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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 11:23 GMT 12:23 UK
NBA plans bright British future
The O2 Arena will stage the game between Boston and Minnesota
The O2 Arena will stage the game between Boston and Minnesota
NBA officials believe the time is right for basketball to make a big impression on the British public.

Minnesota and Boston are due to face each other in an exhibition game at the capital's O2 Arena on Wednesday night.

And NBA commissioner David Stern has told BBC Sport he is impressed with both the venue and the organisation.

"Basketball has not traditionally been a top-tier sport (in Britain) but all the conditions are right to move it up the ladder a bit," Stern told 5live.

There is already talk of London hosting a regular-season NBA game, while the optimists are even suggesting the capital might one day have its own franchise.

"The UK is joining the basketball world and that's very exciting," said Stern.

I think there will ultimately be an NBA franchise in Europe... it's not going to be tomorrow but you will see it

NBA chief David Stern
"When you're looking at (playing abroad), the question is always of finance, but the O2, because of its size and pricing structure, it raises that possibility," he said. "The 02 Arena raises the possibility of a regular-season game."

As for European expansion, Stern is confident it will happen, though not during his tenure.

"It's easy to speculate about something when you won't be around to do it but I think there will ultimately be an NBA franchise in Europe," he said.

"It's not going to be tomorrow but you will see it."

London Mayor Ken Livingstone would welcome the league back to Britain in any capacity.

"We would like you back next week, next month, next year," he said. "Just tell us when you want to come."

606: DEBATE
As for Wednesday's game between Minnesota and Boston, Kevin Garnett has promised fans it will be fiercely contested.

One of the NBA's biggest earners, Garnett left Minnesota this summer after 12 seasons.

But when asked if he would be going easy on his former team, he told BBC Sport's Rob Dugdale: "No way in hell.

"It's kill or be killed. I don't anticipate them taking it lightly. It's going to be a competitive game."

Garnett scored more than 19,000 points at an average of 20.5 per game for Minnesota.

And he knows there is a lot of expectation in Boston now that he has made the switch.

Kevin Garnett
It's a pleasure to know that I'm not just the primary threat on this team

Kevin Garnett (above)

Both teams have struggled in recent years but the addition of Garnett has many commentators predicting the Celtics, who had the league's second-worst record last season, will be contenders for the NBA title in the next few years.

"Both teams are trying to get better. It's just another game, my friend. It's in London, but it's on the schedule," said Garnett.

"It's a work in progress, but I'm enjoying coming here, we're having fun in practice, we're very competitive."

One of the players Garnett will be facing will be Al Jefferson, the forward who was one of the five players Boston traded to Minnesota to get Garnett.

"It's going to be a fun game," said Jefferson.

"It's always fun playing against a guy like KG [Garnett]. But Boston are the team that drafted me - they took a chance on me. I'll always appreciate the club and the coaches for that."

Both teams arrived in London from exhibition games in other foreign capitals.

Minnesota beat Turkey's Efes Pilsen 84-81 in Istanbul, with Jefferson scoring 11 points and taking 17 rebounds.

And Boston beat Toronto 89-85 in Rome on Saturday, with Garnett scoring 19 points.

Garnett is looking forward to having other stars alongside him in the Boston Celtics set-up, players like Paul Pierce and new signing Ray Allen.

"It's a pleasure to know that I'm not just the primary threat on this team," he said.

"It's my job to initiate the pressure on the defence and then get the ball to those guys when they're open."



SEE ALSO
Boston get Garnett in major deal
31 Jul 07 |  Basketball
London venue to host NBA teams
19 Feb 07 |  Basketball
Garnett nets MVP honour
03 May 04 |  US Sport


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