For some, a trip to Mexico in December could be a well-deserved vacation. For the Utah Jazz, traveling south will be a business trip.
The Jazz will play the Orlando Magic in Mexico City in a regular season game on Dec. 15, the NBA announced Tuesday. The game is the second of a two-game series in which the Magic will also play the Chicago Bulls in the Arena Ciudad de Mexico.
League sources on Tuesday night confirmed to The Tribune a report from ESPN that the Jazz will host the Portland Trail Blazers as part of the NBA’s annual slate of Christmas Day games. The league on Wednesday will release the first week of regular season matchups, plus the full schedule of games on both Christmas Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Utah played in Mexico City in 2003 in a preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks, and played two October games there in 1996: one against Dallas, and one against the Phoenix Suns. The Jazz won the 2003 contest and split the 1996 games.
“The Utah Jazz are excited to play in Mexico City and are proud to represent our fans and the NBA on a global stage,” Jazz president Steve Starks said in a statement. “Our organization thanks the NBA and the people of Mexico City for this unique opportunity.”
The Jazz have traveled to other locales for preseason games before: 2009 matchups against the Chicago Bulls and Real Madrid took place in London’s O2 Arena. In 1990, they played two contests to open the regular season in Tokyo against the Phoenix Suns.
But this is the latest in-season international Jazz game ever (excluding the team’s annual trips to Toronto). The contest will count as an away game for the Jazz and a home game for the Magic.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN. It’s the third consecutive season that the NBA has hosted two regular-season games in Mexico City, as part of an outreach effort to grow the league’s Mexican audience. The league also has hinted that it plans to start a G-League franchise in Mexico City.
Mexico City is closer to Salt Lake City than Orlando is by about 250 miles. And the NBA usually tries to accommodate internationally traveling teams with travel days scheduled around the game itself. The full NBA schedule is released later in August.