Oracle Arena – Golden State Warriors

Getting there

The venue is in Oakland. If you don’t want to stay in Oakland you should base yourself in San Francisco and take the BART to the game. You get off at Coliseum, take the footbridge and walk around the coliseum. To be honest, you take the BART and follow the crowds. It’s about 45 mins from downtown to the venue (including the walk).

The venue

One of the older venues in the NBA it’s easy to see why the Warriors want to move to new premises. The building is functional but has seen better days.

Seats

Pretty comfortable for such an old venue and the sight lines seem to be good from all sections.

Concessions

This is where the age of the venue can be seen. Although there are fan shops and food stalls there are fewer of each that you would find in other venues meaning that the queues can be much longer than you would expect pre-game.

There is a good range of food and drink available including healthy options

We bought one water and one shock-top beer and paid $20.

Atmosphere

We were at the Spurs @ Warriors game which was sold out so there was a good atmosphere. I know there are plenty of fans who only discovered the Warriors when they started winning championships but there fans at the Oracle are loud and proud of the Warriors.

Final tip

If you are planning a trip to Oracle make it soon as the new venue is scheduled to open in time for the 2019/20 season.

The Golden 1 Center – Sacramento Kings

Location

The venue is conveniently located in downtown Sacramento so once you have arrived in Sacramento you should have no trouble making your way there.

You can fly or take the train to Sacramento. We drove in.

Accommodation

I recommend the Vagabond Inn. It’s only a five minute walk from the venue and has parking.

The venue

This is a new venue. When you walk in you can actually see the court as you go down in to the lower bowl from the main concourse. This seems to be the new style of basketball venues.

The seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There seems to be good sight lines from anywhere in the venue.

Concessions

They have the usual range of fan stores and food concessions. They have some healthy food options as well.

Atmosphere

The venue was fairly quiet and clearly hadn’t sold out the night we were there. This is a shame as it is a really nice venue but the team are one of the worst in the NBA just now which shows in their attendance figures. Still worth a visit though.

Staples Center – Los Angeles Lakers

Location

The venue is located in downtown LA.

Getting to the venue

We drove and parked in lot 1, you need to have booked in advance to use this. Lot 1 is right next to Staples Center and getting in is straight forward however getting out again does take a while.

I would recommend not driving to the venue if you can. If you are staying in LA anyway either walk or use public transport depending on how far away your hotel is.

The venue

Getting in was easy, the queues moved quickly.

This is a typical NBA venue with concessions and restrooms on each concourse.

Concessions

The usual range of fan stores, drink and food stalls. The is the first NBA venue I’ve been to that has McDonalds inside.

They have a few bars and there is a range of drinks available including margaritas (just remember that alcohol is not sold after the start of q4).

The prices are typical for the NBA. We got two cokes, small popcorn and a hotdog for $24.

The seats

We were in the upper bowl and the seats were really comfortable, al the seats were padded. It would have been nice if there were a bit wider but I understand the need to fit a lot of seats in.

Atmosphere

The crowd were loud on and off during the game. The venue wasn’t full which always impacts on atmosphere.

‘t Forum

‘t Forum – Okapi Aalstar

Getting to the venue

Okapi’s venue is in Aalst in Belgium. Once in Aalst it’s a short walk from the centre or there is a car park at the venue if you want to drive.

We got to Aalst by car and parked in an Interparking car park as our chosen hotel did not have parking.

The venue

The venue itself is not that big but they have used every bit of space to get more seats in. The seats themselves are of the hard plastic variety, common at basketball venues.

There were a couple of bars in the venue but we didn’t try any out. This was mainly because the seats were so crammed together it was difficult to get out.

I would recommend checking your seat location carefully when you order. We were sat courtside at the end of the away bench. This was okay for us as were actually supporting the away team but it did make it difficult to follow the game if the team decided to stand up.

Aalst

There is a great bar called Bierhuis ‘t Apostelken which is just down from the venue. It has a beer menu and sells other drinks as well.

Lions progress in the cup

Having won 3 out of 4 BBL championship games to start the season the Lions were in a good position heading into their cup game at home against Leeds Force.

The Force aren’t looking as strong as they would like this season and have already faced some tough losses.

The game started well for the Lions and honestly it never looked as though the Force had a chance. By the end of the first period the Lions were ahead 31-5. The Leeds team kept playing and managed to put some good runs in but for the most part they looked tired and frustrated.

The pace of the game occasionally seemed to cause problems for the Lions as well. Some fancy passing that didn’t reach the intended target suggested that trying to show off may be less useful that sticking to the basics and doing them well.

