NBA Commissioner Considers Regular-Season Games In Europe

Monday, October 8th 2007, 10:37 am
By: News On 6

ROME (AP) _ The NBA is staging another successful preseason tour in Europe. Regular-season games on the continent are the next step.

``I think that time is coming closer,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said Sunday at halftime of the Toronto Raptors win over Virtus Lottomatica Roma. ``That has historically been a matter of euros. It costs many euros to buy a game from a regular season because our teams do so well.

``But with the new O2 Arena in London, with the new arena in Berlin, with the proposed arena in Rome, Europe is beginning to develop buildings that look much like the ones that we have in the United States, and those buildings will yield more revenue for such a game.''

Real Madrid also has plans for a modern facility in the Spanish capital.

The NHL recently played its first regular-season games in Europe at the O2 and the NFL will play a regular-season game at the rebuilt Wembley Stadium when the Miami Dolphins face the New York Giants on Oct. 28.

The NBA has played regular-season games in Japan and Mexico, along with a recent exhibition game in China with a mix of league stars. It was the first league to export its brand and league officials have flirted for years with the idea of European expansion, although Stern said that's still a way off.

``Not in the short term, but those very same buildings I referred to, to the extent that they become NBA-ready buildings, I suspect there will be more conversation, gossip and speculation about that prospect,'' Stern said Sunday.

On Wednesday, the Boston Celtics and star player Kevin Garnett will face the Minnesota Timberwolves at the O2 in London. The Memphis Grizzlies are also playing in Spain.

However, the NBA still needs to increase its fan base in Europe before establishing a franchise, Stern said. Most basketball fans in Europe are kids, Stern said, adding that ``those younger fans will age into a category when they have disposable income.''

``I think that we still have to develop _ and that's why we're here,'' the commissioner said.

The Raptors-Roma game was not sold out. The attendance was 9,823, smaller than the capacity crowd of 11,118 that attended the Raptors-Celtics game a night earlier at the Palalottomatica.

``We had a full house in Istanbul (Saturday) with Efes Pilsen against Minnesota,'' Stern said. ``The real lesson may be that you need a night off between games. It's not about the place. I think it's really just a question of Saturday night vs. Sunday night games back-to-back. And also a gentlemen by the name of Kevin Garnett.''

When Garnett was introduced before Saturday's game, the crowd cheered for him even louder than the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani, who was born in Rome.

``We need to develop a revenue model that works, both as to ticket pricing and television rights fees,'' Stern said, getting back to European expansion. ``But in the meantime, nothing we do is meant to be against that eventuality, it just all helps the game grow.''

Stern said he also enjoys the development of the international game.

``I just remember when people laughed in 1992 when I said that the gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world would close,'' he said. ``You only need to look at the Toronto Raptors roster to see the internationalization of the game at every level.''

Besides Bargnani, the Raptors feature the Spanish players Jose Calderon and Jorge Garbajosa, Carlos Delfino of Argentina and Rasho Nesterovic of Slovenia.

Also, Bargnani became the first European selected with the top pick in last year's draft, Dirk Nowitzki of Germany was the league MVP and Tony Parker of France was the MVP in the finals.

``That highlights the contributions being made to our game by international basketball,'' Stern said.