As part of the NBA’s Global Games 2019, the Pacers will play in India for the first time in league history, taking on Sacramento at 9:30 AM EST October 4 at the NCSI Dome before doing it all over again as the home team at the same time and place on October 5.
At the Jr NBA World Championships last summer, which featured both boys and girls from New Delhi and Bengarulu, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver touched on the league’s desire to expand its reach in India, via the Hindustan Times:
“We had India represented here. We have an academy on the ground now. We are potentially looking to play a game in Mumbai, maybe next year. It would be a preseason game,” Silver told PTI on the sidelines.
“If we do a preseason game, we can build time and our players and their families can spend time, learn about the country’s culture,” he said.
Given that Vivek Ranadive is the league’s first Indian-born majority governor, it’s easy to understand why the Kings were selected to serve as ambassadors for the game in the world’s second-most populous country.
During the 2016-17 regular season, the Pacers played (or, rather, got housed) in the NBA London Game against the Denver Nuggets, surrendering 140 points at O2 Arena. Ahead of the main event, touring groups visited Westminster Abbey, Kensington Palace and the Churchill War Rooms at the Imperial War Museum.
The team was also part of the NBA Global Games 2013 in Taipei, Taiwan and Manila, Philippines, where they participated in a basketball clinic for Special Olympic athletes.
Although jet lag is arguably more of a risk now with the condensed preseason schedule, Indiana jumped out to a 16-1 record to start the 2013-14 regular season. With Paul George having contracted bronchitis on the return flight, however, the Pacers were fortunate to have five exhibition contests left on the docket to use as a cushion for him to recover before the start of the regular season.
This go-around, the big question mark will be the active participation of Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis ahead of preseason play. Traditionally, training camps for teams taking part in the NBA Global Games open on the third Saturday in September, which this season will come within days of the conclusion of the Final Phase of the FIBA World Cup in China (September 10-15). (Just as a reminder, this tight turnaround is what ultimately led to Nate McMillan’s decision to withdraw from his position on Gregg Popovich’s Team USA Coaching Staff.)
Sabonis is already in the swing of things with the Lithuanian National Team, and USA Basketball has transitioned from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, with Myles Turner only in direct competition with Milwaukee’s Brook Lopez and Denver’s Mason Plumlee at the center position for a spot on the final 12-man roster.
Even with a diluted talent pool, Team USA will likely still be a force to be reckoned with in the medal rounds, and Lithuania is currently ranked No. 6 in the world and won’t come up against the United States, Serbia, or Spain until at least the quarterfinals.
Granted, Turner and Sabonis will each have the opportunity to gain in experience and exposure what they might potentially lose in rest and recuperation, but training camp is where teams lay their foundation for the season and the efficacy of the Turner-Sabonis pairing is arguably Indiana’s corner stone for the 2019-20 campaign, at least until Victor Oladipo returns to action.
That said, after traveling across multiple time zones to experience a different culture and make inroads in a new market, the Pacers will return stateside to host the Chicago Bulls on October 11 and Minnesota Timberwolves on October 15, allowing them to put down roots for the remainder of the warm-up slate before easing their way into their soft open to the regular season.
That’s important, because slow(ish) starts have been prevalent for the teams participating in the NBA Global Games over the last two seasons since preseason schedules started being condensed. Philadelphia and Dallas both opened last season at 2-3, and Golden State labored through a 4-3 start in 2017-18.
Here’s a look at Indiana’s full preseason slate:
- Friday, October 4 vs. Sacramento Kings, NSCI Dome, 9:30 AM
- Saturday, October 5 @ Sacramento Kings, NSCI Dome, 9:30 AM
- Saturday, October 11 vs. Chicago Bulls, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 8:00 PM
- Tuesday, October 15 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7:00 PM
In addition to the possible effects of the World Cup schedule crunch and the shock of seeing Thaddeus Young and Cory Joseph in different uniforms, preseason play will offer a first look at Goga Bitadze, who missed the entirety of Summer League while awaiting approval for his work visa.
As for the back-end of the roster, Aaron Holiday will likely face competition from T.J. McConnell’s steady hand, as will Edmond Sumner from Justin Holiday.
With the start of the regular season pushed back until October 22, Turner and Sabonis will have roughly a week following the conclusion of exhibition play to continue to jell with each other, as well as new starters Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren, before the games start to count.