Stephen Curry returns to Japan, Rui Hachimura returns home, and the NBA plans to take another step toward normality.
The NBA announced Monday night that Golden State and Washington will travel to Saitama, Japan for the first two games of the 2022 preseason schedule. The Warriors and Wizards will play there Sept. 30 and Oct. 2.
These will be the first NBA games outside North America since Jan. 24, 2020, when Milwaukee and Charlotte met in Paris for a regular-season game about six weeks before the global pandemic began.
The last time the NBA traveled overseas for preseason competition was in October 2019, when Sacramento and Indiana played twice in Mumbai, Houston and Toronto played twice in Saitama and the Los Angeles and Brooklyn Lakers played two games in China.
The league has reached an agreement to bring games to Abu Dhabi for the first time this fall as well, but has yet to officially reveal which teams will travel there for pre-season matches.
“We’ve had the pleasure of building many impactful relationships across Japan, and some of our players, including Stephen Curry, have really enjoyed their recent visits to Tokyo and the interactions they’ve shared with the basketball fans who love the game,” the Warriors CEO said. and Executive Co-Chairman Joe Lacob said.
The announcement was made Tuesday in Tokyo – Monday night in the United States – and probably not coincidentally, just before the start of a Warriors-Wizards game.
Curry’s popularity in Japan is off the charts, and he has been there several times on off-season promotional tours. Hachimura is the first Japanese player to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft.
Away games had become an annual event for the NBA before the pandemic, and commissioner Adam Silver said it was a big step for the league to put those games back on the schedule.
“The resumption of international travel by our teams is a sign that we are returning to a more normal way of life,” Silver said.
It will also mark a sentimental journey for Warriors coach Steve Kerr and forward Draymond Green. Kerr was an assistant and Green played for USA Basketball last summer at the Tokyo Olympics, when the Americans beat France for the gold medal in the same arena where preseason matches will be played.
“Very popular teams will be coming to Japan,” said Mickey Mikitani, president and CEO of Rakuten, which will present the games and also has sponsorship deals with the Warriors and Curry. “It’s going to be a historic opportunity. … It really is a dream match.”