Pacers take on Rockets Oct. 10 at MOA Arena

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JUST when this basketball-crazy nation thought it had seen it all, the world’s biggest basketball league is taking two of its most exciting teams to the country’s shores.

The National Basketball Association yesterday announced the staging of its first preseason game in the country on Oct. 10, when the Indiana Pacers and the Houston Rockets collide at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

No less than NBA commissioner David Stern made the announcement in a video message that was played during a press conference at MOA Arena yesterday.

“I’m thrilled to announce, together with our long-term partner, the SM Group, that the NBA will play its first preseason game in the Philippines this October,” said Stern.

Since the MOA Arena opened in May last year, SM Prime Holdings Inc. president Hans Sy had been negotiating to stage an NBA game in the venue. He went to the All-Star weekend in Orlando last year to meet with Stern.

“The SM Group has been looking to bring topnotch entertainment to our world-class venue,” Sy said yesterday. “We have long been waiting to bring in world-class basketball here.”

Stern said the decision to bring the NBA to the Philippines was made easier by the fact that Filipino basketball fans are among the world’s most passionate.

“Filipino fans are among the most passionate in the world and we thank you for welcoming us,” said Stern, who also mentioned the country’s rich basketball culture.

“We have a long tradition of bringing NBA basketball to our fans globally. And in fact, the Philippines is part of that tradition. In 1979, the then-Washington Bullets played an exhibition game against the PBA All-Stars in Quezon City.”

The Pacers and Rockets feature some of the most exciting young talents in the NBA in James Harden and Taiwanese-American Jeremy Lin, who both play for Houston, and Paul George and Danny Granger, who have been carrying the fight for Indiana.

“They are two of the most exciting teams in the league,” NBA vice president for Asia Scott Levy said in explaining the reason of bringing the two teams in the country.

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