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October 13, 2012

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The Heat is on as Miami, Clippers stars arrive for second NBA clash

DEFENDING National Basketball Association champions Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers, a rising force in the Western Conference, arrived in Shanghai yesterday to prepare for their second NBA China matchup - part of their preseason schedule - tomorrow.

Today both the teams will turn up at the Oriental Sports Center in the Pudong New Area for the NBA's first Fan Appreciation Day in the city.

The event, starting at 11:30am, will feature a variety of basketball and entertainment elements, including open team practices, which for the first time will allow fans a close-up look as the Heat and the Clippers prepare for the China game, ahead of the 2012-13 NBA season.

Fans will be able to witness the training of both teams and have a close look at the big stars like the Heat's LeBron James and Dwayne Wade and Blake Griffin of the Clippers.

Basketball legends, cheer-leader teams, mascots and dunkers will also participate in the event to provide NBA-style entertainment.

"This is not a normal preseason atmosphere. The crowd definitely motivated our guys. They wanted to play well in front of the fans, and that's why we like this trip," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after the first game in Beijing on Thursday night, which the Heat won 94-80. "It's different than the normal preseason. We're looking forward to going to the next city, as well, Shanghai."

Spoelstra emphasized that the training during the China tour is serious and the trip would help the team bond well.

"The No. 1 priority for our week out here is basketball and work," Spoelstra added. "At the same time this is a great team bonding experience for us. We want to experience this country culturally. We want our guys experiencing a different culture, so we definitely have some activities planned when we get to Shanghai. Yes, we will be working, but we don't want to sit around in our hotel room ordering American room service. We want to try some Chinese culture."

Miami star James, the NBA's most valuable player last season, also has high expectations of the Shanghai game.

"We play at a high energy level, and after the game we kind of are trying to figure out how we're going to get that energy back. But it was great. It was great to be out there, and hopefully we can do the same things or some things even better in the next city," he told reporters after Thursday's clash.

Although outclassed for much of the game in Beijing, the Clippers are also hoping for a better result in Shanghai, according to their coach Vinny Del Negro.

"We're looking forward to heading to Shanghai and hopefully play much better there," Del Negro said after Thursday's lopsided loss. "We have seven new players that have only been together a little bit over a week. So we're in the learning stage - learning from each other and learning the system."

The Clippers' All-Star point guard Chris Paul did not play in the first game due to injury and his substitute, former final MVP Chauncey Billups, did not even make the China trip, disrupting the team's ball movement.

"There's no timetable for Chris to return. We'll play him a little bit at a time when he's ready to play, but I expect him to be ready for our opening night against (the) Memphis (Grizzlies)," said Del Negro.

"Well, our ball movement has to get better, especially against Miami. They load up a lot on the strong side, and we didn't do a good job of getting the ball from one side of the court to the other. But give Miami credit and I expect us to do a better job."

The NBA China game is set for 12:30pm tomorrow at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Pudong. Former NBA All-Star center Yao Ming will be at the game, which is a sellout, organizers said.


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