Big names such as Luol Deng and LeBron James say they’ve have already put a summer trip to Manchester in their diaries as they gear up for the Olympic Games. And the city is targetting more NBA stars to pay a visit.

Chicago Bulls forward Deng, who will spearhead Great Britain’s challenge at London 2012, has admitted it is going to be a huge challenge for the national side when they take on the United States in an Olympic warm-up at the Manchester Arena on July 19.

The friendly will mark a reunion for the 26-year-old Londoner with his former college coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is now in charge of the gold medal favourites. The pair still keep in contact, nine years after Deng left Duke University to seek his fortune in the professional ranks. But the Bulls star doesn’t expect GB to give his mentor sleepless nights.

“I don’t think he’s worried about that,” said Deng. “I’m excited though. I’ve never played against Coach K since I left Duke. But I’m really excited not only for me but for British basketball. Years ago we didn’t have a team. Now we’re warming up against the USA and it’s exciting.”

Deng will take on fellow All Stars

Miami Heat star James, who has twice won the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, reckons it will be a tie to remember when he takes on Deng. “He’s a great player who deserves to be an All Star,” he said. “So it’s going to be fun to play him over there.”

Meanwhile representatives from Manchester City Council, in attendance in Orlando, have confirmed that they are pushing the NBA to bring a regular season game to the city in 2014.

Two games between the Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets, scheduled to take place in London next month, were cancelled after the NBA season started three months late due to the lockout.

However officials have been given renewed assurances that Manchester will still stage a pre-season contest next year. And now they will step up their bid to land a competitive tie.

“We are keen to have a meaningful relationship with the NBA year on year after 2013,” said Neil Fairlamb, the council’s head of sport.

“We want a regular season game. We like the pre-season stuff but we want a competitive game and we’re talking to the NBA about what might be possible.  We’re going to be in discussions with them.”

The city is also prepared to offer assistance to Manchester Giants if the club has its franchise application accepted by the BBL and joins the league next season.

The city is considering whether to build a basketball facility that could give the team a permanent home. But Fairlamb says grassroots development matters most.

“The potential for professional basket to come back to Manchester is important,” he underlined. “But not as important as having a grassroots pathway for young people to progress. What the Amaechi Centre has done over the last ten years is phenomenal with 10000 players a week coming through.

“A lot has gone onto get scholarships to the States and onto international level. But for me it’s about the system from the school to communities and clubs. Professional clubs are at the top end. Manchester’s been missing that. And it’s important to have the aspiration there. But it’s not necessary for the system to work.”

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login