As the NBA is due to take over London’s streets in 2019, it’s only right that we hear from some of The NBA’s finest! Verge was lucky enough to sit down with two legends, Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, about all things basketball as we asked the questions that everyone wants the answers to.
With the likes of the Golden State Warriors in the league now, do you see an underdog winning the NBA title like you guys did in 2004 with the Pistons?
Chauncey: “I don’t, I think they are the clear favourites right now, at least for this season. But they will be pushed, there are some good teams like the Houston [Rockets] and the [Los Angeles] Lakers, who will be fighting to play against the Warriors. I’m intrigued with Boston [Celtics] and Toronto [Raptors] in the East, I think those teams can put some line-ups on the floor to make it interesting for the Warriors. I think the Warriors are the best team, but we will see.”
Is Kristaps Porzingis one of the best/most dynamic big men in the league?
Chauncey: “He certainly has a lot of talent. He was making his way up the ranks last year – I’m a huge fan myself. There is so much good young talent in the league right now. People will continue to develop and so will he. At 7ft 3in, doing what he can do is pretty remarkable. I’m looking forward to seeing him back healthy and showing that he wants to be the best. I’m really a huge fan.”
What do you make of Frank Ntilikina at the Knicks?
Chauncey: “I think he’s solid. He’s one of those that will never be dynamic like many point guards in the league. But he’s solid, he can knock down shots, he can run the offense and he’s good defensively. I don’t think he’ll be a franchise player, but he’ll be a good solid player for your team.”
Jose Calderon is now with the Pistons, as an experienced player what do you think he can bring to the team?
Chauncey: “When you have a guy like Reggie Jackson who has been injured a lot, it makes sense to go for a guy like Jose Calderon who is really steady. We don’t know how much Jose will play this season as he is an older player, really great in the locker room, he is a leader, he will always do it right and he is very professional so it was a good move by the Pistons to get him. You have Reggie Jackson in behind him you have Ish Smith, who plays a big role in that Pistons team. I’m sure Jose will find a way to get on the court because has that effect and he will do well in Detroit.”
What do you make of rumours linking Kevin Durant to the Knicks? How good would it be for the UK fans to see him in London?
Rip: “It would be very interesting, he’s in a great situation right now, Golden State [Warriors] can win five, six championships as they’re all in their prime. They have got guys who can still play at a very high level, but going to the Knicks is a big market. It depends on the guys who come with him, we are hearing rumours that Kyrie [Irving] might go there, you hear Jimmy Butler’s name. It all depends on where Kevin Durant is in his career, if he says: ‘it’s time for me to change scenery and get closer to home’, he’s from DC, that’s a situation which would be great for the league. We always need the teams in LA and New York to do great.”
Do you guys see an All-Star Game coming to London?
Rip: “It could! Now that they’ve extended the All-Star break. London is a great city, it kind of reminds me of New York, so there is a lot of great opportunities here and I think guys would be super excited to travel here to Europe so I think it will be something that would be pretty cool.”
You were in London for the last London game, how did the atmosphere compare to that of a game in the US?
Rip: “It felt good. It’s more like an All-Star game type of atmosphere here. I was very surprised at how into it the fans were. It was super exciting to be a part of it. I think the guys really loved being here, I thought they really put on a great show for the fans. Any time you’ve got great players like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Kyrie Irving all playing in that game, it was an exciting atmosphere.”
Who do you think is better – Michael Jordan or LeBron James?
Rip: “Like I tell people, I’m an MJ fan. But then he’s been an idol of mine since I was a kid. I got an opportunity to play with him when he was older, but I still feel as though he was the best player that ever played the game of basketball. I mean 6-0 in the Finals, you can’t really say anything bad about that. A guy that took over the game and made other players better just like LeBron [James]. To compare those two guys is really unfair to LeBron because LeBron is totally different to MJ. LeBron is a freak of nature. It’s like Karl Malone playing the point guard position. He can dominate the game, not just by scoring but by passing, rebounds – he does so many great things on the floor. MJ was an offensive guy that really put pressure on you each and every time.”
Tickets for the NBA London Game 2019 will go on general sale Friday, Oct. 19 at 9 a.m. BST atwww.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.