Rockets face Pacers: MOA holds historic NBA pre-season stop

Joey Villar - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The NBA will hold a historic first pre-season game in the Philippines with the Houston Rockets, led by  All-Star James Harden and Jeremy Lin, and the Indiana Pacers clashing at the MOA Arena in Pasay City in what could well break all turnouts in any local sporting event.

“Our game in Manila is an exciting opportunity to connect with the passionate basketball fans in the Phl and across Southeast Asia,” said NBA commissioner David Stern through a video feed shown at the MOA Arena yesterday.

“The Philippines is an ideal setting for the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers to take part in a showcase of our game and give fans in the region an authentic NBA experience,” he added.

Also gracing the historic launch were SM Prime Holdings, Inc. president Hans Sy, whose family owns the brand-new, state-of-the-art venue located beside the SM Mall of Asia, and Scott Levy, senior vice president and marketing director for NBA Asia.

“This is a historic moment for Filipinos,” said Sy. “The Filipinos are one of the biggest basketball fans in the world and it is only fitting that we bring the NBA pre-season game closer to the fans. 

“And SM will make it happen at the Mall of Asia Arena,” he added.

The last time the NBA sent a team to the Phl was in 1979 when the Washington Bullets, now the Wizards, played an all-star team from the PBA.

“Basketball in the Phl has always been part of the folklore in the NBA so it’s just right that we bring the NBA here,” said Levy, who was accompanied by fellow NBA Asia official Francisco Suarez.

Carlo Singson, NBA Asia country manager to the Phl, said releasing of the tickets will be announced in a couple of weeks and it will be priced affordably.

“It will be announced soon and we’re assuring everyone tickets will be affordable,” said Singson.

A galaxy of NBA stars, headed by Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose, played a pair of exhibition games against the PBA All-Star and the original Smart Gilas Pilipinas team in the Smart All-Star Weekend at the Big Dome two years ago.

But the Indiana-Houston match is expected to surpass that one in terms of interest, excitement and level of play as the two teams are both playoff-bound in this year’s NBA. The Pacers lead the Central Division and are in second in the Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat while the Rockets are currently at No. 7 in the West side.

Also, the two teams will parade an exciting group of players spearheaded by Harden, who will be making a second trip back to the Phl, of Houston and Danny Granger, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert of Indiana. 

Other players to watch are Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik of the Rockets and George Hill, Lance Stephenson and 2007 NBA slam dunk champion Gerald Green of the Pacers.

As part of the buildup, SM and NBA will host a variety of activities that includes NBA players appearances, as well as family-oriented and grassroots events to bring the league closer to fans.

The NBA is also planning to conduct community-related events under the NBA Cares program, the league’s charitable group, as a way to give back to the community.

Interestingly, the pre-season game is part of the NBA’s comprehensive global expansion as its schedule includes eight teams playing in seven other major cities. 

Also on tap are the pre-season games between the Oklahoma Thunder against Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul on Oct. 5 in Istanbul, Turkey; Philadelphia 76ers vs Uxue Bilbao Basket on Oct. 6 in Bilbao, Spain; the Thunder versus the 76ers on Oct. 8 in Manchester, England before the Indiana-Houston game.

After the Phl, the Rockets and the Pacers will fly to Chinese Taipei to clash again on Oct. 13, or a day after the Chicago Bulls and the Washington Wizards collide on Oct. 12 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.

The Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers will then play a couple of games in China on Oct. 15 in Beijing and on Oct. 18 in Shanghai.


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