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NBA to Stage Rare London Exhibition Game


In an effort to the increase basketball's international popularity, the National Basketball Association will hold a game Wednesday in London. For VOA, Tom Rivers says it will be a rare opportunity for British fans to catch live NBA action when the Boston Celtics face the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Ten days ago, London was treated to NHL professional hockey. In just under three weeks, American football will take center stage here when the NFL hosts a game.

This week though, the game in town is basketball and the match at the O2 Arena will feature the NBA's Boston Celtics against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It is the first time the NBA has come to London in 14 years.

Boston guard, Paul Pierce says developing interest outside of North America now seems like a natural thing to do, especially given the fact that more foreign players are playing professional basketball in the United States each year.

"It is a global game," he said. "I mean, I am excited to see that the game has expanded over the years to how it is growing all across the world and it is only good for the game because you get the interest from so many people that it just generates that many more fans and makes the game even more exciting."

What the NBA wants to do is grow interest in the game in places like Europe. And although nothing has been decided at this stage, more exhibition games could be heading this way in the coming years.

Timberwolves center, Mark Blount says that is all right with him.

"Figure something out with the flying and the jets. And if they are able to work something out you know, it would be great," he said. "I really like London. It is a great town, a great, great place."

Former Timberwolf, now Celtic forward, Kevin Garnett says just as David Beckham is trying to boost interest in soccer in America, he is pleased to do what he can this week to increase the profile of basketball in Europe.

"There are plenty of ambassadors in football as it is in basketball, and if they need me to be, sure. But we have plenty of people that, you can sort of pick and choose," he said.

There has been a lot of speculation this week in Britain about whether there might one day be an NBA franchise in Europe. The Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Timberwolves, Kevin McHale, says there are a lot of avenues to explore in the coming years and that means different options can be tried out.

"I personally would think that if they were going to do it, you would almost have an American division and a Euro division and you would have, it would be like the Eastern Conference-West Conference. You might play everybody twice over here, but you would have to make two trips that lasted three weeks to get it done type of thing. So, I do not know. Logistically, this travel is a bear. Travel is tough enough when you are traveling from Minneapolis to Seattle, Seattle-Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Utah, Utah-Denver, Denver-Minneapolis on a five-game swing or four-game swing, that is hard."

But the players say they have liked their unusual week of preseason action in Europe. They say it was good for them and their teams.

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