The Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic are coming to the Big Smoke to face off in the NBA’s annual regular season match at the O2 Arena, London and Raptors coach Dwayne Casey and co-captain DeMar DeRozan took some time out of their preparation to speak to the press. The 6th consecutive sold out NBA Global Games takes place next Thursday and both are understandably excited about the opportunity to duel with the Magic in front of an equally excited sold out arena across the pond.
What was clear from both is that there is a sense that the game will be exciting – and neither are surprised that the Magic (or the Eastern Conference in general for that matter) are exceeding expectations heading into the season. “They’ve had a lot of talent in the last couple of years and all they needed was the experience, getting comfortable playing with each other and coming together as a team,” DeRozan said when questioned on the subject. “I think this time around they just have the confidence and the understanding that they are a good team, so for me it’s really not a surprise.” Similarly, a respectful Casey noted that ” they’re an excellent up and coming young team and it’s going to be a tough match for us.”
On the subject of the Eastern Conference, DeRozan also agreed with us about it being the conference in the ascendancy. “Over the years there have been a lot of very talented teams in the East that just didn’t have the experience that they needed. Over time, once you get used to have that playing experience, you bring all that together and all that make you a better team, and you see it all coming together in the East now.” Casey also agreed that the teams out East have done a great job developing their talent and that the defense/offense balance of the teams as well as the increase in experience and readiness to compete in the young prospects and well built teams has created a perfect storm that has led to a very turbulent play-off picture this season; the Orlando Magic themselves exemplify this growth.
The pair are also looking forward to getting to see London and interact with fans and communities over here. A lot of players are bringing their families along for the trip and, with just 1 game in 9 days, they will get to spend some quality time exploring the sites and get some quality practice time in too (normally a rarity in the middle of the NBA’s grueling 82 game schedule). When asked how the team were planning on maximising this opportunity, Coach Casey was honest about how hard he was intending to work his players. “We’ll have a couple of days of intense practice. I don’t know how long we can go, but we intend to have a couple of good days of practice there in London, intense because like you’ve said we have a few days together that will give us an opportunity to really get some good practice and we need it. We are trying to incorporate two new starters that are coming back from injuries back into our line-up, so as much practice time as we can get because in the last couple of weeks we’ve had a game/day-off, game/day-off which is not conducive to having a good hard intense practice.”
Beyond the opportunity to work 2 starters back into the line-up, the pair spoke of the team’s excitement to travel and see a new city outside of the regular NBA cities they see throughout the season. DeRozan plans to get out and explore; seeing as much as he can before drinking in the atmosphere at the O2 Arena. “When I played at the O2 Arena fans were so intriguing. Having a game over there, they were cheering for both sides. If a team scores the fans were definitely into the game and that type of energy led to an exciting game and it was extremely fun.”
If you’re lucky enough to have a ticket to the NBA Global Games London next Thursday then we’ll see you there. If not, then Odeon cinemas across the country will be hosting screenings of the game (see the list below to find out if your local Odeon is participating).
The Orlando Magic host the Toronto Raptors at The O2 in London on Jan. 14 as part of NBA Global Games London 2016. The game is live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Showcase or via NBA LEAGUE PASS (www.nba.tv).
List of participating ODEON Cinemas:
Basingstoke Kingston Southampton
Birmingham Broadway Plaza Lee Valley Southend
Blackpool Leeds Stoke
Cardiff Leicester Streatham
Chatham Liverpool One Belfast
Dunfermline Marble Arch Hull
Edinburgh Fort Kinnaird Metrocentre Printworks Manchester
Glasgow Braehead Milton Keynes Stadium Swansea
Greenwich Norwich Telford
Surrey Quays Sheffield Uxbridge