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News » Utah Jazz in London: From John Deere to Downing Street


Utah Jazz in London: From John Deere to Downing Street


Utah Jazz in London: From John Deere to Downing Street London ? Nearly two decades after the Jazz opened the 1990-91 season in Japan, Jerry Sloan still considers the trip one of the greatest challenges of his coaching career, even more than facing Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.

While the NBA made history as the first American sports league to play regular-season games outside of North America, Sloan dreaded the prospect of traveling halfway around the world just to come home with an 0-2 record.

Even after the Jazz returned to Utah, having split two games against Phoenix, Sloan was left with a team that he felt looked as if it had spent a full season on the road already. He didn't hold practice for a month as his players recovered.

"Maybe I made too big a deal out of it, but I could see our players looked like they were running in mud," Sloan said, adding, "We came out of it all right, but it was really frustrating, because I'd never experienced anything like that before."

No surprise then that the Jazz -- whose tastes are more Boise, Idaho, than Buckingham Palace, more John Deere than Downing Street -- are viewing this week's preseason trip to Europe with a certain amount of trepidation.

The Jazz will arrive in London this morning and play the Bulls on Tuesday at The O2 arena before heading to Spain for a Thursday game against Real Madrid. They are making the trip as part of the NBA's fourth-annual Europe Live Tour.

"When you take people out of their routine ... you concern yourself with it," general manager Kevin O'Connor said, noting that the Jazz will return home nearly three weeks ahead of their Oct. 28 season opener against Denver.

"We've got enough time to assimilate ourselves back into going on the road, playing back-to-back games, coming back and all that stuff."

At the same time, O'Connor admitted, "You get a little nutty with it," as he consulted other general managers about the trip and even went back to research the records of teams that had gone to Europe in the preseason.

From that, O'Connor could only conclude that every team is different. Some endured disappointing seasons while the Celtics went on to win the 2008 championship after holding training camp in Rome.

For the small-market Jazz , the five-day trip offers a chance at international exposure -- with decidedly less pressure than the trip to Japan in 1990 -- as well as a homecoming of sorts for Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur.

"It's going to be good to be over there, promote us, promote our brands, and give people a chance in another country to see the Utah Jazz play," Deron Williams said. "I'm sure they probably see us in Russia and Turkey, but some other places."

Between the architecture, the soccer and the shops and restaurants, Kirilenko considers London one of his favorite cities. He has plans to see today's Chelsea-Liverpool game and will have 15 friends from Moscow coming to watch the Jazz play.

"I'm definitely excited," Kirilenko said. "I'm a little bit concerned about Basketball part, because nobody really cares about Basketball there, but I hope we can change it."

As part of a trip to promote the games this summer, Williams attended a youth games event in London and met fans who were more than knowledgeable about the Jazz .

"A lot of them knew my stats, so it was pretty crazy," said Williams, who is expected to be part of the U.S. Olympic team at the 2012 London Games.

This week will mark the first overseas trip for several players and first trip to Europe for the 67-year-old Sloan. C.J. Miles was planning to bring a video camera, even if sightseeing will be limited with a full schedule of practices and games.

"I want to see everything, so I'm going to try to get as much in as I can," Miles said.

"It's going to be a fun trip," Paul Millsap added, "but also we're going to get out there and take care of business."

(Asked about his tourist plans, Sloan said, "I hadn't planned to do anything but sleep maybe.")

The Jazz originally were scheduled to travel to Russia in October 2004, but the trip was canceled due to security concerns. Two years later, they watched as the Los Angeles Clippers were chosen to play in Russia, despite Kirilenko's popularity.

Although the Jazz withdrew from future consideration after the decision to send the Clippers, the NBA has since changed its rules and requires teams to make a preseason trip if asked.

The Jazz are bringing a full traveling party to Europe, including members of their dance team and stat crew. NBA commissioner David Stern is scheduled to attend Tuesday's game.

The Bulls, however, will be the featured attraction in London, with forward Luol Deng a member of Great Britain's national team. It also will be Carlos Boozer's first game against Chicago since he expressed interest in a trade to the Bulls this summer.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, is home to former Brigham Young forward Travis Hansen, who praised the Jazz in an interview with Euroleague.net.

"Out of all the teams in the NBA, Utah is definitely one that plays a European style, where every possession is golden, there are lots of pick-and-rolls, hard team defense and team-oriented play," Hansen said. "That kind of team would fit well here in Europe."

rsiler@sltrib.com The Jazz's European itinerary

The Jazz will be making their first-ever trip to Europe this week as part of the NBA's fourth-annual Europe Live Tour.

Today

Arrive in London

Practice at O2 Arena

Chelsea vs. Liverpool game for Andrei Kirilenko and Co.

Monday

Practice at O2 Arena

Tuesday

Jazz vs. Chicago 12:30 p.m. MDT

Wednesday

Practice at Palacio de Deportes, Madrid, Spain

Thursday

Jazz vs. Real Madrid 12:45 p.m. MDT

Depart Madrid for Salt Lake City after game.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 6, 2009

 

 
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