By Khris Middleton, Detroit Pistons
The London Lowdown
Our team just got back from London where we played the Knicks last week. It was a great experience! I had never been to London before, so it was nice to see the city, experience the culture and do some sightseeing. It was also a good bonding experience with my teammates. We all went out together and really enjoyed each other’s company.
We left for London Monday night. We didn’t take our usual team plane; we flew out of the main Detroit airport, Detroit Metro, on a chartered plane with more than 150 people. Since it was considered a Pistons home game, we brought a bunch of staff – cheerleaders, stats people and other team employees – over to London with us. Some family members came, so I brought my sister with me.
I was exhausted when we took off, and I slept the whole way pretty much, until we landed at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday morning. Everyone was excited once we got there. When we got off the plane, there were some news cameras around. And as our team walked to get our bags, people were staring at us – a bunch of really tall guys – like we were a freak show! It was pretty funny.
We got our bags, got on the bus and headed to the hotel. We stayed at a Four Seasons, which reminded me of the hotels we stay in here. As soon as we arrived, we ate some lunch at the hotel, which did a good job of Americanizing the food. (I’m a picky eater, so I stayed away from the food I didn’t know.) I walked around a little outside and then our team had a meeting with NBA security. It was basically a meeting to give us warnings about pickpockets and to be careful where we went at night … stuff like that for our own safety reasons.
Then we took a bus to the University of East London for practice. Because they drive on the other side of the road and their signs look different, it was a little weird at first. We practiced for about an hour, a regular shooting practice. We didn’t do too much since we had just come off of a six-hour flight. It was only 4 or 5 p.m. when we got back to the hotel, so we had a good bit of time to do what we wanted. Most of us showered, ate and went straight out again.
My sister and I walked around, ate dinner, enjoyed the night. We had dinner with some teammates at a place called Gaucho, which is supposed to be one of the best steakhouses over there. I’m not a big steak guy, but I thought it was pretty good. Everybody else loved it, so I guess it was very good! We all went out to various spots after dinner and met up at some point, which was a lot of fun.
On Wednesday, we had a 10 a.m. practice at the O2 Arena, where we were playing the next day, and the same place where the Olympic basketball teams competed last summer. We did some shooting, scrimmaging, reviewed scouting reports. Then all of us had a 30-minute interview session with the London media. Our Detroit media guys were there also. After that, me and some teammates — Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Austin Daye — participated in an NBA Cares event with kids. There were four different stations of basketball drills set up on the court for the kids to go through. I was at the fitness station with Andre and James White from the Knicks. It was good to see the smiles on the kids’ faces; you could tell they were enjoying themselves and happy to be there. Then we went back to the hotel, and since we were all exhausted, most of us crashed and spent the rest of the day sleeping.
Then it was game day on Thursday. I got up, went to shootaround, and had some time that afternoon (before the game) to do some sightseeing. My sister and I went to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Bridge, a popular London shopping center called Harrods. I didn’t buy anything there. My favorite place was Buckingham Palace; knowing the history behind it, that was pretty cool.
The game was exciting – a sold out event! The fans were excited, and it was a great atmosphere in there! They were a little different than American NBA fans because during the game, for the most part, they were kind of quiet. When anybody scored, they got loud and crazy. It was a lot of fun, but I wish we could have gotten the win, wish we could have pulled it out. We had a slow start and when we tried to get back into it, we were a little bit too late. After the game, we had a reception with the Pistons and Knicks players and coaches, some NBA staff and fans that had special passes to get in. Then it was time to go back to the hotel, pack up and enjoy our last night in London. It was cool because players form both teams saw each other out at night.
Overall, the experience was really great and all positive — except for the loss of course! To play an NBA game in a different country and see the game of basketball growing like that, it was awesome! You can tell the fans over there love the NBA game. We got back to Detroit around 1 p.m. on Friday and I’m feeling good!
Hope you enjoyed my play-by-play of our trip to London! Have a great week! Oh, and don’t forget to check me out on Twitter @Khris22m.
Khris Middleton is a 6-foot-7 forward from Texas A&M. He was selected by the Pistons with the ninth pick of the second round in the 2012 NBA Draft.
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