Aussie basketball 'deserves' NBA preseason games, Brett Brown says

Philadelphia 76ers' coach Brett Brown believes NBL Executive Director Larry Kestelman's plan for the Australian league's teams to play preseason games against NBA sides would be welcomed 'with open arms' Down Under.

"I think it makes complete sense," Brown said in Brooklyn on Sunday. "The Australian basketball fraternity deserves it. I think they're committed people; excellent coaches, a country that's extremely passionate about basketball. They would certainly welcome them [NBA teams] with open arms, and treat them and manage the situation where Australia would be proud."

In an interview with Sydney's Daily Telegraph last week, Kestelman said he was in advanced talks with the NBA about NBL sides either visiting the United States for preseason games, or for American sides to play games on Aussie soil. Kestelman added that he is waiting for the NBA to finalise its collective bargaining agreement before focusing on potential dates for the preseason games to take part.

"It's very hard for the NBA to make any definite plans in their off-season, because they are not sure how quickly the CBA will get sorted out," he told the Daily Telegraph. "We'll see when and if that's determined to see what we can organise for next year."

Australia has the largest amount of NBA League Pass subscribers in the world outside of the States, and its fans have been screaming for years for the NBA to bring its show Down Under. The League has been hesitant in the past to consider that option.

In 2014, commissioner Adam Silver said the NBA would instead focus on increasing its digital exposure in Australia.

"You know, [we have] no specific plans [to bring a game to Australia], but we're looking at it," Silver had said at the time. "Australia has been a terrific market for us historically. As you might imagine, it's incredibly labor intensive to take these teams overseas.

"The ability to watch these games in real-time on any device, to be part of a large social networking community, to be the equivalent of a fan in an arena. That's what we hope to do with our fans in Australia."

Brown feels that, given the record number of Aussies now plying their trade in the world's best league, and Australia's ability to host global sporting events, it makes it an ideal location for NBA preseason games.

"They've had the experience of hosting an Olympic Games - the game management [and] infrastructure to support something that massive is elite," he said. "It is A-plus. With the abundance of Aussies now in the NBA, I think it makes sense."

The NBL's global profile has increased in recent years, with many former NBA players, including Josh Childress, Josh Powell, and Steve Blake, continuing their playing careers there, or NBA draftees such as James Ennis and Jordan McRae deciding to go the Australian league route before ultimately being called up to the NBA.

McRae, who spent a season with Melbourne United before signing with Cleveland - and eventually winning a championship - spoke about how much the league's reputation had evolved since he left.

"For guys to notice [the NBL] it's already showing that the league has grown a lot," he told ESPN Australia. "Josh Childress, myself ... James Ennis was over there, and then to make it to the NBA. It's only going to get bigger and bigger. The opportunity to play NBA teams is huge.

"There's a lot of guys there who are still aspiring to be in the NBA, so there's an opportunity for those guys, and an opportunity to build the league up more. I think it'd be awesome."

However, Brown disagreed with Kestelman's claim the NBL is "one of the few leagues in the world that can actually challenge their teams and put up a good fight."

Brown says that, as far as Australian basketball has come, there's still gap to be bridged to truly challenge NBA teams.

"I think that right now the NBA athletes would make that [competing] very difficult, [but] I agree that the league [NBL] is the best it's ever been," he said. "That is no knock on anybody, I've just seen both sides of the world, and I think right now the Australian league is something they should be proud of. It's never been better.

"And, from the body of work they have put in, and the talent that is increasingly coming into the country, and the quality of imports, I feel that they are certainly on the up-and-up on the global scene."