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Bulls coach eyes NBA Europe teams

Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: 6 October Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live

By Martin Gough

Vinny Del Negro and Luol Deng
Del Negro says Deng's availablity for Great Britain depends on his health

Chicago Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro expects there to be NBA teams based in Europe within the next few years.

Del Negro's Bulls play the Utah Jazz at London's O2 Arena on 6 October in a pre-season game.

"With the way it's growing, whether it's next year, in five or 10 years or whenever I wouldn't be surprised to see teams in Europe," he told BBC Sport.

"Travel is going to be the difficult part. I think you're definitely going to have good enough players."

The world's most popular basketball league has yet to play a regular-season game in Europe, as has been done in American football.

But NBA early-season games have taken place in Japan and Mexico in the past.

America's National Football League will in October play its third meaningful fixture in London and league chief Roger Goodell has said a London team is "a realistic possibility".

But teams in either sport would have massive logistical hurdles to overcome to ensure players are at their best following trans-Atlantic flights of at least seven hours and a time difference of at least five hours.

"If you play on the east coast and you fly from New York to LA it's a four or five hour trip. New York to London is very similar," said Del Negro.

"I know it's something the NBA is continually looking at and that's for them to make those decisions.

"We have great accommodations but it's a couple of days of travel, the time change is a huge factor. There's a lot of things that go into it and a lot of things that need to be done."

Del Negro, whose team reached the first round of the NBA play-offs last season, has high hopes for London-raised star Luol Deng, whose 2008/09 season was cut short by a knee injury.

Luol's had a very good summer; his injuries have healed and we expect him to have a big year

Vinny Del Negro

But he stopped short of saying he would definitely allow Deng to play for Great Britain next summer, when the team will either play at the World Championships or in crucial European Championship qualifying.

"Luol's had a very good summer. He's been injured the last couple of seasons but he's worked out very hard, his injuries have healed and we expect him to have a big year. We need him to have a big year," he said.

Asked about making players available for their national teams, Del Negro said: "It all depends on the player. For some players it's very good for them to get experience.

"For other players that have had injuries or are a little bit older, they need to rest their bodies for a long and rigorous NBA season.

"It depends on [Deng's] health. In the last couple of years he's had some injuries. I expect him to be healthy, which he is right now, and have a great year.

"If that's the case, Luol's still very young and I know how passionate he is about playing next summer.


"But we have a very important season ahead of us and as the season progresses I think those decisions will get made for themselves.

"If he's healthy, if he has a productive year and his body feels good, I think it would be great. We'll get to those decisions as the year gets going."

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see also
NBA basketball eyes global expansion
26 Jan 09 |  Business
NBA star tips Lakers to win title
02 Jun 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball

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