The NBA knows how to market itself. While the National Football League (they hate abbreviating their own name, so who am I to start for them?) may occasionally win out at home, no one — and I mean no one — outdoes the NBA internationally. To wit, the NBA has sent its premier teams abroad this preseason as a shrewd showcasing tool.
The Association sent LeBron James and Chris Paul to China with the Miami Heat and and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively. Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks played in Spain and, to a hero’s welcome, in Germany. David Stern and company sent top draft pick Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Hornets to Mexico City. And tonight, after packing up over the weekend and flying 1/50th of the way around the globe, the Milwaukee Bucks play a preseason exhibition game in Canada against the local Raptors basketball club. (6 PM CT, radio: WTMJ 620)
The game will be broadcast nationally in the USA on the league’s signature channel: NBA TV.
Expect Canadian fans to be dazzled by the soft hands of Larry Sanders, the smothering defense of Monta Ellis, and incredible athleticism of Joel Przybilla. Over the next decade, it will be interesting to see whose jersey is fancied most by the most northern of North American hoops fans.
(If you’re a fan of another, less popular, smaller market NBA team, it may be difficult to wrap your head around the league’s policy of promoting about half of its teams. Don’t worry too much; your team will someday get a chance at these PR boons after a widely-lauded draft pick or a few seasons of postseason dominance.)
The NBA’s top-3 preseason scorers (ppg) are, in order, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis. Brandon Jennings (15th, 16.0 ppg) is the highest-scoring Buck. His counterpart tonight, Kyle Lowry, who was the key acquisition by the Raptors in the offseason, is 18th with 15.5 points per game.
The Bucks lead the preseason in blocks per game (9.0). Of the Eastern Conference’s top-7 shot blockers, four are Bucks: Larry Sanders, Samuel Dalembert, Ekpe Udoh, and John Henson.
The Bucks sit 13th out of the NBA’s 30 teams in both points scored (97.4) and points allowed (94.0).
With exactly 29.0 defensive rebounds per game, the Bucks rank a dismal, but rather symmetric, 29th in the league.
Like the Bucks and their most recent opponent, the Washington Wizards, the Toronto Raptors are being pegged as a potential ‘surprise’ team — a squad with the potential to sneak into the playoffs with one of the Eastern Conference’s lower seeds. The Wizards were able to knock off the Bucks with a skeleton crew of spare parts and non-stars.
Toronto has won three of its four preseason games, including a win over a team that beat the Bucks (Wizards) and a loss to a team the Bucks whooped handily (Pistons) — transitive property be damned.
The Raptors are a middling rebounding team much like the Bucks. Newcomer Jonas Valanciunas has helped Toronto on the boards by averaging 6.5 rebounds per game in just under 23 minutes per game at the center spot. If Jonas and the Raptors pummel the Bucks on the glass, expect another night of frustration for Coach Scott Skiles and the Bucks.
But if not, then expect the Bucks to win over all of Canada with their glamorous brand of exciting basketball.