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The Malaysian Insider :: Sports

London sell-out as NBA draws fans in Europe debut

Posted: 04 Mar 2011 05:55 PM PST

LONDON, March 5 —  The New Jersey Nets took the honours in the NBA's first regular season game staged in Europe by beating the Toronto Raptors 116-103 yesterday.

With the Raptors and Nets anchored near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the game will have little significance other than marking another milestone in the NBA's expansion plans.

Brook Lopez led the Nets with 25 points while Toronto's DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 30 in the first of two sell-out games at London's O2 arena. The second game takes place today.

Nets point guard Deron Williams, who was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Utah Jazz late last month, scored 16 points and dished out 11 assists in his team's first win in seven games.

"We were all a little worried about how the trip would affect us, whether fatigue would set in, but we had a lot of energy and definitely some bright spots," Williams told reporters after the game.

London fans were treated to an entertaining match featuring much of the acrobatics and electricity the NBA has come to be known for.

A high-flying slam dunk by Toronto's DeRozan halfway through the first quarter was met with another ferocious jam by Nets centre Lopez a minute later that once again sent the sell-out crowd to their feet.

European franchise?

The league has played a handful of regular season games outside North America since holding its first in Japan in 1990, but had never played any in Europe.

The two London games, along with three recently announced high-profile matches to be played in Manchester over the next 18 months, are part of a push to bring professional basketball to Britain and the rest of Europe ahead of London's 2012 Olympics.

Despite selling out almost every pre-season match played on the continent since 2007, however, a Europe-based NBA franchise looks a long way off.

NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said the league could be a decade away from having a team, let alone an entire division, based in Europe.

"NBA Commissioner David Stern could see it happening within the next 10 years . . . (but) it depends on what we see this weekend (and) how basketball is received during the Olympics," he said.

The influx of European players to the NBA in recent years also influenced the decision to hold this weekend's games.

Combined, Toronto and New Jersey have seven international players on their rosters, with six hailing from Europe.

Mikhail Prokhorov, the billionaire owner of the Nets, also hails from Russia and is the first international NBA franchise owner.

But regardless of the league's growing popularity in Europe, Silver was reluctant to say whether the NBA would commit to playing regular season games there on an annual basis.

"I'm not so sure about every season," he said. — Reuters


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Kolo Toure suspension hits City’s trophy pursuit

Posted: 04 Mar 2011 04:38 PM PST

Central defender Kolo Toure with the scoring touch (left), here celebrating his goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers in Manchester, January 15, 2011. — Reuters pic

MANCHESTER, March 5 — The shock suspension of defender Kolo Toure over a failed drugs test has hit Manchester City when the club were already feeling the strain of chasing three trophies.

The Ivorian faces a ban after the club said on Thursday that he had tested positive for a "specified substance" in an A-sample. He has yet to decide whether to request that the B-sample is tested.

The Football Association, club and anti-doping agency have not given a time frame for the legal process to be completed but coach Roberto Mancini must manage without his former captain for the immediate future at least.

While Joleon Lescott and Jerome Boateng coped well in the heart of defence in the mid-week 3-0 FA Cup win over Aston Villa, they do not have the experience of Toure, which could be vital in their pursuit of the FA Cup, Premier League and Europa League.

Mancini complained last week that he had "only 15 fit players" to cope with a cluttered fixture list and that his players were not "machines", suggesting tiredness would hamper the world's richest club's bid for a first trophy since 1976.

He will hope that Toure's usual central defensive partner Vincent Kompany recovers from a bruised hip in time for today's home league game against Wigan Athletic to ease the impact of the Ivorian's absence even if there is no way of avoiding the inevitable media glare.

The length of Toure's suspension remains uncertain and precedents suggest he could face anything from a small punishment to a lengthy ban if the positive test is confirmed. The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) code stipulates that an athlete can be banned for a maximum of four years.

Wada also says a "specified substance" suggests there could be a "credible non-doping explanation" for its presence. Such an explanation could, for example, be taking a flu remedy containing a banned substance.

Specified substances

Wada adds that specified substances are not necessarily less serious agents for the purposes of sports doping than other prohibited substances.

"For that reason an athlete who does not meet the criteria under this article would receive a two-year period of ineligibility and could receive up to a four-year period of ineligibility under article 10.6," the Wada code says.

If Toure can prove the substance was present for reasons other than to improve performance, any ban is likely to be considerably shorter and he could even be given only a warning.

Former Sheffield United goalkeeper Paddy Kenny served a nine-month ban after testing positive for a banned stimulant in 2009 after proving it had been in a cough medicine he had taken to treat an infection rather than improve performance.

Earlier his year, Hamilton Academical midfielder Simon Mensing served a four-week ban after testing positive for a banned substance found in a dietary supplement.

Toure's peers were stunned by the failed test, particularly as he is known to be a devout Muslim who does not drink alcohol.

"Just read Kolo Toure failed a drugs test . . . Jeeeez, I didn't see that coming," Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand, who served an eight-month ban for missing a doping test in 2003, wrote on Twitter. "Gonna read up to find out more detail . . ." — Reuters


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