Heat to play Clippers in China

MIAMI -- LeBron James and the Miami Heat will prepare for their NBA title defense with two October preseason games in China against the Los Angeles Clippers, league officials confirmed Sunday.

The Heat and Clippers are scheduled to meet Oct. 11 in Beijing and Oct. 14 in Shanghai as part of the NBA China Games. Bloomberg Businessweek first reported the matchup on its website Sunday.

It will mark the first time the NBA's defending champion will participate in the six-year history of the China Games. Heat president Pat Riley hinted late last month at the likelihood that Miami would be sent overseas as part of the NBA's slew of internationally played exhibition games.

The Heat, who defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games to win their second championship, already have a high corporate profile in Asian markets. The franchise entered a sponsorship agreement with Chinese beer manufacturer Tsingtao Brewery Company last year.

James and Dwyane Wade also are two of the league's biggest stars, who are marketed across the world through major endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, McDonald's, Sprite and other companies. James and Wade have made several marketing trips through Asia since they led Team USA to the gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Even Heat role player Shane Battier has a shoe endorsement contract with China-based company Li Ning.

The China trip will mark the second time since 2008 that the Heat travel overseas for the preseason. Miami played two exhibition games against the Nets in Paris and London on the 2008 Europe Live Tour.