Teams will likely play two exhibition games in Europe
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- In its next step toward future overseas expansion, the NBA will announce Tuesday that it is sending four teams to Europe in October 2006 to stage their training camps and play exhibition games against top teams from the Euroleague, ESPN.com has learned.
The San Antonio Spurs, according to league sources, are expected to be one of the four NBA participants, with rough plans calling for the NBA teams to play at least two games on the trip after their weeklong camps -- one against a Euroleague club and the other against NBA opposition.
The NBA is just starting the process of securing its four-team contingent, settling on the European cities they'll go to and working out which Euroleague clubs will participate. Firm details, sources say, could take months to finalize, since the project is for the 2006-07 season -- not next season.
The Spurs are a natural choice given their United Nations-inspired roster. Point guard Tony Parker is from France, reserves Beno Udrih and Rasho Nesterovic are Slovenian, and Argentinean star guard Manu Ginobili made his name in Italy before coming to San Antonio.
Israeli power Maccabi Tel-Aviv has won the past two Euroleague championships, including last month's title in Moscow against Tau Ceramica Vitoria. The other Final Four participants were Panathinaikos of Greece and hosts CSKA Moscow.
NBA commissioner David Stern continues to express hope that his league can establish two to four franchises in Europe in the next decade. The plan to send teams there for training camp and exhibitions is viewed in the league office as a natural next step for seeing how NBA teams cope with logistics such as transatlantic travel and European time changes.
The NBA started traveling to Europe in 1988 when the Boston Celtics played in Madrid. Over the next couple years, league champions traveled around the continent playing in Paris and Milan, Italy. The Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings played two preseason games this season in China, and regular-season games have previously been played in Japan.
The matchups will be called "NBA Europe Live" and will be sponsored by video game maker EA Sports, which is looking to expand its powerful name in Europe. EA is the sixth company to have an international sponsorship with the NBA. The others are Li Ning (Chinese footwear company), McDonald's, Nokia (in China); China Mobile and Gatorade (Philippines and Mexico).