New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson said his team’s trip to London will give the National Basketball Association’s oldest squad a rare opportunity to rest and reset in the middle of a season.
The Knicks (24-13) face the Detroit Pistons (14-24) on Jan. 17 at the 02 Arena, the league’s third game in the U.K. capital. Tickets for the contest, which will air live on NBATV at 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, sold out in four days.
Woodson said yesterday at the team’s practice facility in Tarrytown, New York, that the contest, the Knicks’ only game in a seven-day stretch, will give players a chance to rest, bond and work out away from the distractions of home. The Knicks accepted NBA Commissioner David Stern’s offer to play in London because the week will have a mini-camp feel, he said.
“It’s an opportunity for me and the players to bond and spend some time together away from the States,” Woodson said. “It’s a great atmosphere that we’re going into, and we’ll get back to work when we get back.”
The Knicks have an average age of more than 32, the oldest roster in the NBA. The Pistons have only two players over 30 -- 32-year-old Tayshaun Prince and 33-year-old Corey Maggette.
This week’s game -- the 16th regular-season NBA contest outside the U.S. or Canada -- is part of the league’s continued global expansion. Stern, who is retiring next February after 30 years, said this month there may be NBA franchises in Europe in the next two decades.
“I think multiple NBA international teams,” Stern said in an interview with ESPN Radio. “Twenty years from now? For sure. In Europe.”
The NBA has held international exhibition games since 1988, including contests in Turkey, Italy, Germany and China in the 2012 preseason. The 15 regular-season games have been played in Japan, Mexico and the U.K.
“It’s great for the business,” Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire said yesterday. “Any time you can expand your brand globally, it’s awesome for everyone -- the players, the NBA and every organization involved.”
In March 2011, the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets played a pair of sold-out games at the O2 in London, the first regular-season NBA games in the U.K.
There were 84 international players from 37 countries on NBA rosters at the start of this season, including two Britons - - All-Star forward Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls and forward Joel Freeland of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Knicks’ only international player is Argentinean Pablo Prigioni. Detroit has Ukrainian Viacheslav Kravtsov and Jonas Jerebko of Sweden.
The Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 100-87 win against the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 13. New York leads the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic division, two games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets.
The Knicks flew out last night and were scheduled to arrive in London this morning. They will be off today and will hold a public practice tomorrow at the arena, according to spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz.
Knicks guard Steve Novak said the 3,500-mile (5,633- kilometer) flight and the time difference would not be a distraction when the team takes the floor. London is five hours ahead of New York, while the farthest domestic NBA road trip is a three-hour difference.
“We’ve done the West Coast trip and we all know what that feels like,” Novak said. “We look at it like another West Coast trip, even though it’s overseas.”
The game marks a return to London for Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony and center Tyson Chandler, who were part of the U.S. men’s basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in August. Anthony was the second-leading scorer on the team, which went 8-0 during the tournament and beat Spain in the final.
The Pistons, who are sacrificing a home game to “host” the Knicks in London, headed overseas yesterday with a traveling party of about 150, team spokesman Kevin Grigg said in an e-mail. As part of a promotion with four media partners, the team is hosting five fans and a guest each during their U.K. stay, Grigg said.
Detroit guard Rodney Stuckey said on the team’s website that he’s never been to London and will try to see some of the city today and tomorrow.
“I’m excited,” the 26-year-old Stuckey said. “It’ll be a fun trip.”
Stoudemire, who has played seven games since returning from a left knee injury, said the voyage has a feel similar to a preseason trip the team took to France and Italy in 2010. He said the players came together overseas, and that he was impressed by the knowledge and passion of the fans.
“You realize that you have fans across the world,” he said. “There are fans who love the NBA, who love the Knicks and love individual players as well around the world.”
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