The NBA: This is BIG. Houston and Indiana, See You in October ’13!!!

By now, everyone already knows about the biggest NBA development involving the Philippines – an actual NBA preseason game will be played here in Manila. James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and the rest of the Rockets will pit their skills against those of Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, Paul George, and the rest of the Indiana Pacers.

As NBA Asia Senior VP and Managing Director Scott Levy said in my interview with him, “These are two exciting teams with some of the best young stars today.”

It’s a game sure to feature a ton of highlight reel material.

So, the real question is, why haven’t you filed your leave yet? Why haven’t you started saving up for the tickets yet? This is the first sanctioned NBA game in the Philippines since 1979 when the Washington Bullets walloped the PBA All-Stars at the Araneta Coliseum, 133-123.

I am 110% sure that this event will be a big shebang, at least if the BIG Announcement event today was to be any standard.

BIG is here in Manila!!! Woohoo!!!

I walked into the Coral Gate of the SM Mall of Asia Arena expecting the usual drill for public relations occasions like this – registration, free meals, and then the big reveal. My excitement really stemmed from the fact that this was the first NBA press con I was attending – EVER. I already knew an NBA game would be played here. Heck, almost everyone in Manila who gave half a damn about NBA basketball knew it, too. We also knew who the teams would be.

We just wanted confirmation. We just wanted formality.

And, yeah, free lunch and SM/NBA loot bags never hurt anyone, right?

What greeted everyone, however, was a total production. There was an NBA photowall. The free food was actually quite good (I remember seeing a few guys go back for repeats!). The press con was held not in a room, but in the actual event bowl of the MOA Arena. The NU cheerdancers were present to open the program. Solar Sports covered it on TV, with veteran commentator Chiqui Reyes doing emcee duties. NBA Philippines presented SM Prime’s Hans Sy with an autographed Danny Granger jersey and the actual Spalding basketball that will be used in the game.

A signed Danny Granger jersey? Does he even know who Granger is?!?!

For me, though, the most exciting things were the three video clips played on the MOA Arena’s imposing jumbotron. The first one was of David Stern formalizing theannouncement and reminding everyone why the Philippines is an important NBA market (we actually have the most NBA fans outside of the United States, at least based on Facebook and Twitter data). The second clip had Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale describing how excited he is to come to Manila, and the last one was a teaser that contained highlights from several Rockets and Pacers. This trio of clips was a nice touch that added even more legitimacy to the whole event, while also upping the excitement factor because, well, they were all shown on the friggin’ jumbotron!!!

The row of organizers, which included, aside from Mr. Levy and Mr. Sy, NBA Asia’s Mr. Carlo Singson and West Avenue Theatre’s Mr. Edgar Tejerero among others, also graciously responded to questions from the audience. After the press con formally closed, the organizers even stayed behind to answer even more questions and grant some interviews from the info-hungry media mavens.

Mr. Scott Levy fielding queries from the local media.

This was when I got to catch Mr. Levy. I asked him why it took so long for the NBA to play a game in Manila, especially considering how big an NBA market we are, and he simply said, “We finally found the perfect partner in SM.”

I was also interested to know what the teams’ and players’ itineraries would be when they arrive in Manila, but Mr. Levy and the rest of the organizers were pretty much mum about these details. All they said was we should keep tabs on the online accounts of the NBA (, NBA Philippines, Facebook, and Twitter) for further updates.

If the latest NBA-connected events are to be gauges, however, we can probably expect the Rockets and Pacers to go through the gamut of media events, basketball clinics, mall tours, and charity activities. Heck, don’t be surprised to see Jeremy Lin or Chandler Parsons end up on a Bench billboard, or maybe James Harden become an endorser for a shaving company. How about Roy Hibbert or the NBA cheerleaders on a noontime show? Here in the Philippines, that is actually possible. I hope the NBAers know what they’re getting into!

Needless to say, 2013 is going to be big for the MOA Arena and for Philippine basketball in general. I mean, the 2013 FIBA Asia will be held there and now the first ever NBA preseason game featuring two NBA clubs as well! To paraphrase one of my media colleagues, it looks like the MOA Arena is carving its own niche in local sports entertainment history.

The organizers are all in!

As for ticket prices, don’t expect to pay the same amount you do for the usual UAAP or PBA games (like Php300 for a Patron seat). That just won’t happen. Instead, be ready to shell out 4-5 figures for this once-in-a-lifetime event. Even if Mr. Sy promised everyone that they already have many sponsors to help defray the costs, I don’t think the tickets will be accessible to most sectors of the metro. There wasn’t even any indication it would be shown on free TV, though I think it would be a really terrible move if they fail to acquire a free TV partner.

