NBA taking its stars on the road for exhibition matches

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NBA taking its stars on the road for exhibition matches

PARIS - National Basketball Association heavyweights the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves will play a series of preseason exhibition matches in Europe in October, organizers announced on Tuesday.

Euroleague teams Regal FC Barcelona and AJ Milano will provide the opposition over four matches taking place in Milan, London, Paris and Barcelona.

The Knicks kick off the tour with a match against AJ Milano in Milan on Oct. 3, with the Lakers meeting the Timberwolves in an all-NBA affair at London’s 02 Arena the day after.

The Timberwolves will play the Knicks at Paris’s Bercy Arena on Oct. 6 and the tour will conclude with a matchup between the Lakers and Regal FC Barcelona in the Catalan capital on Oct. 7.

“NBA Europe Live and the return of NBA teams to Europe for a fifth consecutive year is a testament to our ongoing commitment to grow the game of basketball and engage our fans in the region,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern, who announced details of the tour in a conference call with journalists from both sides of the Atlantic.

“Through the support of our partners, including EA Sports, the game continues to grow and thrive in Europe, and fans in four cities will be able to witness firsthand the exciting brands of basketball of both the NBA and the Euroleague.”

Stern revealed that a range of “free interactive fan events” will take place in each host city, as the tour aims to extend the NBA’s market appeal in Europe and encourage more youngsters to take up the sport.

“Italy is now contributing world-class basketball players, and as Italian fans watch their players succeed in the NBA, more youngsters will want to play our game,” said Stern.

“The beauty of what we do is that we do it all over the world and we watch different markets develop at different paces.

“With respect to the United Kingdom, we’re quite happy that participation rates are very high in many age categories - second only to football.

“We think excitement will continue to build as we get closer to the [2012] Olympics [in London] and our fans and potential fans in Great Britain will recognize what a great, easily played and diverse sport basketball is.”

London will be hosting an NBA game for the fourth consecutive year, with the Timberwolves set to return to the O2 Arena after previously playing there in 2007.

The Lakers, whose current roster includes international superstar Kobe Bryant and former Barcelona hero Pau Gasol, will be making their first transatlantic trip since a visit to Paris in 1991, while the Knicks last visited Europe in 1990.

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