Will Manso: The Miami Heat meet the Chinese media

Chinese media watch the Miami Heat practice in Beijing

By Will Manso - Sports Director
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Local 10's Will Manso blogs from China as the Miami Heat take on the Los Angeles Clippers in on October 11 at the MasterCard Center in Beijing and October 14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

OCTOBER 10 - 2:08 AM (2:08 PM BEIJING)

If I can take a moment to give our station a kudos before I get to the business of the Heat here in China.

Very rarely am I impressed by something on TV anymore.  After over 15 years in the business, I thought I'd seen it all.  That is until today in Beijing.

Our 11pm newscast happened to be at the same time the Heat were headed to practice.  Our crew was on the Heat staff bus, so we decided to try a live shot from inside the bus on the ride over.  It's too complicated to explain the technology, but simply put, the live report worked.

To think, we can send you a live picture, with good quality, from inside of a moving bus in Beijing, China is pretty insane to me.  Again, kudos to our station for showing the commitment and guts to pull that off.  It's probably the coolest thing I've ever done in the business.

Okay, now on to the basketball.

Today was the first day that Chinese media was allowed into practice and it seemed like the NBA Finals all over again.  The only difference is this was media only from Asia.

All the players were surrounded by dozens of media members and it was a wild scene.  It was me and Joe Goodman of the Miami Herald representing the American journalists, so we were outnumbered about 100.

Joking aside, it was great to see all the attention, and the players seemed to enjoy it. Like Erik Spoesltra said before practice, this is all positive attention.   The people of China have a real passion for the purity of the game and the stars that make up the NBA.

Practice wrapped up about 2pm local time here in Beijing.  Now it's off to a huge event for Dwyane Wade's sneaker launch.  It's a Chinese company, so it's a very big deal here.

I'll give you all the details and highlights after it's all done.  Talk soon from Beijing.

OCTOBER 9 - 10:33 AM (10:33 PM BEIJING) - Wow.  What a day in Beijing.  You want to talk about eventful?  We saw a little bit of everything today, so let's start from the top. 

I was warned about the jet-lag following a 14-hour plane ride and 12-hour time change.  Well, let's just say everyone was right! 

PHOTOS: Heat visit the Great Wall of China

Heat forward Shane Battier told me before the trip not to be surprised if I woke up at 3:30 am on my first day and hit the gym.  He was only off by an hour.  My body was so wired to the time back home that I woke up restless at 4:30 am in China.  Remember, we're 12 hours AHEAD here, so I felt like it was 4:30 pm

Battier was very right, because I found myself at the hotel gym for an extremely early workout. 

Speaking of working out, that's where the Heat started their day. 

The team held its first practice since arriving in China.  They got a "light" practice in at the MasterCard Center, site of the exhibition game here in Beijing against the Clippers. 

I say "light" because most of the team, like everyone else on the trip, was still adjusting to the time change.  Head coach Erik Spoesltra called it productive, and Dwyane Wade hinted he would be able to play in the game.  He missed the preseason opener because the team is taking it easy with him while he recovers from offseason knee surgery. 

From the practice, the players took a quick shower in the arena and headed over for a brief tour of the Summer Palace.  The trip was more about taking a team picture at this historic spot. They joked and smiled during the picture in what players expected to be one of the bonding moments of the trip.

PHOTOS: Heat visit the Summer Palace 

I was surprised to see the crowds act so calm the entire time.  For some reason, I expected a mob scene or something wild.  Instead, the hundreds of fans following the team around the location snapped pictures but never got too pushy.  The players stopped for numerous pictures with fans.  Their was a heavy police presence to make sure nothing got out of control, but it never did. 

This was the team's first chance to feel like rock stars during the trip.  I walked from behind the players and you can just see the waves of people walking, running and following the players every move.  But again, it was all done in a very organized manner. 

LeBron James, in particular, seemed to really enjoy the location.  He was taking pictures and shooting video the entire time. 

At this point, the team split up because the trip to the Great Wall of China was next.  Coach Spoelstra only made the trip mandatory to players who had never seen it because so many of the Heat's players had visited the Wall many times before. 

That meant no LeBron, Wade or Chris Bosh, but plenty did take the long trek to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. 

The group included Ray Allen, Mike Miller, James Jones and Mario Chalmers. The team provided three buses to make the 90-minute journey to the Wall's location in Beijing and many family members came along for the ride. 

Honestly, while the entourage was pretty tired at the conclusion of the bus ride, everyone caught their second wind when we saw the Wall for the first time.  

Simply put, it was awe inspiring. 

It's one thing to see the Great Wall in pictures, but to see it in person is almost impossible to describe. 

Even a veteran like Allen, who's seen just about everything during his NBA career, was acting like a little kid while walking up the Wall. 

We all took cable cars to the top of the mountain where the Wall loops around.  The views are not only spectacular, but absolutely breathtaking. 

The one word I kept hearing from players as they walked by was "wow!" 

