Yao popularity driving the proposal

BEIJING -- The NBA is considering playing regular-season
games in China, where such stars as Yao Ming have boosted the
popularity of the game.

The league will use preseason games planned for Beijing and
Shanghai in October 2004 to test facilities and travel
arrangements, Marc Fischer, the league's Hong Kong-based managing
director for Asia, said Friday.

"We want to make it an annual event," he said.

Fischer, who was in Beijing for promotional events, told The
Associated Press a definite plan is not yet in place.

"A major factor is how teams feel about coming all this way,"
he said.

Yao, the center for the Houston Rockets, and other Chinese stars
like Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Bateer have brought a surge of interest
in basketball.

Chinese national TV shows two NBA games a week while fans in
Shanghai, where Yao starred before joining the NBA, can see as many
as six a week.

This year the NBA launched a Chinese-language Web site. The
league also publishes a Chinese version of its official magazine
and has a Beijing office.