SBD/March 4, 2011/Events and Attractions

Raptors, Nets Set To Play First NBA Regular-Season Games In Europe

The Nets and Raptors will play the “first regular-season NBA games in Europe” Friday and Saturday at London's O2 arena, part of the league's “increased international presence,” according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Both teams “jumped at the chance -- the Nets because of their international plans and Barclays, the Raptors because four players are from Europe, one is from Africa and one is from South America.” The league has played exhibition games in Europe “for nearly three decades, has developed significant roots in China and is trying to do the same in India.” Its Basketball Without Borders program has “visited more than 100 cities across Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and North America” since '01. The Nets-Raptors games give the NBA a “last chance at live action to promote its product and stars ahead of” the ’12 London Olympics. There are “no European preseason games scheduled for next season.” Zillgitt noted “making the NBA more popular and selling the league overseas remains a prominent objective” (USATODAY.com, 3/3).  In London, Ian Whittell notes the games continue the NBA’s “efforts to help the growth of the sport in Britain before” the ’12 Olympics (LONDON TIMES, 3/4). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote part of the reason for the games is “to increase awareness and, potentially, increase attention during the London Games so that organizers aren’t left scrambling to sell tickets to what’s normally a virtual sellout event” (TORONTO STAR, 3/3).

ALL IN THE GAME PLAN: In London, Brendan Gallagher noted under the ownership of Russian businessman Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets have “become much more outward looking.” Before the start of this season, the Nets “toured China and Russia and now they seem positively enthusiastic about decamping to London for two regular season games.” Nets coach Avery Johnson said the team is “trying to become more of a global brand.” Johnson: “I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Nets coming over here to London and to Europe regularly in the next five to ten years to play regular season games. We are glad to be in London and love it here” (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 3/3). USA TODAY’s Zillgitt noted Nets CEO Brett Yormark in London this week "gave a presentation to nearly 350 Barclays employees, showing them artist renderings and construction photos" of the under construction Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Yormark said, "Our goal is to truly try to be a global franchise. There's obviously limitations in what we can do. Certainly advocating playing internationally is one thing we can do, and it lends itself to trying to develop a more global fanbase" (USATODAY.com, 3/3). Yormark said, “With our team moving to Brooklyn next year and our drive to increase our global appeal, we thought it was a great opportunity and one that is good for our business” (BBC.co.uk, 3/3). Meanwhile, Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo said, “It’s a great chance for brand building but we have been building our brand in Europe for many years with the acquisition of so many foreign players. It’s important to the league and important to us as a franchise to participate in the global growth of the game” (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 3/3).
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