Andrew Nicholson is getting acclimated to playing professionally in China.
The former NBA power forward from St. Bonaventure will begin his third season in the Chinese Basketball Association in November. Nicholson will look to lead the Guangzhou Loong Lions to the CBA postseason after averaging 27 points last season for the Fujian Sturgeons.
A native of Mississauga, Canada, Nicholson says that things in China have been going better than he expected, and that he has been appreciative of the opportunity.
“Just being able to be in a different country across the world and just being grateful, being able to see that part of the world," Nicholson said. "If it wasn’t for basketball, I wouldn’t be able to go there, so being there, and just embracing it.”
He’s also embracing Tuesday night’s opportunity to see what can still do against NBA competition.
The Sixers will host the Loong Lions in a 7 p.m. preseason opener at the Wells Fargo Center. This will serve as a reunion with Nicholson and Sixers duo Tobias Harris and Kyle O’Quinn. The three players were Magic teammates from 2012-15.
Nicholson said Sunday he last met with Harris in Toronto in May, when the Sixers lost to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He learned Sunday that O’Quinn was a member of the Sixers.
But while they’re with Philly’s NBA team, Nicholson is playing at a high level in China.
He shot 60.4 percent from the field and made 45.1 percent of his three-point shots last season with the Sturgeons. The season before that, he averaged 22.2 points while shooting 62.2 percent overall and 42.7 percent on three-pointers.
“For me, overseas is definitely a lot different than the NBA,” Nicholson said. “The NBA is a lot faster. Overseas is probably a lot more physical. But being able to play with these guys and test myself [against the Sixers Tuesday] will definitely be exciting to see."
Nicholson averaged 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds and shot 46.7 percent overall and 32.1 percent on three-pointers in 285 career NBA games with 36 starts.
The Magic selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 draft. The 29-year-old played four seasons in Orlando before signing a free-agent deal with the Washington Wizards on July 7, 2016. The Wizards traded him to the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 22, 2017. The Nets then shipped him to the Portland Trail Blazers on July 25, 2017. A month later, he was waived by the Blazers.
“I’ve been there three years,” he said of China. “It’s fun just being able to learn more about yourself, on and off the court. You got a lot of responsibility, so being able to test yourself.”
But what about welcoming an opportunity to return to the NBA?
“I’m basically here just taking it day-by-day,” he said of China. "I like playing with these guys. It’s fun definitely to build a relationship with them and [the other Chinese teammates] in the past.
“Where ever basketball takes me, I’ll go.”
A possible blowout
The Loong Lions aren’t expected to challenge the Sixers.
On Sunday, they played a group of former college players including Temple alums Scootie Randall and Dionte Christmas (Phoenix Suns) at the Owls’ practice gym. The Loong Lions, who were playing without Nicholson, lost, 117-93.
The Sixers should have a more lopsided margin of victory. Then on Wednesday, the Loong Lions will play the Washington Wizards at the Capital One Arena.
“We try to get a little bit of experience,” said Juan Antonio Orenga, the Lions coach. "Last year we played Washington. We enjoyed the game. We lost by  points. It was outstanding for us.
“This year, I think the NBA teams are playing a little bit more serious against [Chinese teams]. The other day, Houston beat Shanghai by 69 points.”
The Spanish coach wants his team to enjoy having an opportunity to face one of the elite NBA teams.
He compared it to when he was a center for the Spanish national team facing the U.S. Dream Team in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
“It’s the same feeling,” Orenga said. “What I did there was enjoy playing against Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, all the All-Stars the first time they were there. For us, it will be the same. At the same time, we want to compete.”