Three NBL teams set for preseason games against NBA opposition

Chris Goulding (R) drives past Kevin Lisch Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Three NBL teams will head to the United States in October for preseason games against NBA opponents, it was confirmed Tuesday morning [AEST].

In what is an historic move for Australian basketball, Sydney Kings, Melbourne United and Brisbane Bullets will face off with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns respectively.

The Kings will hit Utah's Vivint Smart Home Arena on October 3 for their date with the Jazz, before Melbourne face the Thunder at Chesapeake Arena on October 8, with the Bullets rounding out the three-game stretch against the Suns in Phoenix on October 13.

NBL boss Larry Kestelman hailed the announcement as a watershed moment for the game Down Under.

"This is a huge moment for Australian basketball," Kestelman said. "For the NBL to be able to play some of the biggest teams in the world shows how far our league has come. I want to thank the NBA for this exciting opportunity to showcase the NBL on the world stage.

"For our teams to be chosen to come and play in the NBA preseason is a great endorsement of the NBL and Australian basketball. We currently have a number of Australians playing in the NBA, strong national teams in the Boomers and Opals, record participation levels and a flourishing national competition. This opportunity will only build more excitement ahead of the NBL season starting on Oct. 5."

There will be huge interest in the Kings' showdown with the Jazz in particular, given Australian star Joe Ingles is a key part of Utah's roster. Ingles enjoyed the third-best three-point percentage of any NBA player last season and was the only member of the Jazz to feature in all 82 regular-season games.

Ingles recently inked a new multi-year deal with the Jazz while another Australian, Dante Exum, is also a part of the Utah roster. Both men will now have the chance to battle their compatriots later this year.

"This is massive for Australian basketball and an exciting opportunity for NBA and NBL players to compete together on the same floor," Ingles said. "As an Aussie who began my career in the NBL and now entering my fourth season with Utah, I am very proud of the growth of the game in my home country and can't wait for the Jazz and Salt Lake City to play host to Sydney this fall."

The NBL is coming off its best season in years with more than 665,000 attending games across 2016/17.

Kings coach Andrew Gaze, who is the owner of an NBA Championship ring thanks to a stint with San Antonio in 1999, hailed the growth of the NBL and pointed to recent NBA Draft pick Terrance Ferguson, who spent last season with the Adelaide 36ers, as an example of the Australian league's growing stature across the world.

"This is another big leap forward for the NBL and Australian basketball," Gaze said. "As somebody who played in the NBA I know how much this opportunity means. The NBL has always been very attractive for NBA players and is a pathway to the NBA, as the recent drafting of Terrance Ferguson showed. We also had a number of NBL players played in the NBA Summer League this year."

NBA Asia-Pacific boss Scott Levy added: "We are excited for the NBL to participate in the 2017 NBA preseason. Australia has proven to be a basketball powerhouse with a growing number of its players making their mark in the NBA and on the global stage.

"Australia remains one of our largest international markets for merchandise sales and NBA LEAGUE PASS, and these games mark a milestone moment for our two leagues."