MIAMI The trip was going smoothy until former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning got up before a crowd at a game and said, Ni hao, Beijing.
The problem was the Heat were playing in Shanghai.
Thankfully, even though there is a Beijing-Shanghai rivalry, an international incident was avoided. The fans in China at least appreciated Mourning, now a Heat vice president, for using the Mandarin word for hello, and the Miami players sure got a kick out of it.
We were cracking up, center Chris Bosh said Tuesday after the Heat had returned to practice in Miami after having played preseason games against the Los Angeles Clippers in Beijing last Thursday and in Shanghai last Sunday. It was funny. That was hilarious. He was like, Hey, Beijing. It was like, What? It wasnt like we were there the night before or like we were on tour and we were not a boy band or anything. We were there for a couple of days at the time. That was one of highlights (of the trip).
Other than that, the highlights werent of the blooper variety. Then again, it might depend upon whom you ask.
The Heat have three big stars in the United States in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. They also have three in China, but theyre James, Wade and Shane Battier.
Battier, who benefited from once being a Houston teammate of Chinese star Yao Ming, has had a shoe deal the past seven years with Chinese company Peak. Television commercials featuring Battier run regularly in China, where the forward is known as Mr. President due to his dignified nature.
I think they were fairly surprised, Battier said of his teammates having seen what a big star he is in the country. I tried to tell them. I tried to warn them. I think they were sick of seeing my commercials by the end of the trip.
In the spot, Battier runs toward the camera while trying to look mean.
Im looking very angry, Battier said with a laugh. They wanted me to just run to the camera looking intense. So I told them my inspiration was angry eyes. The director was Chinese and he said, angry eyes, angry eyes. '
Among those ribbing Battier was Bosh. But he admitted part of it had to do with being envious.
I wish I had commercials in China, so I got to make fun of him, Bosh said. It was funny because wed be just be randomly sitting and watching TV and then his commercial would come on.
James and Wade, though, dont take a backseat to Battier anywhere. The two created mob scenes wherever they went.
Wade was even more popular than during his previous visit to China, when he was the leading scorer as Team USA won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. It sure helped his Q rating, or whatever its called in China, that Wade last week joined Battier as a pitchman for Chinese shoes. He signed a deal with the company Li-Ning.
It ramped up some, Wade said of his popularity. I can sense people were excited to call me one of their own in a sense of signing with their brand. Li-Ning is their brand with their professional Olympic athlete. The first to do it. I could sense the excitement. My job is to continue to learn the (Chinese) culture, continue to become a part of their culture and try to put out a good product that they want to see and they want to wear.
Despite still recovering from July surgery on his left knee, Wade played in both games in China, a 94-80 win in Beijing and a 99-89 loss in Shanghai, logging a combined 31 minutes. The Heat next take to the court Thursday against Detroit in their first home preseason game, and Wade expects again to play.
The Heat hope by Thursday theyre feeling a bit better. It usually takes time for players to get their legs back after a long flight from Asia.
Im not back just yet, James said after Tuesdays practice. I already know. Ive been on those China trips before, so its going to take me a few days to get back . You just come in here and just try to work it off, the jet lag that you have . It usually takes about four or five days until youre all the way back.
But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra wasnt going to wait nearly that long for getting his players back in the gym. After returning Sunday night, most of the players spent Monday, an off day, sleeping. But then it was back to work.
We went after it, Spoelstra said. I didnt put the brakes on. We actually had a very good practice.
Spoesltra called his highlight in China visiting the Great Wall of China. Guards Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers both agreed.
But for laughs, Mourning stole the show.
That roar was like, Ooooh, Battier said of the reaction to Mournings gaffe. Beijing. Shanghai. Whatever . That was probably the funniest thing that happened.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson