Warriors find time for sumo lessons, K-pop and light training in Tokyo

TOKYO — After an early morning departure and an 11-hour flight across the Pacific Ocean, the Golden State Warriors finally landed at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture around 2:20 p.m. local time Wednesday.

Their mission beyond two preseason games against the Washington Wizards on Friday and Sunday at the Saitama Super Arena? To further expand the NBA’s global reach and experience as much of Japan as their five-day window would allow.

“It’s been a good bonding experience for our players and our coaches and also for the business side of our operation,” said head coach Steve Kerr. “We have sponsors with us. It’s a big operation now, the NBA, the business side of the NBA. We are really excited to perform here in Japan. We know how many fans we have here in Tokyo and all over Japan. So a great opportunity for us to tour the country and for the fans to see us play.

Once the players, coaches and front office staff passed through customs, they were greeted near the exit by fans who held up different Warriors shirts and creative signs to celebrate the arrival of the world champions In title. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Jordan Poole and others took time to sign autographs before loading a bus around 3:30 p.m. for the one-hour trip to the team hotel in downtown Tokyo .

“It’s just really cool to see all the Japanese fans with the Warrior gear,” Thompson said. “It makes us very grateful for their love and support, and we plan to give them a show because of it.”

Golden State kept things simple Wednesday night after the long flight and hosted a team dinner at Fish Bank Restaurant. On Thursday morning, the players headed to a conference room inside the team hotel for breakfast and to sign basketballs and jerseys that will be donated to various Japanese charities.

The Warriors had a team meeting around noon before heading to Tokyo Tower at 12:45 p.m. for a group photo. When that was over, they took another quick bus ride to Minato Ku Sports Center for media availability and practice.

Before practice, Curry and Thompson had the chance to take on famed sumo wrestler Hakuho Sho, who holds five world records in the sport. Thompson even gave Sho a rapid-fire lesson before practice began, explaining that proper firing mechanics start by making an “L” with your elbow on the grip, then “grab the cookie jar” after the firing trigger.

After the interviews were completed, fans and media watched for approximately 30 minutes as the Warriors stretched and performed various training drills, including full-court ball handling, five-a-side weaves and half-court drills. pitch with an emphasis on ball movement.

Curry had two wholesome encounters at the end of practice, the first being with K-pop sensation BTS’ Suga. Curry presented Suga with a signed jersey, and Suga gave Curry a signed copy of BTS’ latest album, “Proof.”

Shortly after, while Donte DiVincenzo, JaMychal Green, Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Quinndary Weatherspoon were working out with kids at an NBA Cares event at a separate gymnasium across the hall, Curry met a Japanese girl in under a sponsorship deal with FTX. . And after hanging out with her for a few minutes, Curry helped her dunk a basketball with an assist from Jonathan Kuminga.

Kerr and Green explained during their time on the podium that fun, light-hearted interactions like this weren’t possible in Tokyo last summer when they were in town for the postponed 2020 Summer Olympics. Then the whole city was basically shut down because of the pandemic.

“The last time we were here the whole city was shut down,” Green said. “It’s just an opportunity to go to different restaurants, to shop, to go out and to walk around. There are beautiful parks, and I like nature, so I’m really excited that we have time to explore the city. You’re not just going to play two games and leave.

It all culminated with the NBA Welcome Reception hosted by Commissioner Adam Silver. Thompson, Kuminga, Kevon Looney and Mac McClung were in attendance, along with executives from Golden State and the Wizards.

And after a busy first 24 hours in Tokyo, the team then had to turn around on Friday and play the first of two pre-season games in three days.

“Obviously it’s very early in our journey this season in training camp and our first preseason games,” Curry said, “but we’ll do our best to have fun, put on a great show and enjoy the atmosphere that is going to be in the arena.

CJ Holmes covers the Warriors for The San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]:
@CjHolmes22

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