Chris Bosh, left, and the Miami Heat will face off with Blake Griffin and… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
LAS VEGAS — China, a world leader on the cusp of global domination, fancies itself as a nation of basketball lovers, and it's hosting a little get-together there this week.
The invite-list has a few accolades. Just a few.
Nine players who have been official All-Stars.
Five who have had Olympic gold draped around their neck.
Three who have been named Most Valuable Player in the NBA Finals.
The list goes on, but in toto, some of Uncle Sam's top-shelf hoopsters are heading to the People's Republic for a pair of preseason games between the Clippers and Miami Heat.
The first game is Thursday in Beijing, the second next Sunday in Shanghai.
But don't expect cutthroat competition.
The trip itself is of the grip-and-grin, photo-op variety: The NBA expands its foreign reach, China's fans receive an up-close look at basketball deities and the players finally face someone other than their own teammates in practice.
Still, for the Clippers, who after making a run into the second round of the playoffs loaded their roster with name players this off-season — Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf — it could be a measuring stick.
After all, who better to compare yourselves to than the defending champion Heat?
"It's too early," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said, shooting down that premise.
"We've got a lot of work [to do]. We've got a lot of exhibition games left."
Plus, Del Negro added, all-everything guard Chris Paul (right thumb) and veteran guard Chauncey Billups (knee surgery) are still limited. Paul isn't expected to play too much in China, and Del Negro said Billups won't even be making the trip.
While in China, the Clippers' itinerary is packed, with commitments ranging from NBA-mandated receptions and meet-and-greets to a trip to the Great Wall.
"It's a working trip for us," Del Negro said. "It's not a vacation."
It'll be a good time to bond, with so many new faces, he added.
"But we have to go there and get work in," Del Negro said. "We can't spend a week there just seeing the sights. We have to get our work in every day."
The Clippers have four preseason games after their China trip, and they close out that part of their schedule Oct. 25 against the Nuggets in Denver.
The China games will be a homecoming of sorts for Turiaf, who played with Miami during its title run last season.
"I'll be very happy to see them, but once the ball goes up…" he said, indicating that it's all business from then on.
It'll also be the third time Turiaf has played in China.
"It's a cult over there," he said of the country's basketball fans. "Everything is just multiplied by 100 as far as their intensity and excitement."