Manchester return excites Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant has spoken of his excitement at returning to Manchester as the NBA's profile in the UK continues to grow.
Durant took part in a practice session with his Thunder team-mates at the Phones 4u Arena on Monday ahead their pre-season clash with the Philadelphia 76ers there on Tuesday night.
It will be the first match between two NBA sides ever to be held in Manchester, although Durant played at the venue last July as part of the United States team that defeated Great Britain 118-78 in the build-up to the London Olympics.
Asked how he felt about his return, Durant, who helped the US team claim gold at the London Games, said: "It's great being back in this arena.
"We played here last summer and walking in here has brought back a lot of memories for me.
"I'm excited I'm back and I know the fans will come out and support us.
"They were unbelievable. We played the Great Britain team so, of course, they came out and cheered for those guys.
"It's pretty fun to be back here and I'm excited to play tomorrow."
It was announced this summer that in January, London's O2 Arena will host its fourth regular-season NBA match in as many years when the Brooklyn Nets take on the Atlanta Hawks there.
And while well aware that basketball still has a long way to go before it can rival football's status in the UK, 76ers forward Thaddeus Young is keen to do all he can to help keep his sport growing in the country.
"I just want to give them (the UK audience) lots of dunks, lots of excitement in the game, and basically a great show," Young said, looking ahead to Tuesday's contest.
"We're entertainers, just like soccer players are. We know soccer is the biggest thing over here, but we definitely want to go out there and show that basketball is also huge.
"I have a few friends who play basketball over here in England and that is all they talk about - 'the soccer game was so intense'.
"So hopefully we can get basketball games just as intense here, continue to do this each and every year coming over, and then hopefully, one day, we could have NBA England."
The Thunder are expected to beat the 76ers, who have a gutted roster - indeed, there have been suggestions that it has been stripped down so far that the team may actually be 'tanking' in the hope of a better draft pick next year.
Young insists that is not the case and has stressed there is an optimistic mood among the Philadelphia players about the NBA season ahead, which starts later this month with them facing the Miami Heat, the defending champions.
"As a team, we feel we can go out there and be competitive," Young said.
"It is going to be very tough - we are a young team, and there are a lot of great teams in the NBA.
"But we are not trying to tank. We are trying to win as many games as possible and potentially get back to the play-offs and have a successful season.
"I think we can definitely make some noise and cause a little havoc.
"Miami Heat is the first team we have on our schedule and that is going to be a rough one. But at the end of the day, all teams can be beaten."