In any case, this game should be an awesome event. It will be BIG in practically every sense of the word.

Time to mark your calendar. 10-10-13.

Game Recaps (courtesy of the Sports Network and the Associated Press):
March 4
Final Score: New York 102, Cleveland 97
Cleveland, OH (Sports Network) - Amar'e Stoudemire was the key to a second- half comeback for the New York Knicks, who overcame a miserable start to take a 102-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday at Quicken Loans Arena. Stoudemire tied a season-high with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting and was forced to play over his 30-minute cap limit in the absence of Carmelo Anthony, who exited with a knee injury in the second quarter. New York was also aided by some timely 3-point shooting, converting 7-for-11 from long distance in the final quarter to overcome a 22-point deficit earlier in the game and end a 10- game losing streak in Cleveland. Steve Novak and Jason Kidd combined for seven triples and scored 15 and 12 points, respectively, while J.R. Smith chipped in 18 points to help the Knicks rebound from their loss to Miami on Sunday. It was a tale of two halves for the Cavaliers, who shot just 31.4 percent over the final two quarters after converting an insane 68.4 percent by halftime. Marreese Speights scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving returned from a three-game absence to finish with 22. Rookies Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller both missed the contest for Cleveland with illnesses.

Final Score: Milwaukee 109, Utah 108 (OT)
Milwaukee, WI (Sports Network) - Monta Ellis scored 34 points on 15-of-21 shooting and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Utah Jazz, 109-108, in overtime on Monday. Brandon Jennings recorded a double-double with 20 points and 17 assists, while J.J. Redick scored 17 points off the bench for the Bucks, who are on a four- game winning streak. Larry Sanders had eight points, 16 rebounds and six blocks for Milwaukee. Derrick Favors registered 23 points and 15 rebounds, Paul Millsap had 22 points and 14 rebounds and Enes Kanter added 18 points and grabbed 10 boards for the Jazz, who were coming off a win against Charlotte on Friday.

Final Score: Miami 97, Minnesota 81
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Dwyane Wade poured in 32 points and LeBron James shook off a sore knee to post a double-double, with the duo leading the Miami Heat to a franchise-record 15th consecutive win with a a 97-81 decision over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center. Wade added 10 assists in addition to going 15-of-23 from the field, while James put up 20 points and 10 rebounds despite being questionable to play coming in after twisting his left knee in Sunday's 99-93 victory at New York. Ray Allen contributed 13 points to help the Heat surpass their previous club mark of 14 straight triumphs, set between Dec. 6, 2004-Jan. 1, 2005. The injury-riddled Timberwolves, meanwhile, were dealt a sixth straight loss and fell to 4-22 in their last 26 games. Derrick Williams paced Minnesota with a season-high 25 points, with Ricky Rubio recording 14 points, eight assists and six steals in the setback.

Final Score: Orlando 105, New Orleans 102
New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - Arron Afflalo scored a game-high 26 points and provided the go-ahead bucket in the final minute, as the Orlando Magic pulled out a 105-102 comeback win over the New Orleans Hornets. Jameer Nelson, who had missed the previous six games due to a knee injury, chipped in 15 points and seven assists, while Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless added 15 and 13 points, respectively, in the win. Orlando trailed by 17 in the third quarter and were down by nine late in the fourth before rallying to end a three-game skid. Anthony Davis returned from a two-game absence and totaled 17 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Hornets, who have lost three of four. Eric Gordon and Greivis Vasquez each netted 17 points, but Vasquez missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Final Score: Denver 104, Atlanta 88
Denver, CO (Sports Network) - Corey Brewer posted a game-high 22 points and the Denver Nuggets blew past the Atlanta Hawks in the fourth quarter to take a 104-88 decision on Monday at the Pepsi Center. Ty Lawson added 18 points and eight assists, Kenneth Faried tallied 10 points with 13 rebounds and Wilson Chandler and Andre Iguodala contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively, as the Nuggets captured their 11th straight win at home. Atlanta had a promising start to its six-game road trip with three straight victories, but closed it out with three consecutive losses. Al Horford totaled 18 points and 13 boards, while Josh Smith and Jeff Teague poured in 15 points apiece in the setback.

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Game Highlights:

All images are by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut.

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