For the first time in the history of the franchise, the Atlanta Hawks will play a regular season NBA game outside of North America. The team issued a release on Tuesday announcing that the Hawks would square off with the Brooklyn Nets on January 16, 2014 at the O2 Arena in London, England.
Things have come full circle for the Atlanta franchise, as they were the part of the first games to take place in London when they played two preseason contests in the city in 1993. Frankly, it is a fantastic opportunity for increased exposure, and the opponent (Brooklyn) could certainly help in raising the profile of the game itself.
It is hard to estimate “impact” of such a contest, but I can’t see any negatives to taking the game. Yes, there will be increased travel rigors surrounding that particular week, but from Atlanta, it isn’t that much different to fly to London than to fly to Portland to take on the Blazers in the Rose Garden. Throw in the fact that the schedule makers will build in buffer time surrounding the game for press time and commitments, and the scheduling impact is minimal.
On the team side, general manager Danny Ferry was quoted as saying:
“Playing in London will be a special experience for our players and coaches, and we are proud to represent Atlanta in front of an international audience.”
While that is certainly a generic statement (we shouldn’t be shocked by that), it certainly seems like a great opportunity for the players and coaches. The game will be broadcast both nationally and internationally (details to come, but my guess is ESPN), and the level of focus on a single regular-season game will be much higher than the normal standard.
The game is nearly 7 months away, but this is an exciting move for the franchise.