Nets, Raptors Tip In London
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LONDON (WFAN / WCBS880 / AP) – After spending just one day in his new apartment, New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams embarked on a trans-Atlantic trip to play a couple of home games in Britain.
And he’s feeling the effects.
“I haven’t had anytime to just sit down somewhere and relax,” Williams said Wednesday, a week after being traded from the Utah Jazz and two days before the first regular-season NBA games to be played in Europe.
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“I haven’t had much time, been in my place for one day,” Williams said. “I’ve done a lot of traveling over the last six days.”
On Friday, Williams will take the court with his new teammates from the Nets (17-43), this time against the Toronto Raptors (17-44) at London’s O2 Arena. The teams will play again Saturday night.
“There’s a lot of young talent on this team. It is a young team,” Williams said. “The last 20 games will help us get used to each other and I think things will turn around for next year.”
Williams’ impact has already been felt by his new teammates, and his home debut on Monday in Newark looked to be a big step in the right direction.
Williams had 13 points and a season-high 18 assists, including five in rallying New Jersey from a seven-point deficit late in the fourth quarter of New Jersey’s 104-103 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns.
“He’s great,” shooting guard Sasha Vujacic said of his new teammate. “Obviously we’ll need some time to get used to each other – it’s not going to happen over night – but just to have him, to have someone who knows how to play point guard … it’s just great addition to us and we are building a team for the future.”
The Nets arrived in London on Tuesday morning, taking an overnight flight after the loss to the Suns.
For Vujacic, a Slovene drafted by Los Angeles Lakers in 2004, the trip may not be all that exotic, but it still takes some getting over.
“Honestly, travel is terrible. It takes a lot out of you,” Vujacic said. “It takes your legs away, especially for the shooters. Sometimes it’s very tricky, but we have to learn how to live with it.”
The Raptors landed Wednesday morning, but already had their first practice at the O2 in the afternoon.
“The idea for the first day is just to go up and down a little bit, get the blood flowing a little bit and try to get them on the correct sleep pattern,” Raptors coach Jay Triano said. “We’ll try to get as much rest as we can today.”
Raptors guard Jose Calderon of Spain also is used to the overseas flights, but that doesn’t make it any easier for him to prepare for big games.
“Always the first day, it’s kind of tough when you arrive in Europe after the flight,” said Calderon, who scored a season-high 22 points in Toronto’s 96-90 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday. “But we’ll be OK. … We just got to practice a little bit, sweat, and be ready for tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep, and from there we’ll be ready for Friday.”
Despite the travel and fatigue issues, Vujacic still believes it is possible that an NBA franchise could be based in Europe one day.
“I think it’s about time,” said Vujacic, who is expecting friends and family from all over the Europe to be at the games. “It’s just a matter of time when it’s going to happen. The game is so interesting. It’s so easy to fall in love with it.”
Raptors center Andrea Bargnani, who is from Italy, is less convinced.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen. The flight today was long, the jet lag is tough,” Bargnani said. “I hope it’s not going to happen. It’s more fun to come over here once a year like this, but to come here often with our schedule is pretty tough.”
The NBA has not set a timeline of putting a permanent team in Europe, but Commissioner David Stern did come through after saying for years that he wanted regular-season games in London before the 2012 Olympics in the city.
For Williams, that likely means another trip to London next July as a member of the U.S. national team.
“I plan to be back over here for the Olympics,” Williams said. “Hopefully get my second gold medal.”
Updated March 2, 2011
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