Gameday Dish: Nets, Raptors, Chips and Ale

The NBA comes to Europe on Friday and Saturday: two games, two teams – one from New Jersey, U.S.A. and the other from Toronto, Canada. The Russian-owned Nets currently have three non-US born players on their roster. The Raptors have six players who were born overseas. In fact, about 20 percent of the 450 players in the league this 2010-2011 season started their hoops journeys outside of the 50 and D.C.

The National Basketball Association has maintained a global presence for at least 25 years. Games are broadcast in over 200 countries and it is now accepted in sports as well as advertising discussions that Dr. Naismith’s recreational invention is second only to soccer in popularity and fandom on Earth.

Friday at 8:00 PM Greenwich Mean Time and 24 hours later on Saturday, the Nets play ‘host’ to the Raptors in London, England for a historical back-to-back set overseas. These Eastern Conference, Atlantic Division squads will compete in the very first regular season games in Europe. The games will be broadcast live at 3:00 PM ET in both NJ and Ontario back in North America.

The Nets are 17-43 and on a six-game skid. However, in Newark this past Monday they almost snagged one for the left-hand column, losing to the Phoenix Suns 104-103 in an overtime heartbreaker. Newly acquired All-Star PG Deron Williams had a season-high 18 dimes in the Suns’ contest, his third since he was traded to the East and his first at the Prudential Center.

In fact, the sixth-year lead guard must feel a little like he’s still in the West since his first two games under coach Avery Johnson were against the Spurs and Rockets. Friday’s international setting at London’s famed O2 Arena will be the one-time Final Four Fighting Illini’s first taste of an intra-Atlantic Division 48 minutes, appropriately located on the other side of THE Atlantic.

The Raptors, with ballers from France, Spain, Italy and Lithuania, beat New Jersey on December 17th in Toronto 98-92. Fifth-year player and first overall pick of the 2006 draft Andrea Bargnani, a Roman, was the high scorer in that game with 32 points. Sixth-year PG Jose Calderon, proud son of Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, handed out 14 dimes in the victory.

London is hosting the Games of the XXX Olympiad in the summer of 2012. The English sports scene is normally a crowded, heated, rivalrous setting. And with the added buzz, anticipation and global attention already beginning to focus on the ‘The Square Mile’(London) and ‘The Old Dart’(England) for the upcoming premier quadrennial sporting event, the atmosphere is prime for the NBA’s first official foray into Europe.

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