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Joe Tsai wants China fans to better know both his teams, the Nets and Liberty

CNBC

In an interview with China’s World Network, Joe Tsai said he hopes the Nets trip to Shanghai and Shenzhen next October will further familiarize the team with the Chinese fan base.

“This year, the Nets will come to China to participate in the (NBA China Games 2019) competition, and there will be more exchanges with Chinese fans,” Tsai said according to a Google translation of his interview. “We hope that Chinese fans will know more about the Nets ... and the Liberty.”

The Nets will play the Lakers in two preseason games. October 10 in Shanghai and October 12 in Shenzhen. The big draw of course will be LeBron James, who is enormously popular in China, but the Nets, now with a minority owner who has deep ties to China —and their history of signing popular players like Yi Jianlian and Jeremy Lin— are a known quantity as well. (Forbes reported last week that Brett Yormark, the Nets CEO, will be traveling to China soon to lay the marketing groundwork for the games.)

The Liberty, who Tsai bought from James Dolan’s MSG Companies, got a lot of attention in China this week by drafting Han Xu, a 6’9” center, in the WNBA Draft. Tsai said he believes the acquisition of Han, a star in the Women’s Chinese Basketball Association, is akin to the arrival of Chinese players in the NBA a decade ago.

“Han Xu’s joining (the Liberty) is like Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian,” he said. “It will definitely play a positive role in Chinese basketball and will become a role model for young people, encouraging them to work hard to realize their dreams.”

Tsai said however that he left the decision to draft Han to his basketball operations staff who had a high opinion of her WNBA potential.

“The general manager of the team (Jonathan Kolb) has observed her for a while. He told me a while ago that there was a Chinese player who was very good.” Tsai explained. “In the end, we were lucky, and we chose Han Xu.“

Tsai said he did watch video of Han on his own in addition to talking with Kolb about her, “I also watched video of her game online, and thought she really played very well.”

Tsai emphasized that he’s not going to populate either of his teams with Chinese players just for the sake of popularizing the Nets and Liberty in China and Asia.

“If there are good players in China, we will do our best to help them join the NBA and WNBA, but I don’t agree with finding players for the Chinese market. Playing well is the most important thing...

“My most important expectation for both teams is to build a culture of continuous winning. Team culture is most important, the foundation of good play. Basketball is a team sport, and if there is a good culture, there are good players who are willing to join, and the team can continue to win. “

Tsai told the World Network reporter that he owes the Nets a dinner after they made the playoffs and that he will probably sit down with them for a big Chinese meal when the team arrives in Shanghai in October.

“In the NBA China Games, I will ask the Nets players to have a meal, give them a tour of Shanghai, and then cheer them on the sidelines.”

In the meantime, Tsai said he is prepared if the Nets make a deep playoff run which could conflict with some Liberty preseason games, like the May 9 exhibition game between the WNBA team and the Chinese women’s national team at Barclays.

“Haha. I will have my iPad in one hand and watch it in both games. I have three children, my daughter is playing tennis in college, two sons are playing basketball, a high school, a junior high school, and sometimes I watch my daughter’s game while watching my son’s game on the mobile phone.”

Tsai also noted that he will once again participate in Jeremy Lin’s charity game this summer. He, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Spencer Dinwiddie joined Lin last August in the game.