The Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets played the first of their London twinbill last night, capturing the imaginations of observers from both sides of the Atlantic to various degrees. In advance of game two (or game 62/63, depending on how you look at it), BallinEurope brings you some bullets’ worth of highlights, factoids and reportage on last night’s show.
• The numbers say that the Nets pulled out a 116-103 victory over Toronto who, in their years-long guise as the Euroraptors, were an obvious choice to play the NBA’s first regular-season game in Europe. Representing the Continent nicely were Team Italy’s Andrea Bargnani and Team Spain’s Jose Calderon; the former went for 23 points while the latter dished 12 assists to go with six points. DeMar DeRozan led all scorers with 30.
• The Nets’ Dan Gadzuric took a DNP for the game, which ESPN noted “was a shame given that his mother Dragoslava and sister Gloria had made the journey over the English Channel from their home in Den Haag in the hope of seeing him play.”
• But now to the YouTube highlights! Here’s a clip of some nice individual efforts, including lots of snazzy work by Brook Lopez on some wicked drives … and all of it overdubbed with the interesting choice of “Black Dream” by Prosperous.
• What would an NBA first be without photo opportunities and promo spot shooting? Best of the self-promotional lot was the bizarre above-posted collage-like get-together – brilliant on so many levels, truly – among Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, London mayor Boris Johnson and a quintet of ladies from the Znaniye-Kalinka Dance Group, a traditional Russian dance ensemble from Baltimore. (No, BiE has no clue why the Baltimore import…) BiE pinched the pic from Canada-based The Star, who ran the laugher along with the dubiously titled “Feschuk: NBA Euro expansion not so far-fetched after all.”
• “All Access” sorta lives up to the moniker by providing this clip to “Go behind the scenes as the Nets and Raptors prepare to make NBA history across the pond.” BiE feels compelled to note the “make NBA history” remark as a bit hyperbolic; yes, technically this is history, but ultimately won’t these games embedded deep into a fruitless season for these teams merely be an oddity of a footnote?
In the clip, Deron Williams comments not of British English but of his new team’s game plans that “It’s almost like you’re learning a new language.” And speaking of learning a new language, check out a tired-looking Avery Johnson giving interviews to seemingly half-comprehending British sports journalists. Avery probably should come with subtitles for U.K. distribution…
• Attending in order to perform a “delivering the ball” pre-game ceremony was soccer stud Didier Drogba of Chelsea; surely, Drogba’s thousand-euro tickets were covered by the league as part of the promotional deal that resulted in this spot preceding the late 2009 NBA exhibition games in England.
• In the short term, the NBA can add proceeds from two sellout crowds of 18,559 but while Commissioner Stern will most likely proclaim the games a brilliant success, the jury may still be a bit out on the impact of this game in future quixotic plans to shape an entire NBA division on The Continent. Al-Jazeera English TV held a fairly skeptical view of the proceedings.
• In contrast, British sportswriter Jonathan Symcox loved the “night of insanity at the O2.” Proclaiming that “America does everything bigger: cars, hot dogs, waistlines – and sports events,” Symcox enthusiastically describes the jolly good production values of an NBA game over those of Britain’s Premier League football matches; he was gobsmacked in particular by:
“The MC announces they are going to throw ‘free stuff’ into the crowd, and a whole army of people do just that: cheerleaders to music, the mascots with their customary frenzy and those random blokes again, brimming with attitude. The place goes wild, and all for a few sweatbands and T-shirts.
“I love my football, and I have spent hundreds of Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings at freezing lower-league grounds, but what would I rather watch? That, or the old bloke with the scruffy pink holdall chucking a few sweets into the crowd at Huddersfield?
“Well, maybe the football wins out – but there can be no doubt that the NBA does madness better than anyone else, and where everyone can see it, concentrated as everything is upon a relatively small court.”
Finally, Symcox lets us in on the secret highlight from the Raps-Nets “clash,” namely the bit about “the reportedly tipsy Raptors mascot falling over the barrier in the final seconds.” Please, for the love of this game, if anyone has video of this incident, post it to YouTube immediately and contact us. This BiE *has* to see…