Raptors hit the court in U.K.

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:55 PM ET

LONDON — Part of NBA history or playing the role of guinea pigs in a grand NBA experiment?

You can look at this trip either way if you are a member of the Toronto Raptors or New Jersey Nets.

The two teams will square off Friday and Saturday at the 02 Arena, the first time regular season NBA competition has occurred outside of North America.

Teams have played exhibitions here, the Nets as recent 2008 when the Heat and Nets played pre-season exhibitions in both Paris and London.

But never in the middle of the season have two teams been asked to make a 6 1/2 hour flight and turn their clocks back five hours to bring in-season NBA basketball to Europe.

David Stern has visions of a global NBA and you know he’ll be watching — even if he isn’t here although he did send his deputy commissioner Adam Silver — to see how a couple of teams handle everything that comes with playing a game this far away from home.

The league has ensured the two teams will have time to get their body clocks acclimated with two full practice days before they play a game.

On that score, the Nets are slightly ahead having arrived Tuesday. The Raps played Tuesday night and then flew overnight to London on an NBA-provided 737 that was significantly bigger than the jet the team normally flies on if lacking in some of the amenities like extra leg room for 7-footers or even a power source so the coaching staff can get some of their tape work out of the way.

The Nets will also have the advantage of an extra day once they get back home as they don’t play until next Wednesday following the two games here. The Raps get going again Tuesday.

Either way, no one seemed tremendously put off by any of it as the two sides took turns — the Nets at lunch time, the Raptors about five hours later — on the O2 basketball court for their first respective practices.

Admitting he has no idea how this will effect his team, Triano did suggest it’s not as taxing as it might first appear.

“Our flight was just slightly longer than a flight from Toronto to L.A,” he said. “That’s not bad. It’s just a little longer than usual and we also have another day to get used to things.”

Not even the temptations of a brand new playground for a bunch of young millionaires should be a concern according to Raptor rookie Ed Davis.

“No, not really because we play in different cities all year long and head out to restaurants and malls and see family,” he said.

Jose Calderon, who expects to have about 18 friends and family make the trip over from Spain admitted yesterday, the team’s first full day in London was a little tough, especially for those who weren’t able to sleep on the plane coming over, but said everything should be back to normal by Thursday.

Kim Vande Velde of NBA Europe, which is hosting the event, said Saturday’s game has already been sold out and Friday’s tilt is nearing a sellout of the 18,559-seat arena that boasts 25 bars or restaurants and an 11-screen theatre as well.

What impact this mini-series will have on potential NBA expansion outside North America only David Stern can say.

Perhaps the only setback so far is the lack of media coverage this game is going to have back in New Jersey.

Budget concerns have resulted in all the newspapers that regularly cover this game opting out of the six-day, two game trip. The team has it’s own website reporter with them and have set up daily conference calls with their beat guys to keep them up to speed but game coverage will be sorely lacking either way.

Two of the four newspapers that cover the Raptors regularly in Toronto are here in London.

Just one more thing for Stern to consider as he weighs the pros and cons of expanding outside North America.


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