NBA eyes the Indian market, delegates Pau Gasol as a league ambassador

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As basketball becomes more and more of an international game, the NBA continues to look for opportunities to expand its base. Exhibition games have been played in several other countries (Mexico, the U.K., China), broadcasts are translated and sent out all over the world, and the NBA hosts all kinds of events across almost every continent in its expansion.

Obviously, big markets catch the NBA’s eye. While there’s something to be said about increasing the appeal of the game and popularizing basketball in new countries (and the way those countries would impact the game’s evolution as a result — think the popularity of basketball in Europe has impacted the NBA at all?), these decisions to spread the league’s good word across the world are financial in nature. There are a lot of people not wearing LeBron’s Heat jersey that could be, a lot of television viewers that could be watching but aren’t, and plenty of page views that the dotcom could be getting but isn’t.

China tops the list in terms of national population, and the NBA is off to a roaring start there. Next? India, which has a population of some 1.2 billion people, plenty of whom don’t even know how much they need the NBA just yet. Luckily for them, the league is headed that way to market the hell out of itself. Pau Gasol will headline NBA Cares events in multiple Indian cities next week, including a clinic for underprivileged children and one for the participants in the Mahindra NBA Challenge (explained below). From the release:

The league is in the midst of hosting a record number of events in India this summer. Gasol, a member of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, is the second NBA superstar to visit India this month following Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard’s visit to Bangalore and Delhi from Aug. 10 to 14.

“I have always wanted to visit India and I am very excited to represent the Lakers and the NBA in a country where basketball is on the rise,” said Gasol.  “As an international player in the NBA, I know how important it is to do my part to grow the game globally and would love to compete against a player from India in the NBA one day.”

Gasol will make appearances with the Larry O’Brien Trophy to take photos with fans in Mumbai and Delhi.  This will be the first time that the trophy will be in India.  He will also conduct clinics in Mumbai on Aug. 26 for participants of the Mahindra NBA Challenge, the league’s first community-based basketball league in India, which tipped off in Mumbai, Bangalore, and Ludhiana this summer and attracted thousands of participants, including top players from each city. 

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.

LeBron James: Reporter warned me about question on Gregg Popovich’s wife before live TV interview

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In her on-court interview with LeBron James following the Cavaliers’ Game 2 win over the Pacers last night, TNT sideline reporter Allie LaForce asked him about the death of Gregg Popovich’s wife.

LeBron appeared emotional as he gathered his thoughts.

That prompted some to criticize LaForce for ambushing LeBron on a sensitive subject on live TV. But that’s not what happened.

Uninterrupted:

LeBron:

I’m not on social media right now, but I was made aware through some friends through texts that a question was asked to me postgame, and a lot of people feel I was blindsided. That is absolutely false. Allie LaForce told me that she was going to ask the question and if it was OK.

And once I started talking about it, once we were on air, actually my emotions kind of took over. And that was just my emotions coming straight from my heart about the late Erin Popovich.

It’s unfortunate. It’s a tragic loss. My thoughts, my prayers, once again goes out to the Popovich family, to Gregg, to the Spurs family, to the whole Spurs fan base.

And also guys, please get off Allie LaForce’ back, because she followed the proper protocol and she warned me. So, get off her back, man. She’s very professional, and she does a great job at her work.

Like I said, thoughts and prayers to the heavens above. We all know the man above never makes mistakes, even when we question it. But it’s a sad, tragic time right now for the NBA family, and we’re all praying and hoping for the best.

It would have been surprising if LaForce hadn’t done that. Somewhere between nearly nobody and absolutely nobody in her position is trying to embarrass players.

PBT Extra: If Portland is going to turn series around it starts with Damian Lillard

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This was the year the Trail Blazers were going to break through. They were defending better as a team. There was some depth on offense. And Damian Lillard was playing at a level that will get him on many voters’ MVP ballots.

Instead, they are down 0-2 to Anthony Davis and New Orleans, having dropped both games at home to open the series. Portland is on the verge of being bounced in the first round for the third time in four years.

If Portland is going to turn this series around, it starts with Lillard, something I discuss in this latest PBT Extra. C.J. McCollum needs to get more buckets, Jusuf Nurkic needs to contribute more on both ends, but for Portland it all begins and ends with Lillard and it’s on him to start the turnaround.

Rockets easily overcome James Harden’s horrid shooting night, win Game 2 over Timberwolves

AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith
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James Harden shot 2-for-18 – the worst field-goal percentage (11%) on so many attempts in a playoff game in nearly a decade and the worst ever in a first-round game.

The Rockets still won by 20 because of their stout defense, a strong supporting star in Chris Paul and Harden’s foul-drawing ability.

Houston’s took a 2-0 series lead with a 102-82 win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday. Game 3 will be Saturday in Minnesota, but the top-seeded Rockets have seized firm control.

Every No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 seed to take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven first-round series have won it. There’s little reason to believe Houston will become the exception.

The Rockets are no longer as reliant on Harden, the likely MVP who seemed to wear down last postseason.

They buckled down defensively before letting up in a fourth quarter that was entirely garbage time. Houston forced more turnovers (16) than allowed assists (15) and contested shot after shot.

It’s becoming increasingly clear the Timberwolves have no quick solution to the Karl-Anthony Towns problem, and it’s not simply a matter of deciding to feed him more. Yes, he can get favorable post matchups against the Rockets’ switching scheme. But Minnesota lacks quality entry passers. The Timberwolves are also short on shooters and need him to spread the floor – even if that skill is less-helpful after a switch. Towns scored just five points in 24 minutes tonight.

His teammates were barely, if at all, better. The focus has turned to Towns, but this was a far-wider letdown.

On the other hand, Paul (27 points and eight assists) led Houston’s offense. Gerald Green (21 points and 12 rebounds) got hot. Even Harden (7-of-8 on free throws) chipped in thanks to his elite foul-drawing ability.

The Rockets aren’t always the most enjoyable team to watch, and that was the case tonight. Mostly, because they put this game out of reach long before it actually ended.