Sixers pitch playing NBA games in Australia, Africa

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Philadelphia 76ers star rookie guard Ben Simmons wants to see the NBA play games in his native Australia.

LONDON — The 76ers are hopeful their participation in the NBA global basketball games will continue.

They would love to make appearances in Africa and Australia.

“We let the league know we are interested and a willing participant in events like this,” said team president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, whose squad lost 114-103 to the Boston Celtics in Thursday’s NBA London game at The O2 Arena.

“As they come up, as the opportunities like this come up, we’ll certainly look at those opportunities,” Colangelo continued. “We’ll look at what it might mean to us competitively, what it might mean business development-wise.

“But in the end, we do see ourselves as one of the bright, young, exciting teams in the league. The league must view us that way as well when they might consider us and to talk to us about these opportunities.”

With a head coach who lived in Australia for 17 years and five international players — two of whom are the team’s best players — the Sixers are building a global brand.

They were bombarded with questions from media members from Africa, Australia and all over Europe before their Tuesday and Wednesday practices. They also had fans from all over Europe on hand at The O2.

With Joel Embiid coming from Cameroon and Ben Simmons being a native of Melbourne, Australia, it makes sense why the Sixers would want to play in those countries.

But it’s not likely to happen anytime soon, if at all.

“The issue [with playing in Australia] is that the resources involved in bringing teams across the world are so great that it’s not — I wish it were a little bit larger market from a scale standpoint it terms of bringing a game,” NBA  commissioner Adam Silver said of Australia, which has a population of around 24.6 million. “I’m not ruling it out, and there may be alternatives to bringing a game that makes more sense.”

The NBA could opt to have players travel there in the summer to do camps, clinics, make appearances or have some other type of event.

However, the continent of Africa, according to worldometers.info, has a population of 1.27 billion people. That’s 16.64 percent of the world’s population. As a result, there may be some opportunity that exists across Africa that maybe is bigger over time than in Australia, Silver said. Right now, the league has Basketball Without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program, which includes the annual summer NBA Africa Game.

“The issue becomes whether it’s the preseason or the regular season, our schedules become so compressed that it’s difficult to do a lot more than come practice, play and leave,” Silver said.

That’s why he thinks it makes the most sense to play the NBA Africa games in the summer for the foreseeable future.

But Sixers coach Brett Brown said playing in Australia is “a no-brainer.”

“You would play in front of whatever the venue would hold,” said Brown, who formerly coached the Australian national team. “If you went to Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, and I mean this, if you had 30,000-seat arenas, you’d fill them all.”

Brown thinks that the basketball environment in Australia has never been better. He points to all the Australians playing in the NBA, the WNBA and NCAA. That, combined with the country’s love for basketball, is the reason Brown thinks “it’s completely a no-brainer publicity-wise, entertainment-wise” to have Simmons play in his home country.

Brown understands that Australia is a small country. He knows that, in itself, is not the marketing attraction the league would want.

“But from a sheer popularity standpoint and interest standpoint, it’s a no-brainer,” Brown said.

Simmons agreed. He voiced his desire to play in his home country.

“It’s not easy to set up, obviously,” Simmons said. “But I think we can do something.”

Embiid realizes that playing in the African nation of Cameroon is a long shot. However, he thinks that Angola and Senegal are a couple of countries that could host the game.

“That’s something on my mind,” he said. “We’ve been doing that in Europe. … So I feel like we have a chance to put it in Africa, too.”

He thinks the success of  Basketball Without Borders during the summer creates a good opportunity to play an actual NBA game.