Stern still eyes NBA game in London

Updated: October 7, 2009, 10:29 AM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The NBA is still planning to play a regular-season game in London before the 2012 Olympics are hosted by the British capital, although commissioner David Stern said Tuesday that there is no set schedule.

Stern has said that he wants to play a meaningful game at London's O2 Arena, where the Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz 102-101 in a preseason game Tuesday.

"We hope to do it," Stern said, noting that 2010 and 2011 would be the last chances. "We're running out of runway, but we will likely do it."

The NBA was playing in London for the third straight year, and the game at the O2 was again sold out. Although this year's trip to Europe was cut down from previous visits, the Jazz still have one more game to play on Thursday against Real Madrid in the Spanish capital.

"I'd love to play here," said Bulls forward Luol Deng, who was raised in London after his family fled war-torn Sudan. "I won't be surprised if that happens."

The NBA is also playing preseason games in other countries, including Taiwan and Mexico.

Stern also spoke about the global economic downturn and the talks with the referees union. The NBA has locked out the regular referees because of a contract dispute.

"As far as I know, there have been no further conversations with the union," Stern said. "Right now we are not discussing anything with the union, but they know how to reach us."

Last year, Stern said there would be cutbacks at the NBA because of the financial crisis, but this year he said his organization had been hiring overseas employees.

"We have been hiring. Stealth hiring, so don't tell anybody," said Stern, who would only say the NBA has hired more than 10 and less than 50 new people in the last year. "Suffice it to say that we've made a number of hires with respect to international."

Stern also said that revenues would be down, but that was because teams have been lowering ticket prices to accommodate fans who are also suffering from the bad economy.

"Revenues will be down somewhere between 2.5 and 5 percent," said Stern, who then noted that the NBA was doing a good job of weathering the crisis. "We feel pretty good about our place at this difficult time."

The 2012 Olympics has long been seen as a way to spread the word of basketball in London and beyond, but Stern also said that he would likely follow up the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with expansion on that continent.

"Kids around the world are watching our game," Stern said. "They watch the great players and they say, 'I want to be like them.'"

Stern also talked about Michael Jordan's speech at the Hall of Fame, when the former Bulls great mentioned several people that may have slighted him in the past.

"He looks for the motivation -- not uncommon in our league," Stern said. "And I think that is what drove him to probably be the greatest competitor in the history of our game."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press