Realising that it does have a burgeoning market in Southeast Asia, the NBA is reaching out to the Philippines as part of its campaign to expand globally. The Philippines is a basketball-crazy country, with almost the entire archipelago stopping whenever a big game, whether local or NBA, is being played.
On Thursday, all roads lead to the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, south of Manila, as the Indiana Pacers take on the Houston Rockets in the NBA Global Games. A massive crowd is expected, with tickets selling out a few days after the game was announced in June. While previous games featuring NBA players have always drawn huge turnouts, this is the first time that the NBA will hold an official pre-season game in the Philippines.
The Rockets and the Pacers are evenly matched across the board. The Pacers boast first-time All-Star Paul George, who upped his production to 17.4 points per game in 2012-13; the resurgent Danny Granger, who is looking to bounce back from an injury that kept him to playing just five games; and power forward David West, who enjoyed his best Pacers season, averaging 17.1 points.
The Pacers, on the other hand, have their own version of the Big Three. They are led by cerebral point guard Jeremy Lin, the first Taiwanese-American in the NBA; All-Star James Harden, who had a career-best 25.9 points a game in his first year with Houston, and center Dwight Howard, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in the off-season.
One match-up to watch out for would be the one pitting Paul George and James Harden. While they play different positions, both are explosive scorers who can carry their teams. Dwight Howard is expected to have his hands full against Roy Hibbert, who averaged 2.6 blocks per game in 2012-13. Jeremy Lin is also a crowd favorite due to his Asian ethnicity and inspiring story that was made into a film, "Linsanity".