A World Apart

LONDON – The court will be 94 feet long when the Pistons and Knicks tip off Thursday’s NBA game at London’s O2 Arena. The game will last 48 minutes and the shot clock will still start at 24.

Until tipoff, though, not much is business as usual.

Take Wednesday’s post-practice media session, where somewhere between a flock and a horde of European journalists of all types, sporting every hybrid microphone/camera/video recorder ever manufactured asked questions that raised the eyebrows of players who get asked questions as part of their daily routine.

Charlie Villanueva spent several minutes detailing his body art for an inquisitive pair of British TV types, finishing with his forearm tribute to Queens – not Elizabeth and Victoria, but his native New York borough.

Greg Monroe was asked if he was intent on resurrecting the dying breed of back-to-the-basket centers.

“I don’t think it’s my job,” he said after a thoughtful pause. “It’s just what I’ve always done.”

Kim English and Andre Drummond were asked their thoughts on the viability of a permanent NBA home in London.

“If you get paid in pounds,” English said, “that wouldn’t be a bad thing.” Smart kid. You get a little more than 59 pounds back when you cash a $100 United States bill.

Drummond, 19 but ever the pragmatist, replied, “I don’t know if I could do this twice a year. That’s a little wear and tear on the body.”

Coaching legend Zeljko Obradovic – he’s the European Phil Jackson, with eight European Championships under his belt at coaching stops in Yugoslavia, Italy, Spain and Greece – was in attendance with longtime assistant Dmitris Itoudis. They spent all of October in Auburn Hills observing the Pistons throughout training camp and preseason. Obradovic’s presence caused a stir among the European press. One reporter asked Austin Daye if he was prodding Obradovic for any tips.

“I’ve talked to him,” Daye said. “But I haven’t asked him for any advice.”

A youngish reporter, appearing a little nervous, read a list of scripted questions from his iPad to Tayshaun Prince, including one that went something like this: “You were drafted 23rd and have for very often been an underdog. Yet you are an NBA champion. Do you feel you haven’t gotten the recognition you’ve deserved.”

A reporter well aware of the success Will Bynum had playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv before coming to the Pistons asked if he wished to be traded so he could show the world his real ability. Bynum has a career in diplomacy ahead of him, so pitch perfect was his reply.

Drummond was asked about Corny Thompson, a former European star who like him was born in Middletown, Conn., where Drummond grew up, and also played at UConn – 30 years before Drummond.

Kyle Singler was asked if he keeps in touch with his teammates from Alicante, the team he originally signed with in Spain before they sold his contract at mid-season to the much more prominent Real Madrid squad. Singler politely pointed out that Alicante has since folded.

A reporter from Poland wanted to know if Brandon Knight’s first few seasons had gone according to expectations and one from Greece had a line of questions for Jonas Jerebko about why he didn’t come to play there during the lockout. (Answer: He thought hard about it, and just when something was close, the lockout ended.)

Everybody, of course, wanted to know what the Pistons thought of London and the O2 Arena, which is uniquely constructed – no interior beams to support the roof, but a series of cylindrical beams projecting out of the domed roof that from the exterior appear to be pins sticking out from a pin cushion. Or, as Brienne Klask, wife of Pistons assistant coach Charles Klask, remarked as the travel party’s bus rolled past the arena, like a birthday cake with candles.

A reporter began a question to Lawrence Frank pointing out the team’s 4-14 road record, to which Frank reminded him the Pistons are the home team in London.

“We’re handing out Pistons jerseys to everyone we see on the Tube today,” he said, the Tube a reference to London’s subway system. “We’re going from Tube to Tube and we’re giving everyone Detroit Pistons jerseys, because this is a home game for us. So the people of London, please support us.”

Frank took some delight in fielding questions he doesn’t usually get back home.

“The media here is, so far, it’s not even a contest. Thank God for you guys,” he grinned at the foreign questioners. “I’ve waited all year for good questions. They finally came. It’s great to have the international flavor.”