x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Stern has plans for Europe

But not everyone is sold on NBA commissioner's ambitious expansion blueprint.

The NBA is coming to Europe! It is a familiar story. An almost tired story. But it has very fresh legs.

David Stern, the NBA commissioner, told a luncheon audience in Miami last weekend that he envisioned a five-team European division within the league sometime in the next 10 years.

"It's a wonderful topic, because 10 years ago, I said: 'Oh, it's inevitable, it'll happen in 10 years'," Stern said, speaking to business leaders. "And now what I'm saying is: 'It's inevitable, it'll happen in 10 years.'

"But in terms of globalisation, we're going to see a desire for franchises in Europe - and in about 10 years, you'll send me a postcard."

Stern made similar comments as far back as 2003, but his latest are the most definitive yet. He clearly has given it some serious thought in the ensuing seven years.

His current plan would be for each American team to make one European swing per season, in five major markets.

"I think we'll have a [European] division and I think the [Miami] Heat will play in Boston one night and then they'll go to Paris and spend a couple days on the Champs Elysees shopping and relaxing," Stern said.

"And then they'll go and play five teams. And when they finish that, they'll play them again. Then they'll come home, having had a nice trip to Europe and they'll be finished with their European obligations."

Are you ready for the Madrid Conquistadors? The London Union Jacks? The Rome Legion? Maybe the Paris Lights?

Previously the NBA has played pre-season games in Europe. In October the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves played in London, Barcelona, Paris and Milan.

The NBA will play its first regular-season games in Europe on March 4 and 5, when the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets play a pair of games at the O2 Arena in London.

Stern's previous efforts were handicapped by the lack of modern, NBA-ready venues in Europe. But several new arenas have been erected since 2003, including the O2 in London and the O2 World in Berlin.

Marcin Gortat, the Orlando Magic back-up centre and a native of Poland, was apparently less than thrilled at the concept.

Gortat said players would not want to deal with the travel, that Stern wants to "control the whole world" and that expanding to Europe could hurt the NBA's standing as "the best league on Earth".

"That's impossible. In my opinion, that's impossible," Gortat said of a European division.

"That's just too much travel. I would just want it just to stay the way it is right now. And if we have to, just maybe expand from Canada."



Players of the week
• Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors. Had a first-week best of 46 points in a season-opening win over Houston.
• Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics. Had a triple-double – career-high 24 assists, 10 points and 10 rebounds – in a win over New York.
• Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks, below. Scored 28 points and had 13 rebounds in a victory over Charlotte.

Teams of the week
• Golden State Warriors. Won their first two games for their best start in 16 years.
• Atlanta Hawks. All the attention in the Southeast Division has been focused on the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, but only the Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 start.

Duds of the week
• Jamario Moon, Cleveland Cavaliers. Hit one-of-six field goal attempts to finish with two points, no assists and six rebounds in 28 minutes against Toronto.
• John Salmons, Milwaukee Bucks. Five points, two rebounds and no assists in 32 minutes against New Orleans.
• Los Angeles Clippers. Meet the new Clippers, same as the old Clippers with another 0-2 start.

Games of the week
• Miami Heat at New Orleans Hornets, Friday. When the Heat opened their season on the road at Boston, they did not fare so well. Now they get a second road test against a good team.
• Oklahoma Thunder at Portland Trailblazers, Thursday. The Thunder are an athletic, upcoming team but Portland is one of the toughest places to play in the NBA.