PARIS – FROM Victor Wembanyama sitting in the yard and watching some of the players he faces next season, Zach LaVine scored 30 points and the Chicago Bulls never fell behind in a 126-108 win over the Detroit Pistons at an NBA game in Paris on Thursday.
Demar DeRozan added 26 points to the Bulls, while Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the Pistons with 25 points. Killian Hayes, the only French player on both lists, scored four points for Detroit on 2-of-13 shooting but had eight assists.
Hamidou Diallo scored 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting for Detroit, while Saddiq Bey and Jayden Ivey each scored 16 for the Pistons.
It was the end of several days of NBA celebrations in France, after both teams took part in clinics, tourist activities such as a visit to the Eiffel Tower, several upscale dinners and even a private show for Pistons at the Paris Opera.
And while the game counted — Chicago (21-24) remained in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, which would be the last place to play with a win, while Detroit fell to 12-36, the second-worst record in the NBA — it also was not an ordinary mid-season regular season game.
The celebrity list included NBA greats such as Magic Johnson, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Tony Parker; Bulls legend and native French son Joaquim Noah; the rising star that everyone keeps talking about in Wembanyama; WNBA players such as Gabby Williams; even Grammy winners and Formula One drivers.
“I don’t want to compare it to All-Star. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the announcement. “But it’s the closest we’ve got to a European All-Star Game.”
It was also a celebration of the continued strength of the international presence in today’s NBA game. When the Bulls and Michael Jordan, along with BJ Armstrong, then Bulls quarterback-turned-NBA agent who was at Thursday’s game, played in Paris during preseason in 1997, about 1 in every 14 NBA players was born outside the USA.
Now it’s about 1 to 4.
“This is a special event because we represent not only Detroit, but the NBA,” said Pistons coach Dwayne Casey. “And we’re trying to put the brand in a good place – in a place where basketball is gaining momentum.”
Vembanyama and his family took their seats at the court about 15 minutes before the start of the match, immediately drawing a huge crowd. When the camera found him and showed him to the French fans on the big screens of the arena in the second quarter, he applauded and smiled, as did his mother, who was sitting in the same row behind him over his right shoulder – and the crowd literally roared with delight. .
Both teams fly home on Friday.
Bulls: Derrick Jones Jr had 12 points for Chicago including four bright dunks — no surprise for a former NBA dunk champion. … Ayo Dosunmu scored 13 points for the Bulls. … Chicago shot 54%.
Pistons: Jalen Duren had a bad start to the trip – he lost his passport – then straightened things out and had great shooting, 4-of-4 from the field en route to 11 points and 12 rebounds. … Isaiah Stewart grabbed 11 rebounds.
Of course, the NBA has teams in the US and Canada, and this game in France expanded the list of countries where the league played or trained this season to seven.
Mexico hosted a game between San Antonio and Miami last month. The Heat also had a training camp in the Bahamas, and the league traveled to preseason games in two other countries—Golden State and Washington played twice in Japan, and Milwaukee and Atlanta played twice in the United Arab Emirates.
It was a home game for the Pistons, despite the fact that Paris is about 4,000 miles from Detroit. As a home team, the Pistons had to take a lot of employees on the trip, including several game operations workers and members of the statistics team that works at the scoring table.
James Kuipers, Carl Lane and Natalie Sago were sent to referee the game. All three judges played on Saturday in the USA and then went to Paris.
Bulls: Take Atlanta on Monday.
Pistons: host Milwaukee on Monday.
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