Lots of hoops as NBA pushes ex­pan­sion

Lo­gis­ti­cal hur­dles hit global am­bi­tions

National Post (Latest Edition) - - SPORTS - Mat­tias Karen

• If Adam Sil­ver learned one thing from his lat­est trip to Lon­don, it’s that the ap­petite for more NBA games re­mains huge around Europe — and the rest of the world.

And while t he l eague com­mis­sioner would love to sat­isfy that ap­petite, there is still an At­lantic- sized gap be­tween the NBA’s de­sire for over­seas ex­pan­sion and what’s ac­tu­ally doable.

So while the NFL con­tin­ues to stage mul­ti­ple reg­u­lar- sea­son games each year in Lon­don — al­beit cut­ting the num­ber from four to three next sea­son — Euro­pean bas­ket­ball fans may have to con­tinue to set­tle for just one.

“We’re con­sid­er­ing bringi ng ad­di­tional games to Europe,” Sil­ver said ahead of Thurs­day’s game be­tween the Bos­ton Celtics and Philadel­phia 76ers at the O2 Arena. “It’s just the lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges for us are so much greater ( than for the NFL). The de­mand is there and the in­ter­est is there. It’s re­ally more a ques­tion of our sched­ule and whether we can make it work.”

The NBA has been stag­ing reg­u­lar- sea­son games at the O2 since 2011 in an at­tempt to grow the game both in Bri­tain and world­wide. And the in­ter­est in this lat­est edi­tion was sky- high. Tickets sold out in un­der an hour and were go­ing for mul­ti­ple times their face value from on­line re- sell­ers, with a mul­ti­tude of soc­cer stars and other celebri­ties sit­ting court­side.

And it was clear from Sil­ver’s pre- game news con­fer­ence that other coun­tries want an up-close look at the spec­ta­cle as well. Jour­nal­ists from Aus­tralia, France, Ger­many, Turkey and Africa all had the same ques­tion: when will the NBA bring reg­u­lar- sea­son games to their part of the world?

“We would love to do it,” was Sil­ver’s uni­ver­sal an­swer — be­fore out­lin­ing the sched­ul­ing difficulties that are cur­rently ham­per­ing any such plans. The Celtics and 76ers, for in­stance, both had at least four days off be­fore and af­ter this game in or­der to cope with the travel. That’s one rea­son the Celtics have played the most games of any team in the league so far — 44 — as their sched­ule was com­pressed to make room for this trip. The 76ers have played the fewest games of any team — 39 — and have the busy part of their sea­son yet to come.

“When you build some buf­fer around this game in the mid­dle of the sea­son, it re­quires com­press­ing the sched­ule in other parts of the sea­son. And the more teams we bring, the more sched­ul­ing difficulties we have,” Sil­ver said. “This game, as you all know, sold out in less than an hour, and the rea­son it even took 52 min­utes was the lim­i­ta­tion of technology in terms of how fast peo­ple could en­ter their credit cards and buy the tickets. We could eas­ily sell out two games, three games, four games.”

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