The NBA is hoping to stage a regular-season game in London in the next two years before the British capital hosts the 2012 Olympics.
David Stern, commissioner of the world’s premier basketball league, revealed that it might even be possible to hold the match at London’s O2 Arena next year. “Who knows We have not set the schedule yet for 2010, so we’ll see,” Stern told the UK Press Association ahead of Tuesday night’s preseason exhibition at the venue, in which the Chicago Bulls snatched a last-gasp 102-101 victory over the Utah Jazz in front a sell-out crowd of almost 19,000. “We’re running out of runway a little bit, but we still hope to do it,” Stern said. The NBA is seeking to boost basketball’s profile in Britain, with the Bulls-Jazz match the third consecutive preseason match in London.
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Chicago forward Luol Deng, born in Sudan but raised in England after moving to Egypt, hopes to be part of Britain’s team at the Olympics and is a major drawcard for local fans. Deng top-scored for the Bulls with 18 points on Tuesday after starting against Utah, a tally matched by James Johnson — who bagged the win with a two-point jump shot in the last play of the match after grabbing the rebound from Derrick Byars’ miss. Deng, who was limited to 25 minutes as he continues to recover from the stress fracture injury that saw him miss the European Championships, also made five assists. Paul Millsap contributed 18 points for the Jazz, who fought back from a 55-48 halftime deficit. Stern is promoting Britain’s cause with world basketball’s governing body FIBA by lending his backing to the team’s bid to receive a wildcard for next year’s world championships in Turkey.
“The run-up to 2012 is very exciting for the growth of basketball in Great Britain,” Stern said. “Team GB qualified for the EuroBasket and we hope that, in its wisdom, FIBA sees fit to give it a wildcard. “We’re interested to see that, by then, Team GB could have as many as four NBA players on their team, and to see Luol Deng out there tonight is exciting for us and also exciting for fans of Team GB.”