The Copper Box crowd was treated to a real show from the home team and we got to see minutes from Roberts and James.

In the end it was a convincing victory for the Lions (103-54) who will face Leicester in the next round.

Kristaps Porzingis

Whether he likes it or not, whether he is ready or not, KP has become the face of the New York Knicks.

Until now there has always been a feeling that KP was willing to be in the background rather than the spotlight. That might have been out of respect for Melo or it might have been because that was where he felt comfortable. We don’t really know which and that’s why this season could be tough for KP.

There are a few things that could have an impact on KP this season

Other players on the team who may feel that they are more deserving of the limelight.

Noah is on a huge contract and under other circumstances could expect to be more of a focal point. However his first season at the Knicks was not spectacular (yes, I know this is an understatement) meaning he has been written off by a lot of fans, and probably media. He will need to be able to be a team player and support KP as he transitions to his new leadership role as any dissection could spread to other players.

Tim Hardaway Jr has returned to the Knicks as an improved player. He should see more minutes and play a more important role than during his last stint but it will be important that he does understand the dynamics of the new look Knicks.

Some of the other younger players may not respond well to the 22 KP becoming the leader of the team. I think it would be impossible not to respect his skill but will they respect him as franchise player and leader?

Increased media attention

KP has received a lot of media attention since draft night but this was softened by the continued focus on Melo and the Melo trade rumours. Now that the media doesn’t have that to talk about, or at least not in New York, they will turn that focus to KP. Ever injury – probably even a paper cut – will be subject to debate and speculation. We have seen this already with multiple reports on his knee injury at training.

Every play will be considered in minute detail and every look he shoots toward a player on his team or another team will be examined for hidden meaning. And of course his off-court activities and use of social media will be under the microscope too.

Okay I’m exaggerating here, but not much.

All the focus, attention and speculation can be tough to deal with and not all NBA players can cope with it.

His own expectations

KP will absolutely have his own idea of how he wants this season to go. He has already predicted he will be an AllStar this season.

If he feels the season, and the results aren’t what he expected this could get into his head and end up causing more issues.

Everyone deals with this kind of thing differently and as long as he has a good support network around him this should hopefully not be too much of an issue.

The fans

I say this as a Knicks fan. Knicks fans can be a tough crowd. They expect wins, the dream of championships and they will be looking with hope and expectation to KP to be the unicorn that brings the championship.

I think this will be the year that the fans really put the pressure on KP and I think he will find crowd reactions at MSG to be different from his previous years.

The Knicks

This is probably the most important. The Knicks organisation have an amazing ability to be Knicksian (in a grasping defeat from the jaws of victory way).

They need to supply KP, ensure he knows he has their faith and make moves to help strengthen the team around him. His doesn’t mean letting him has his own way but it does mean valuing the asset they have.

My biggest worry this season is that the Knicks will not have learned from past lessons and will repeat mistakes such as assuming one man can carry a team to a championship or allowing what should be locker room and back office only conversation become public knowledge. That sort of behaviour damages relationships and leads to players asking to move.

These are not insurmountable issues and some of them are smaller than others but I still have concerns for KP and I hope that support network is strong.

Melo trade

It feels as if there have been rumours that Melo was going to be traded since he joined the New York Knicks in 2011. Even after he signed a new contract in 2014, which included a no trade clause, the rumours continued, in fact they seemed to increase.

Even as a Knicks fan based in the UK, so not necessarily seeing a lot of the New York press coverage, I still heard a lot of these rumours.

In the 2016/17 season this got out of hand, fuelled by the obvious issues between Phil Jackson and Melo.

I am a Melo fan and wanted him to stay in New York but even I reached the point of wishing he would move teams so the rumours would stop. Then this off season it became clear that he wanted to leave and the Knicks did not want to include him in their future planning. Meaning that the trade was inevitable.

Weirdly the rumour mill seemed to quieten during this time. I got to the point where I assumed that Melo was destined to spend the season in an unhappy situation with the Knicks.

From a fan perspective it seemed that a trade was the best outcome. You don’t want a player on the team that doesn’t want to be there and/or a player that management don’t want to utilise.

Then the news finally came through on 23 September. Melo was to be traded to OKC.

I am still sad that Melo has left the Knicks. He clearly wanted to play there and win championships there and as a Knicks fan I never felt he had the pieces around him to make that a reality. However I had reached a point of acceptance so long before the trade happened that I wasn’t overly affected by the announcement.

I think this is probably reflected across many fans as we haven’t seen the outrage or claims of shirt burning that we have seen with other trades and FA signings.

Will moving to OKC get him the ring he so desperately wants?

