The appetite for more NBA games "remains huge around Europe -- and the rest of the world" -- but there is still a "gap between the NBA's desire for overseas expansion and what's actually doable," according to Mattias Karen of the AP. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ahead of Thursday's Celtics-76ers game in London said, "We're considering bringing additional games to Europe. It's just the logistical challenges for us are so much greater (than for the NFL). The demand is there and the interest is there. It's really more a question of our schedule and whether we can make it work." The NBA has been staging regular-season games at O2 Arena since '11 in an "attempt to grow the game both in Britain and worldwide." It was "clear from Silver's pregame news conference that other countries want an up-close look at the spectacle as well." Journalists from Australia, France, Germany, Turkey and Africa "all had the same question: when will the NBA bring regular-season games to their part of the world?" Silver "pointed to state-of-the-art arenas in Paris and Berlin as possible venues for future regular-season games." However, he said that he "couldn't offer a 'specific calendar' for when it might happen" (AP, 1/11).
BUILDING A GLOBAL BRAND: In Philadelphia, Keith Pompey reported the 76ers are "hopeful their participation in global basketball games will continue" following Thursday's game, as they would "love to make appearances in Africa and Australia." 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo: "We let the league know we are interested and a willing participant in events like this. ... We do see ourselves as one of the bright, young, exciting teams in the league. The league must view us that way as well when they consider us and to talk to us about these opportunities." Pompey noted the 76ers are "building a global brand" with five international players on the roster, including C Joel Embiid (Cameroon) and F Ben Simmons (Australia). 76ers coach Brett Brown, who lived in Australia for 17 years, said, "If you went to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, and I mean this, if you had 30,000-seat arenas, you'd fill them all" (PHILLY.com, 1/11).
STILL A DIVIDE: The Undefeated's Jesse Washington said the "big difference" between the ways the NBA and NFL approach the European market is "that the NBA is marketing stars, faces (and) personalities." Washington: "You can see these guys. They're not behind helmets and bundled up in pads." He added that the NFL in Europe is "more of a novelty." Washington: "It's the game there, it's not necessarily the players." ESPN's Bob Ley noted a recent poll showed British fans find the NFL "boring." Washington said he understands that perception, as there are "a lot of stoppages in play" and British fans are "used to a fast-paced game that keeps rolling." He added players like Embiid and Celtics G Kyrie Irving are "not boring," which gives the NBA "an edge in that regard" over the NFL. Washington: "They've used that to really become ascendant as a global game. The NFL is still really American" ("OTL," ESPN, 1/11).
MLS is creating a competitive league within EA Sports’ "FIFA 18," its first league-wide push into esports. The league, which will be called eMLS, will see 19 of the league’s 23 clubs participating, each selecting a player from their region to represent it in competitive play. The teams not participating at the outset are the Atlanta United, DC United, LAFC and Real Salt Lake. Players representing each club will compete against each other to represent the league in the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup '18, the competitive global competition launched last fall. The competition will culminate in the first ever FIFA eWorld Cup '18 Grand Final, with a winner crowned in August. eMLS will feature MLS’ newly launched competitive event that it is calling eMLS Cup, where the winner will be given an automatic berth in that EA Sports global series playoffs. The eMLS Cup will be held in April at gaming convention PAX East in Boston. MLS will announce further details on eMLS and eMLS Cup in the coming weeks, while MLS teams will begin to announce details on player signings or how they will be conducting that search in the coming weeks. NYCFC was the first MLS team to sign an esports player last year, doubling down on that in the fall by signing a second.
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Tennis is "at a crossroads" in part due to the sport's "structure, which, with multiple governing bodies and no final arbiter, severely limits its ability to make calendar changes," according to Christopher Clarey of the N.Y. TIMES. With the Australian Open in January and the Paris Masters and World Tour Finals ending in November, the schedule is a "marathon for the elite: an ultramarathon if they play in the Davis Cup final, too." Rafael Nadal said, “It’s not about the crazy calendar. For me it’s about how long the calendar is in terms of mandatory events for the top players." ATP Tour Exec Chair & President Chris Kermode said that studies "show there has not been a rise in injury rates over all but only among the highest ranked players, most of whom are now 30 or older and most of whom already have earned exemptions from some of their tour commitments." However, Clarey notes the top players, "with their collective drawing power, ... need to be preserved to protect the economic model." There is also the "question of the sport’s ability to police itself credibly, which will soon be back in the spotlight with the lengthy and costly Independent Review of Integrity, created to investigate potential match fixing and corruption." Another issue facing the game is the "more cyclical matter of whether a new ruling class is at last prepared to take power on the court." No younger woman has "demonstrated the ability to dominate in the absence" of Serena Williams and no younger man has "demonstrated the ability to handle Grand Slam occasions anywhere near as well" as Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic (N.Y. TIMES, 1/12).
FIGHTING FOR THE PLAYERS: ESPNW.com's D'Arcy Maine noted CoCo Vandeweghe "wants to fix" issues like the "length of the season and grueling travel demands" players face. She also "isn't giving up hope that the WTA will come around on what she considers excessive requirements and fines" relating to attire and tournament appearances. Vandeweghe said, "The WTA was supposed to be a player union when it started. But as the tour evolved, it became something else. It's a business, and they're looking out for tournaments and sponsors, which they should as a business. But there's no one protecting the players anymore" (ESPNW.com, 1/11).