Washington Wizards guard Austin Rivers and New York Knicks swingman Mario Hezonja sat down with international media to talk about the upcoming season as well as the NBA London Game 2019 – which will see the Knicks and the Wizards will go head-to-head on January 17, 2019 at the O2.
Q: Do you think you can challenge for the Eastern Conference?
Absolutely. We wouldn’t be playing if we didn’t believe that we could challenge for the Eastern Conference. What’s the point of playing if you don’t believe you can win? I don’t even understand that mindset. Especially with a team that’s going to the playoffs every year. So why wouldn’t we think that with the additions we added to a playoff team, why can’t we be conference champions?
Q: It’s not long until you travel to London for the London Game, how excited are you about playing in front of a British crowd and playing basketball in a different country?
I’m really excited, I go to London every summer with my fiancé. So we’re going this summer and the summer after that. I love London. It’s a such a dope spot. So the fact that now I get to go there for free and not pay for everything and get to play in front of the crowd and bring my family and friends. I’m very excited to play there.
Q: What do you expect from the NBA crowd in London?
Soccer is huge over there but there are a lot of basketball fans out there who will create a great buzz. I think it’s important for the NBA to keep going out to places like London and spreading the sport of basketball.
Q: Is it a highlight of the season getting the chance to come to the UK?
It’s definitely one of the highlights. The highlight ultimately is to get to the playoffs, get to the conference finals. That’s where we want to be. But as far as regular season highlights, we didn’t get a Christmas game this year so for sure, the London Game will be one of the main things.
Q: How do you feel about playing a game in Europe the upcoming season?
It’s going to be my second time. I already played in London my rookie year. It is a unique feeling because not only a lot of British people came but a lot of people from back home – Serbia, Spain, France. A lot of people will be there. It’s good to embrace them all and see everybody together and see that the NBA is in Europe. It’s a definitely a great thing for them to say this is the level we want to get to, so they don’t stop. So that means they want to get better, they want to improve, and they want to see how everything works in the NBA. So it’s definitely a great thing for the NBA and European basketball.
Q: Do you think initiatives as the NBA London Game helps increasing the awareness of the league among European fans?
Definitely. People want to come to see it. Everybody benefits from that. There should be more games like that.
Q: How do you feel about facing Tomas Satoransky, your former F.C. Barcelona teammate, in the London Game 2019? Which do you think are his best qualities as a player?
Tomas is a great friend of mine and he was a great teammate at Barcelona. I talk to him a lot. He is a very good player. We started in Barcelona together on the same team and this is the second or third year we’re playing against each other in the NBA. So it’s definitely special for both of us.
Q: What’s your opinion about Juan Carlos Navarro’s retirement?
If he’s not the best European League and Spanish player of all time, I don’t know who is. I’m so thankful for everything he’s done for me. Practicing with him when I was 15 until I was 19. It was just unreal. I don’t know whether he’s a better person or player. He’s an absolute legend and I am thankful personally for everything he did for me and what he did for our club at Barcelona. Just a legend. That’s the one word I can use to describe him. A legend.
Tickets for the NBA London Game 2019 will go on general sale Friday, Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. BST at www.axs.com/nbalondon. Fans can register their details at NBA.com/London to gain early access to a limited number of tickets via a presale to be held on Wednesday, Oct. 17 at 9 a.m. BST.
Source: Pitch London