Bulls to face Jazz in NBA preseason game in London
By CHRIS LEHOURITES, AP Sports Writer
5 hours, 18 minutes ago
Buzz up!0 votes PrintLONDON (AP)—Luol Deng is returning home for an NBA preseason game in London, part of a European tour that will feature fewer teams and games than years past.
Deng, who grew up in London after his family fled conflict-torn Sudan, is expected to play for the Chicago Bulls when they face the Utah Jazz on Oct. 6 at the O2 Arena.
This year’s NBA Europe Live Tour will be the league’s fourth straight on the continent, but so far only one game has been finalized. Another, expected to include the Jazz against either the Bulls or a local team, is still in the planning stages, NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday.
Stern said the cutback had nothing to do with the global economic downturn.
“You go a little stronger when you get yourself established, but when you get into a rotation it isn’t necessary to do quite as much,” Stern said in a teleconference. “This year we think that two teams, two games achieves all the goals we set out to do.”
Stern said there were also likely to be more games in Asia ahead of the 2009-10 NBA season.
Last year, the Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards played two games each, but only against each other, in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin. In 2006 and ’07, teams including the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs played both local and other NBA teams around the continent.
Deng and his family moved to Britain when he was child, and he grew up in London before heading to the United States, where he played basketball at Duke University.
“Not only am I excited for the team, I’m also excited for the Chicago Bulls fans in Europe and London,” said Deng, who was a fan of the Bulls when he was a kid. “But personally, I’m thrilled having a chance to play where I grew up in front of friends and family.”
Besides Deng, the Bulls also have British player Ben Gordon on their roster. Russian player Andrei Kirilenko plays for the Jazz.
“Each year we’ve seen new evidence and increased evidence and passion that our NBA fans around the world have for our game, and those number of fans are growing,” Stern said.
The Bulls last played in Europe in 1997 when Michael Jordan led the team to the McDonald’s Championship title with a 104-78 win over European champion Olympiakos in Paris.
The NBA has 77 international players from 32 countries and territories on its rosters. Stern said the league is planning to play a regular-season game in London before the city hosts the 2012 Olympics. But, again, he didn’t have a timetable for when that would be or what that would entail.
“In my crystal ball … I see one game, but I see that growing into something larger,” Stern said. “I don’t know what exactly form that will take, but I think one game, if it is one game, will ultimately lead to a series.”
Although the NBA is still playing only preseason games in Europe, the NHL is opening its season on the continent for the third straight year, with the Detroit Red Wings facing the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm on Oct. 2-3 and the Chicago Blackhawks playing the Florida Panthers in Helsinki on the same dates.
The NFL is also playing a regular-season game in Europe for the third straight year, with the New England Patriots playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25 at Wembley Stadium in London.