NBA in London: Watch live on Sky Sports

On Thursday night the Detroit Pistons and the New York Knicks play the third NBA regular-season game to be staged at the O2 Arena in London. Greg Monroe can't wait...

By Rob Lancaster - Tweet me: @SkySportsLanny.   Last Updated: 16/01/13 4:05pm

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Considering he measures in at 6ft 11, you could understand if Greg Monroe had his head in the clouds. Instead, however, the Detroit Pistons centre seems to have his feet firmly on the ground - unless, of course he's trying to grab a rebound.

The 22-year-old is only in his third season in the league but has already become a sizeable part of his team's plans - and not just because of his huge frame; he tops the averages for points and blocks per game.

On Thursday Monroe and his fellow Pistons will be in action in the O2 Arena in London, taking on the New York Knicks in a regular-season game designed to continue spreading the word, both about the sport itself and the NBA brand, to these shores.

Not only is it an opportunity for British basketball fans - whether seasoned veterans who can remember a time when Michael Jordan was more than just a guest on the course at a Ryder Cup, or rookies making their debuts - a chance to see the sport up close (and with court-side seats there are few events you can get much closer to), it is also a chance for the players to experience something new, too.

Looking forward

"I know personally this is my first time playing basketball outside North America, so I'm really looking forward to it," Monroe said.

"I do have a feeling of the effect that playing in these markets outside of America has, so the guys are taking a lot of pride in coming over and playing our best for the crowds."
Greg Monroe

"This summer all eyes were on the Olympics, and just seeing how things went there really makes you want to experience it. It's not at Olympic level, obviously, but the chance to get out and play a game in London... I'm looking forward to it a whole lot.

"We travelled to Canada in the pre-season, and I know a lot of other teams went to Europe and South America, and the feedback was great.

"I do have a feeling of the effect that playing in these markets outside of America has, so the guys are taking a lot of pride in coming over and playing our best for the crowds.

"We also want to try and get some good experiences. A lot of guys are looking forward to spending some time off the court, also, to get to know a little bit more about the culture, as well as finding out how you guys look upon the game of basketball.

"I feel like we are arriving with enough time to at least get out and see a little bit of the city. We know we are over for a purpose, and we are always going to be focused on the game. But this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go and play over in London, so guys just want to make sure they get an experience personally."

Carmelo Anthony: the New York Knick will be the biggest star on display on Thursday night

Had things been different, Monroe could have played at the O2 before this coming week. He was in contention for place in the United States' squad prior to the summer Games, alongside star names such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony

Yet despite a shortage of front-court options for Team USA due to injuries, the former Georgia University student didn't even get the chance to scrimmage against the eventual squad at a Las Vegas training camp.

"Being in Vegas with those guys, as far as the selection goes, I didn't feel like that I should've been picked over anyone who made the Olympic team, and for obvious reasons. Those guys won the gold medal," he said.

"But just to be around those guys for a couple of's rare to be able to get all of them in one gym working together, as opposed to playing against each other, it was something I just wanted to experience."

Monroe will see Anthony in London, only 'Melo' will now be on the opposite team. His form this year has helped propel the Knicks towards the top of the Eastern Conference.

With the likes of Tyson Chandler, a centre who was picked to play for the United States in the summer, veteran point guard Jason Kidd and the now fit-again Amar'e Stoudemire, New Yorkers have every right to feel confident their team can make a run all the way to the finals this season.

Outrageous pace

"They're definitely one of the best teams in the league right now," the Pistons number 10 - a number that he will be the last to wear, seen as the Pistons recently retired it in honour of Dennis Rodman - admitted.

"They have a bunch of guys that are veterans and have had a lot of success in this league, and they have a couple of players that know what it takes to win championships.

"'Melo' has been playing at an outrageous pace this year, putting up unbelievable numbers. He's been a great leader and is a born scorer. He should definitely be an MVP candidate.

"Then, with the supporting cast he has around him, Raymond Felton has been playing well, as well as people like JR Smith; they have enough talent to make a run. It will be interesting to see how they continue but they are one of the teams you can put in the conversation about who is winning the championship."

"All we can do is our part in the play-off race, try and win as many games as possible and hope everything else falls into place."
Greg Monroe

The Pistons, meanwhile, are pumping hard just to remain in the play-off picture. A young line-up coached by Lawrence Frank endured a tough start, including losing their first 10 games on the road, but they still retain hope of finishing in the top eight in their conference.

"We definitely think we could have got off to a better start. We had some struggles in the beginning," an honest Monroe said when evaluating their season so far.

"It's always tough playing on the road in the NBA, and starting off with about seven or eight road games after our home opener was tough. We are trying to just take it one game at a time, focus on the task in hand.

"All we can do is our part in the play-off race, try and win as many games as possible and hope everything else falls into place."

Detroit will be hoping a trip to Britain can be the springboard for their play-off push. But, whatever happens at the O2, Monroe has already made a big impression for them this year, and not just because of his frame. Detroit could not have picked a better - or much bigger - pillar to build around for the future.

The Detroit Pistons against the New York Knicks will be the first NBA game played in the UK to be shown live in Sky Sports 1 HD and 3D, and will also be available live on mobile, online and tablet devices via Sky Go.

NBA coverage on Sky Sports continues with live Sunday night games for the rest of the regular season, including double-headers most weekends, followed by live NBA Playoff games, the entire Eastern Conference Finals, and every game of the NBA Finals in June.

For more details on our coverage - click HERE

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