LONDON -- The NBA is sending two of its biggest foreign-born stars back home to play preseason games in Europe, and is also giving fans in London a chance to see "the world's best-known basketball team."
The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves each will play two games in the fifth installment of the NBA's preseason Europe Live Tour. The 2009 champion Lakers will face the Timberwolves at the O2 Arena in London on Oct. 4, then play Barcelona in Spain three days later.
The Knicks will take on Armani Jeans Milano in Milan, Italy, on Oct. 3 and then play the Timberwolves three days later in Paris at the Bercy Arena.
Lakers center Pau Gasol was born in Barcelona and played for the team before moving to the NBA in 2001.
"We like to bring the hometown player back to have his fans, and given the popularity of Pau in Spain, particularly Catalunya, we think that's a great idea," NBA commissioner David Stern said Tuesday on a conference call.
For the Knicks, there are two reasons to play in Milan. Forward Danilo Gallinari is a Milan native and played in the Italian city before signing with New York, and Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni played and coached there.
"There is this gentleman named Gallinari on the Knicks, and it would appear that playing the team for which Mike D'Antoni played would be a good idea," Stern said.
Although this is fifth straight year the NBA is playing preseason games in Europe, the British capital will be hosting a game for the fourth year in a row. Last season, British standout Luol Deng and the Chicago Bulls took the court at the O2.
"It is hard to follow Luol, but bringing the world's best-known basketball team to the O2 is a good idea," Stern said of the Lakers. "We think we've come up with a good solution."
Stern has been saying for years that he expects to play a regular-season game in London before the 2012 Olympics, and he reiterated Tuesday that he still plans to make it happen.
"I'm sticking with my projection," said Stern, who also let slip that the NBA will send more teams to London in 2011. "Don't ask me for any more details, but I make that statement totally expecting to deliver on it."