened preseason.

The league’s effort to create more recovery time for players sparked the reduction to four preseason games, meaning preparation time was already at a premium even before both teams made the 11,000-kilometre trek that has clearly taken its toll.

After the Warriors and Timberwolves took part in a fan event in Shanghai on Saturday, with more than 15,000 showing up to watch players put on an exhibition of sorts, Warriors forward Draymond Green pulled no punches.

“I mean at the end of the day, my overall health probably will take a step back,” Green told USA Today Sports about the effect of the trip.

“Your conditioning, and eating the right things (are negatively affected).

“You head into the season, and you kind of want to tune your body up and eat healthy and this, that, and the other. So all those things that’s conducive to playing basketball take a hit.”

Chief among them, as Green sees it, is the players’ health.

“It’s a huge problem,” said the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. “You kind of take training camp and break it up. It’s not the norm, so I think it’s a humongous problem.

“You start to risk injury and all of those things, so we have a pretty professional team. Guys get their work in, but it’s still nothing like actual practising and that tempo. It’s more a risk of injury than the season. We’ll figure it out over the season.”

This is an interesting quandary for the league going forward, as they are tasked with finding the right balance between global growth and the prioritisation of the player experience.

The Warriors and Wolves, it is safe to say, are openly wondering if the inevitable ripple effect is a slow start to their respective regular seasons.

And do not forget this hot topic (the Wolves certainly won’t): While the Warriors were able to fly non-stop from Oakland to Shenzhen, the Minnesota plane didn’t have the same fuel capacity and had to stop in Anchorage, Alaska, for a 90-minute pit stop at 5am local time before heading East.

This, mind you, came after Timberwolves staff members boarded the plane in Minneapolis and picked up the players in Los Angeles after their preseason game against the Lakers on September 30.

The logistical challenges have been many, from a passport snafu with head coach Steve Kerr that forced him to fly commercially a day after the rest of the team to the customs delays during the Warriors’ day trip to Hong Kong that had veteran centre Zaza Pachulia left behind, to a 90-minute delay on the team’s charter flight from Shenzhen to Shanghai.

The list went on from there, with all of it cutting into practice time that is so vital this time of year.

“It’s a great trip, a great experience, but this is not the way to prepare for the season,” said Kerr, who has joked he might be on the hot seat now that his team is 0-2 in the preseason. “But that’s all right. “We’ll have a about a week when we get back (before opening against Houston on October 17), and I’m sure we’ll be fine.

“You’ve just got to do what you can. It’s a long season, and if we’re not in perfect condition on opening night, we’ll get there. We’ve just got to deal with what’s ahead of us.”