Wednesday, March 25, 2009
London's Deng to play at home
LONDON -- The NBA is sending Luol Deng back home for a preseason game in the British capital.
The Chicago forward, who grew up in London after his family fled conflict-torn Sudan, is expected to play for the Bulls when they face the Utah Jazz on Oct. 6 at the O2 Arena as the NBA heads to Europe for a preseason tour for the fourth straight year.
"It has always been my dream to play for the Bulls in London," Deng said Wednesday in a statement given to The Associated Press. "They were the team I supported as a kid growing up and I am looking forward to playing in front of my hometown family and friends."
The league officially announced the game Wednesday.
The Bulls, who also have British player Ben Gordon on the roster, last played in Europe in 1997 when Michael Jordan led the team to the McDonald's Championship title with a 104-78 win over European champion Olympiakos in Paris.
A second game on this year's NBA Europe Live Tour will be announced at a later date, with the Jazz expected to play a yet to be named opponent.
Last year, the Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards played two games each, but only against each other, in London, Paris, Barcelona and Berlin. In 2006 and '07, teams including the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs played both local and other NBA teams around the continent.
The NBA says it has 77 international players from 32 countries and territories on its rosters, and commissioner David Stern said last year that the league likely would play regular-season games in London before the city hosts the 2012 Olympics.
Although the NBA is still playing only preseason games in Europe, the NHL is opening its season on the continent for the third straight year, with the Detroit Red Wings facing the St. Louis Blues in Stockholm on Oct. 2-3 and the Chicago Blackhawks playing the Florida Panthers in Helsinki on the same dates.
The NFL is also playing a regular-season game in Europe for the third straight year, with the New England Patriots playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 25 at Wembley Stadium in London.