It's a simple but perfect way to sum up what we were seeing.  Their were a lot of touching moments with family members of the players taking pictures and walking along the path. 

Probably the most touching was seeing Norris Cole and his parents smiling ear to ear at spending time together.  As Cole's mom told me, it was difficult to describe the pure emotion of it all. 

You'll probably never guess who was the last person down from the Heat's group.  It was Coach Spoesltra.  Despite seeing this location a number of times over the years, the coach walked all the way to the top of the steps and back two times.  He was really letting it sink in. 

Eventually, we made our way back down and loaded the buses again.  I think it's safe to say, it's a day we'll never forget. 

The only negative of the day was the drive home.  I don't think you know the real definition of rush hour traffic until you drive through the highways around Beijing at 6 pm.  We all sat in the buses for over two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic. 

In the end, we got home safe to our hotels and everyone was ready for a nice meal and great nights sleep. 

Another adventurous day awaits in just a few hours.  Good night from Beijing.

OCTOBER 8 - 11:09 PM (11:09 AM BEIJING)

OCTOBER 8 - 2:10 PM (2:10 AM BEIJING)

OCTOBER 8 - 10:30 AM (10:30 PM BEIJING) - We've arrived safely in Beijing after a 14 hour flight.  It's the longest flight I've ever taken, but believe it or not, it wasn't that bad.

Erik Spoesltra and many of the players had given me advice on how to deal with the boredom that could come during such a lengthy flight.  These guys are pros at it.

Coach Spoelstra has been traveling to Asia every summer for years, while this is the 10th time in China for LeBron.   Each said to read some books, watch some movies and get some sleep.   I was able to do a little bit of all of those things to pass the time.

PHOTOS: Heat in China

As for those players and coaches, they sat at the front of the plane.  I was able to take a glimpse of the team while in the air, and let's just say they were resting comfortably in first class.  While most of them told me they were looking forward to enjoying the experience, the one thing no one enjoys is spending so much time on a plane.

Coach Spo used the time to watch some game film and even mentioned he would play catch up on watching some TV shows like Dexter.

Honestly, the hardest part now is adjusting to the time change.  We're 12 hours ahead of the eastern time from back home in Miami, so we arrived in Beijing right around 9:30pm local time on Monday night.  To our bodies, it's 9:30am on Monday morning.  Getting to the hotel now and just falling asleep won't be easy.

About 100 or so die-hard Heat fans were waiting at the airport to catch a glimpse of the Heat.  I'm guessing that's a tame welcome compared to what's to come over the next week.

But, it's a must for now for everyone to get some rest.  The Heat have their first practice in China bright and early at 9am and then we'll all head straight to a tour of the Great Wall of China.

OCTOBER 7 - 4:00 PM (MIAMI) - I've been on some great assignments over the years at Local 10, but I'm not even sure the time I spent four days at Rio's "Carnival" can top this. I'm traveling with the Miami Heat on their goodwill tour to China starting today.

WPLG is proud to be the only local television station covering the team's trip to the Far East. Not only are we heading to China, but we're riding on the team's charter flight to bring you the story every step of the way.

Our crew begins the journey with the team now in Atlanta, the site of the Heat's first exhibition game. From Atlanta we fly to Beijing. Once in China's capital, we'll head with the team on a tour of the Great Wall of China and numerous team events over the course of three days.

Of course, we can't forget the basketball. Our crew will be at all the practices and at the Heat's game against the Los Angeles Clippers on October 11th.

Following that game, we'll immediately jump on the charter flight and travel to Shanghai for the 2nd part of the China experience.

More tours, events and fun are to follow. The trip will be capped off with another exhibition game for the Heat against the Clippers on October 14th in Shanghai.

You may be asking, why China? Well, this trip will showcase the real power and fan support of the defending NBA champs. The Chinese market is the biggest international market for the NBA, and few teams garner more attention and popularity than the Heat.

Many of the players, including LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, have made numerous trips to China to promote the game. This will just be an extension of that. It's another chance to continue to grow the Heat's appeal globally.

Our plan is to provide daily reports during our newscasts from China. Trust me, this is an ambitious venture for any station. Reporting live and sending reports daily from the other side of the world isn't easy, but we're committed to covering the story on TV, social media and our website, www.local10.com.

We have an even bigger goal in mind. On Friday, October 26th at 9 p.m., we'll be airing a special one-hour show called "The Miami Heat in China."

This program will allow you to experience the entire trip for the Heat. We'll have great access to the team and make you almost feel like you were there. From the basketball, to the history and the culture of China, we'll cover it all.

Needless to say, we're excited and thankful the Heat and the NBA will allow us to be part of this historic trip for the franchise.

Make sure to watch Local 10 daily beginning early next week for our coverage. You'll also get to see plenty of pictures and stories we'll post on our Facebook page and website. Finally, you can follow me on Twitter @willmanso to get daily blog updates and photos.

Now it's time to get to China. I've got a handful of books and movies ready for the 15 hour flight. We'll talk from the other side of the world.

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