The NBA is coming to England, and more specifically London’s O2 Arena as the New York Knicks take on the Washington Wizards on Thursday night.
The world’s leading basketball league is making its annual appearance on British soil for the seventh straight season.
The match-up is expected to attract a sell-out crowd, and will no doubt go a long way to raising the profile of the NBA in the UK.
Ahead of Thursday’s game, we take a look at how both teams has been faring this season.
New York, New York
The Knicks have been a poor franchise for the past several years and haven’t made the playoffs since Carmelo Anthony led them there in 2013.
With mismanagement in the front office and a number of poor trades, the Knicks are well and truly in a rebuilding phase. They hired highly-rated coach David Fizdale at the start of this season, and his focus has been on the development of young players. It’s worth noting that star player Kristaps Porzingis has been absent through injury, as he recovers from an ACL tear.
Their overall record for the regular season is 10-33, which is tied with the Chicago Bulls for the second worst in the league. If the season were to end today, it would give the Knicks the joint-highest odds of landing the No 1 pick in the 2019 Draft. Considering the Knicks are in a rebuilding phase, you could argue that this would be the best scenario for them.
One thing that David Fizdale can be credited for is the fact he has brought back some fighting spirit to the franchise. Despite being a young team, Fizdale’s Knicks battle till the end and the team has had its moments this season.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 14, 2019
Rookie Kevin Knox, who was selected ninth in 2018 Draft, has been the bright spark for New York after a difficult start to life in the Big Apple. However, he has begun to see more opportunities of late and scored 31 points against the Philadelphia 76ers – New York’s final match before the London game.
Just one win in their last 10 games however is ultimately why the Knicks will take the court at The O2 as underdogs.
Wizards Playoff Bound?
Not many would have predicted a season ending injury to star player John Wall would be the catalyst for the Wizards season.
They started the season poorly, winning only three of their opening 10 games. However, the injury to the all-star has allowed shooting guard Bradley Beal to step up and become the leader of the team in Wall’s absence.
A monumental effort against the Toronto Raptors saw Beal score 43 points in a double-overtime loss, but it ultimately showed how the man from Missouri is relishing the challenge.
A huge win against the Milwaukee Bucks preceded the Toronto game, where Beal racked up 32 points, and he had a helping hand from veteran Trevor Ariza, who scored 20, after his mid-December trade from Phoenix in December. Since his arrival in the capital, Ariza has provided the experience in the locker room that perhaps the Wizards needed to get their season back on track.
For all the struggles earlier on in the season, the Wizards only find themselves two games and one place behind Charlotte, who occupy the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. In Beal, they have a player who can take them there and the Wizards will hope he leads the charge on Thursday.