March 4 – The National Basketball Association will return to Japan for the first time in 16 years when the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets play two preseason games at Saitama Super Arena in October, the league said on Monday.
When Houston and Toronto play each other on Oct. 8 and Oct. 10 outside Tokyo it will mark the first time the NBA has ever held exhibitions in Japan after previously staging 12 regular-season games there between 1990 and 2003.
“Bringing NBA preseason games to Japan will help accelerate the growth of basketball in a country that features a thriving sports culture and one of the world’s largest economies,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.
The Rockets, who previously visited Japan in 1992 when they played two regular-season games, currently feature reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden and nine-times All-Star Chris Paul on their roster.
The Raptors, who are second in the Eastern Conference, are headed by NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and Spaniard Marc Gasol, a three-time All-Star who they acquired in a trade last month. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Mark Potter)