ON THE BALL: Luol Deng
FOLLOWING IN the footsteps of NBA legend and 16-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant was never going to be easy, but Luol Deng is adjusting nicely to life on the west coast after his summer move from the Miami Heat. Ahead of NBA Global Games London 2017 on January 12 featuring the Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers, the LA Lakers star spoke of his memories of playing in London with his former team the Chicago Bulls.
He said: “I’m always excited when it [NBA Global Games London] happens – there’s always hope that the UK will start taking basketball more seriously.
"The NBA is serious about it and wants to bring awareness and let the fans be a part of it. I had the chance to play [in London] when we played the Utah Jazz when I was with the Chicago Bulls and because I’m from London I really enjoyed it.
"All my teammates enjoyed the city, loved the fans and the game. When you’re from the US, going to the UK is an easy transition – it’s culturally very similar, especially the language and everything.”
A keen Arsenal fan having grown up in the capital, Deng has been keeping a close eye on the fortunes of Arsène Wenger’s men over the course of the Premier League season, but also revealed a soft spot for one of the Gunners’ cross-town rivals:
“We just played Crystal Palace where Giroud scored that amazing scorpion-kick goal, but this is where it’s tough because I grew up three minutes from the Crystal Palace stadium and when I was young on match day there was a hill where we could watch the Palace through a gap in the stadium.
STAR TURN: Alexis Sanchez (centre) is Arsenal's in-form striker
Photo credit: Ken Passley
"Since then I’ve been a huge Crystal Palace fan – Arsenal’s my number one team, Crystal Palace is my second! I’m hoping they can stay up – I’ve always said that if I become a billionaire I’m buying Crystal Palace – it’s a dream of mine!”
Deng also revealed which Arsenal players have caught his eye this season: “Right now, Sanchez is having an amazing season. Ozil has always been my favourite player because he’s such an unselfish player. A lot of the time people want him to be more selfish, but I would love to play with someone like that. He’s so unselfish, but to a point where it shows how good he is. For Arsenal I think Ozil’s my guy, but I love Sanchez!”
The Denver Nuggets host the Indiana Pacers at The O2 in London on Jan. 12 as part of NBA Global Games London 2017. The game is live on BT Sport or via NBA LEAGUE PASS (www.nba.tv).