MIAMI – LeBron James is visiting China for the ninth time, which makes him one of the resident Miami Heat experts about the world’s most populous nation.
Specifically, the food choices there.
“If anyone comes back with any body fat from this trip, then I don’t know what they were doing on their free time,” said James, the NBA’s MVP.
So maybe it’s fortunate that the coming week won’t include a ton of free time for the Heat, who arrived in Beijing on Monday night for a weeklong trip. The reigning league champions play the Los Angeles Clippers twice during the NBA China Games, starting in Beijing on Thursday and then again Sunday in Shanghai.
“Should be fun,” James said. “It’s a very long trip to be bonding together, but we’re going to use it and not waste an opportunity.”
The itinerary is hectic, with VIP receptions, a trip to the Great Wall and other excursions planned. The Heat are trying to ensure that players and personnel have time to experience some elements of Chinese culture on their own.
“You only have these type of opportunities so often,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You want to take advantage of it. This is the preseason. We understand the big picture. It’s a great program that the NBA runs when you have an opportunity to play overseas. Our last trip was tremendous when we went to Europe. Great team-building, and you get to see another part of the world and do it together.”
The Heat played games in France and England during the 2008 preseason against the Nets, who then called New Jersey home.
Miami left on Saturday for Atlanta, played the Hawks there in the preseason opener for both teams on Sunday afternoon, then boarded a charter for the flight to Beijing, one that lasted a little more than 14 hours. The Heat landed around 9:30 p.m. local time.
Heat guard Mario Chalmers remembered to turn his phone’s international plans on before leaving the U.S. Apparently, he forgot to account for the time difference halfway around the world – tweeting that he slept for about 11 hours on the plane, meaning he was rested and refreshed around what would have figured to be bedtime in China.
“I ain’t gettin no sleep tonight,” Chalmers wrote.
Which means he may be a bit groggy this morning, when the Heat hold their first practice in China. The team has set aside about six hours for a trip to the Great Wall later in the day.
“We’re looking forward to the opportunity,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “I think as an organization, as players individually, once we get over there it will be a great opportunity to continue to grow our game.”