It’s going to be tough as GSW are still a strong team and Houston have made moves to strengthen as well this season.

Will he make it to All-Star weekend?

Unlikely. He only made it in 2017 because another player was injured. The West has a lot of good players likely to be more popular with fans.

What will happen to the Knicks?

Well they have KP who continues to develop and amaze. Hernangomez shows real promise as a player and Tim Hardaway Jr is back to show the Knicks fans how he has developed while he was away. I am not expecting this to be the year the Knicks win the East and make a deep playoff run (though I would be pleased if they did) but this season should be interesting as we get to know all the new players and how they fit together.

All Stars Basketball

The inaugural British All Stars Basketball event was held this weekend at the O2. The event saw the top eight teams in the British Basketball League (BBL) compete for a cash prize.

In order to fit in a number of games, some changes were made to standard basketball rules. This was somewhat confusing for fans, players, coaches and refs but resulted in fewer gaffes than anticipated. Those new to the game my have been a little confused

but probably less so than the rest of us.

There will, I’m sure, be much debate about the format of the games and the rule changes.

Over 5 hours we had 13 games in an elimination style format – two loses put you out of the competition. To be honest this made the day quite long, I think we could have moved to a ‘one loss and gone’ system without losing any of the excitement.

Each game was 12 minutes long with a rolling clock, free throws were not awarded for fouls (instead one point and possession was awarded to the other team) and each team was only allowed one 30 second time out per game.

The more controversial changes were the introduction of a 5 point line and a 2 minute power play that had to be completed within the first 10 minutes of the match. I have to say that while both added some extra excitement to the day the team that won overall didn’t use their power play in one game (due to not pressing the button in time) and were not very successful at 5 point shots. I don’t think FIBA or the NBA will be looking to bring these rule changes in anytime soon.

I admit I was sceptical of the rules, and the event, beforehand but I was completely caught up in the excitement on the day. Was it ‘real’ basketball? Not exactly but it was fun and it allowed me to see my team in action and check out the competition as many teams have made a number of roster changes this off season.

Some colleagues who had never been to a basketball game are now planning to attend a BBL game in the near future. I’m sure they weren’t the only people in a similar position in the building and so if this raises awareness of the BBL and had a positive impact on attendances I think we can count this as a success.

Sleuyter Arena/Versluys|Dôme

Team – Telenet Oostende

Getting to City – We take the Eurotunnel so we can drive the whole way.

Going by bus is cheaper but longer. You can also get there by train from Brussels or Antwerp if you are already in Belgium.

City – There is a good amount of things to do in Ostend. I have personally experienced the Promonade and the Atlantic Wall Museum.

Getting to Venue –  Ostend is not huge so if you can easily walk from your hotel, if you are staying in town. There is also a large car park if you are driving.

Venue – A good sized venue with the usual plastic seats.

Food in venue –  The venue has four bars and sells the usual range of options.

 

Antwerp Sportpaleis

Team – Antwerp Giants

Getting to City – Antwerp has an airport, you can fly there from London and several other European cities. We tend to take the Eurotunnel as the drive is only a few hours (you can easily drive there on a Saturday, watch a Saturday evening game and return home on the Sunday, assuming you love within about 3 hours of the Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal).

You can also get there using Euroline buses but that will take significantly longer.

Antwerp – If you like cobbled street and Belgian beer this is a city you should visit. If you are planning a Eurotunnel overnight trip you won’t have a lot of time to see the city unless you allow for an early Saturday start and a late Sunday return.

If you do have time to explore, highlights include:

  • the Grote Markt (market square)
  • De Koninck (brewery)
  • St Anna’s Tunnel

There are also several museums, art galleries and churches.

Getting to venue– Your ticket to the sportpaleis will give you free transport on the trams to and from the event and there is a tram stop just outside the venue. If you are planning to travel around from earlier in the day or the following day a daily tram ticket is 6 euro if purchased in advance (8 euro if purchased on the tram).

If you choose to drive to the venue there is ample parking which is 5 euro for the duration of the event.

Venue –  This is a large venue, also used for gigs I believe. The venue is well signposted so it is really easy to find your seat. The seats themselves are the usually plastic seats found in sports venue so there are average for comfort.

If you are not used to Belgian venues an important point to note is that you will be charged for using the facilities (washrooms/restrooms/WCs) so make sure you have some change to hand, about 80 eurocents each should be enough.

Food in venue – The venue gets massive bonus points for efficiency, they have a great system for pouring and serving drinks so even if there is a big queue it won’t take long to get served. The usual fair of beer, wine, sparkling wine, fries etc. is available. Price are reasonable.They have a large Haribo stall but I think this is overpriced.