Conditioning has been a question mark in terms of Bhullar establishing a legitimate NBA future. But he has a major supporter in Kings owner Vivek Ranadive — one of India’s most celebrated businessmen — and Bhullar has shed more than 30 pounds over the course of his rookie campaign after weighing in at more than 400 pounds during summer league play with Sacramento last July. Bhullar is averaging 10.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.9 blocks in the D-League this season and, as evidence of his improving conditioning, logged 38 minutes Tuesday night in a Reno victory over Bakersfield, totaling 19 points, 15 boards and five blocks.
He wants to make basketball the second most popular sport in his native India, and has already taken steps to making the Kings India’s favorite NBA team. In January, he was part of a delegation of corporate CEOs who went with President Barack Obama to India.
Ranadive, who made part of his fortune from TIBCO Software, a company he started in 1997, says that India holds unlimited potential. He and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver are leading a league mission there next month. Ranadive said he recently met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in advance of the mission. Asked whether India is ready for basketball, with its cramped cities, grinding poverty and near-devotion to cricket, Ranadive noted that India is rising faster than many realize. Makeshift courts are popping up across the country. “Basketball is a game that can be played anywhere, by anyone — rich, poor, boys and girls,” he said. “You don’t need a lot of space to play basketball, as you do with cricket. So I really think basketball is poised to take off.”
Like other NBA owners, Ranadive wants to develop a Chinese-language app for China to broaden his team’s fan base. Ranadive is a leading proponent of what he calls “NBA 3.0,” using technology to network fans and the team. His perfect app, he says would let fans see instant replays, crowd-source suggestions for the team and even deliver food and beverages to ticket holders at the press of a button.