AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Four NBA teams will hold training camps overseas and play preseason games against top European clubs in both 2006 and 2007, NBA commissioner David Stern announced Tuesday night at Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Stern also said the league was considering playing an All-Star game in Paris as part of the NBA’s effort to increase its presence in global markets.
Also, the league is strongly considering playing exhibition games in China and Latin America in 2006.
“What we are doing here tonight, and have done, is to assure that elite athletes will increasingly bounce the ball rather than kick it,” Stern said. “I think we’re increasing the viability of the sport on a global basis.”
The NBA teams, to be determined later, will play and hold training camps in four European cities. In addition, a four-team tournament will be held in a fifth city. It will include two NBA teams, as well as the defending Euroleague champion and runner-up.
The NBA’s last visit to Europe was in 2003 for the NBA Europe Games, which featured a preseason game between the San Antonio Spurs and the Memphis Grizzlies at Bercy Arena in Paris. Teams also traveled to Milan, Berlin, Seville, London, Barcelona, Bologna and Munich during the 1990s, and European clubs played exhibitions against the NBA’s Toronto Raptors this past preseason.
The new plans take the NBA’s European wanderlust to a new level. With teams holding training camps overseas, they would presumably be on the road for as long as a two-week stretch before returning to North America.
“There was a time when the idea of an NBA team playing an exhibition game in Europe was just going through the motions. Now the question will be whether our teams have enough training camp under their belts to play and win in Europe,” Stern said.
Stern would not disclose the exact sites being considered, or the teams that have been receptive to opening camps in Europe.
“If you began to guess at large European cities, and teams that have some sort of international flavor, you could begin to sort of see the list from which we are working,” Stern said, adding that a final decision on cities and teams should be made by October.
Stern also said the NBA had asked to see a copy of the building specifications for a proposed arena in Paris. The league is already giving serious consideration to holding its 2007 All-Star game in Las Vegas, but taking it overseas would present a number of new logistical difficulties that the league is currently reviewing.
“It certainly is on the table for discussion,” Stern said.
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