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London to host two NBA regular season games in 2011

One of the best things that has happened to the NBA during David Stern’s time as commissioner is how big basketball has become in international markets. Basketball is now a global sport; witness how competitive Olympic basketball has become since the days of the original Dream Team, the way China has taken to the NBA since Yao came over, or the fact that the Bucks’ starting lineup often contained players from five different continents last season. (Jennings/Delfino/Mbah a Moute/Ilysova/Bogut would be that lineup, in case you’re curious.)

David Stern knows how important overseas expansion is to the future of the NBA and basketball in general, and the announcement Stern made on Monday reflects that. According to the Associated Press, the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will play two regular-season games in London next season:

NBA commissioner David Stern announced Monday that the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets will play a pair of regular-season games in London this season.

The teams will face each other March 4 and 5 at the O2 Arena, the same venue that has hosted preseason games over the last several years.

Stern said on a conference call he wasn’t yet sure if the regular-season games would be an annual occurrence for the league.

“We’ll need to assess how we do in March,” Stern said. “It would not surprise me if this becomes an annual event. But I don’t want to make a commitment on it.”

The NBA has been looking to expand overseas for years, and Stern has said in the past he would like to play a meaningful game in London before the city hosts the Olympics in 2012.