Canada part of NBA's grand plan
By DAVID LARKINS, QMI Agency
|Timberwolves guard Jose Barea drives past Pistons guard Will Bynum during NBA pre-season action at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Man., Oct. 24, 2012. (JASON HALSTEAD/QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Better than any of the four major sports leagues, the NBA has grown its game internationally and this year has not left Canada out of that plan.
The pre-season game at MTS Centre Wednesday between the Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves is just one of many on the league’s exhibition schedule in any given year played outside of traditional NBA markets.
Pre-season games were played in Mexico, China and Europe this year, and Winnipeg was the lone stop in Western Canada for its two-game NBA Canada endeavor.
“We’ve been able to experience over the years playing in different venues that doesn’t have an NBA team and there’s been great, warm receptions, so we expect the same (in Winnipeg),” Pistons veteran Tayshaun Prince said Wednesday morning. “For fans who don’t get a chance to see us, man, it’s just a wonderful feeling I know for them to be able to see us live for the first time. The game is expanding so it’s a wonderful feeling to play for people who only watch us on TV.” The game is flourishing in Canada, with five Canucks drafted into the NBA in the past two seasons and a slew of blue-chip up-and-comers giving hope to the nation’s basketball fans.
Pistons centre Greg Monroe is all for generating any kind of buzz the league can north of the border.
“Especially with some of the young players in the league right now from Canada,” he said, “and people like Steve Nash also, it’s just going to make it better. We already have a team in Canada, so I think as long as the game is spreading, and being spread the right way, I think it’s a good thing.”
For the Timberwolves, the obvious geographic proximity is not lost on franchise that has surely seen the inroads the NFL’s Vikings have made with fans on this side of the border.
“Yeah that’s something we would like to have,” guard Brandon Roy, originally drafted by Minnesota and now making his comeback from knee injuries in the Twin Cities, said. “For us it was like a 58-minute flight. So it’s like, man, if we could reel in some new fans and make an even bigger market for our franchise, and this is somewhere I hope to be for the rest of my career, that’d be great.”