Throughout the history of the NBA, the league has been on a mission to expand its global brand. It started with bringing in a handful of international players from the get-go. Following the expansion of foreign players, the NBA turned into a global entity. Former commissioner David Stern tried to increase the connection to the international game by having games played in places such as Spain, China, etc. in the past. Now, thanks to current commissioner Adam Silver and company, three international teams are set to have contests against NBA squads in the U.S. during the preseason.
Nine preseason contests will take place between three international squads and nine NBA squads. Among the international teams, who will take part in the games, are Flamengo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Maccabi Haifa from Haifa, Israel and Maccabi Tel Aviv from Tel Aviv, Israel. The NBA teams participating in the matchups will include the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Sacramento Kings and the Toronto Raptors.
Flamengo made waves this spring when they were crowned the 2014 FIBA Americas League champions. Following their win, they will play Maccabi Tel Aviv for the 2014 Intercontinental Cup in their home of Rio de Janeiro in September. This, of course, is just prior to their contest against the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 8, which will signal their first game against an NBA squad.
Maccabi Haifa’s success comes from being the reigning runner-up of the Super League, in which they defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2012-2013. It was this win that brought the team its first championship since the team began in 1953. These preseason games will mark the fourth time the team has flown to the United States to face an NBA franchise.
Maccabi Tel Aviv is cited as being the reigning Euroleague champion after defeating Real Madrid. What makes the squad significant to the NBA, currently, is that it is the team in which new Cleveland Cavaliers coach, David Blatt, was picked from. Beyond their most recent championship, Maccabi Tel Aviv has solidified itself as one of the most successful European squads of all time, having won six European Championships, one Adriatic Championship, five League Cups, as well as an overwhelming 51 Israeli Championships and 41 Israeli Cups.
These games should help bolster the international play between the NBA and the rest of the world. Beyond the nine games, which will be played on U.S. and Canadian soil, there will be nine franchises playing seven games in six countries. These games include the San Antonio Spurs against Alba Berlin as well as Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul in Berlin and Turkey. Additionally, there will be three NBA competitive games, where the Cleveland Cavaliers will play the Miami Heat in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Brooklyn Nets will go up against the Sacramento Kings in Shanghai and Beijing, China.
This increased global initiative set forth by the NBA is an excellent opportunity for the NBA to expand its popularity to other countries, who may have an increased interest, by seeing their home teams facing new competition, i.e. NBA teams, in a rare scenario.
On the flip side, with the NBA always looking for future talent, playing against three top-notch international teams could, likely, result in new talent. While it is not the purpose of these games, it is highly likely that many NBA scouts will watch these preseason games closely, in hopes to draft future European prospects, in the future.
Regardless of the reason behind having international teams playing NBA squads, Silver appears determined to continue the mission of his predecessor, David Stern, to increase the awareness of the league globally. Now, with an increase of international play during the upcoming preseason, with NBA teams to have contests against international teams, there may be an added level of interest in the October games.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey