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NBA London 2019 Preview
The Washington Wizards make their first overseas regular season appearance, taking on the New York Knicks
By Gary Jordan
The National Basketball Association returns to London’s O2 Arena this coming Thursday evening with the Washington Wizards, making their first overseas appearance for a regular season game, taking on the New York Knicks, who are visiting these shores for the third time in meaningful competition.
The history of the NBA playing regular season games goes back to 1990 when Phoenix and Utah played two consecutive days in Tokyo, but the first time they came to the UK was in 2011, Toronto and New Jersey playing to a sold-out crowd for two nights, the Nets wining both games. After a break in 2012 they have sent over teams each year since, Detroit, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Orlando, Milwaukee, Indiana, Denver have all represented the league up until last year when the Boston Celtics came back to beat Philadelphia. As well as Japan being a welcome host in the early years of taking the game global, Mexico also host games each year, just this past December Orlando played two games, beating both Chicago and Utah.
It’s no coincidence that the NBA tried the market here after the continued success of the NFL and its International Series games, which have been played in London since 2007. The market for US sports is such that the NBA know they can send teams over for a one-off game, apart from the inaugural year when they played in March the game has been in mid-January and sell out the capacity of nearly 19,000 in minutes. The hottest ticket in town for one night only. With these two sports tapping into their British markets, it was no surprise that the MLB have followed suit and will play two games at the London Stadium at the end of June this year, the Yankees and Red Sox will entertain full houses over a weekend that will see baseball luminaries fly their flag for their fans.
Back to here and now, the Wizards and the Knicks. It’s safe to say that neither side has had any real form this season so far. Washington sit a couple of games back from being the last playoff team in the Eastern Conference standings, whereas for the New York side its worse with them not even winning a quarter of the games played so far this term. Washington will be looking at Bradley Beal to continue his good form, the guard is averaging 24.4ppg. They also feature All-Star guard John Wall, "It will be an honour to represent the Wizards organisation as we play our first game in the UK. I look forward to connecting with our fans in London and using the experience to further bond as a team." The Knicks will rely on Tim Hardaway Jnr to lead them to what would be an upset win, the playmaker is hitting an average 19.8ppg. Hardaway has played in London before in the Knicks loss to the Bucks and expressed his joy when the match was announced last July, "We had a great experience during our last visit in 2015 playing in front of passionate fans and are looking forward to another trip overseas."
So, with both teams desperate for a win for differing reasons, searching for playoff form and salvage a season, Thursday nights game with all the extra glamour that normally accompanies these events, spot the side line celebrity is always a favourite, could be a good one. If you haven’t been lucky enough to get a ticket or catch the game on television, we will bring you a game report next week.