Basketball: New York Knicks' Carmelo Anthony relishes London return but it's strictly business

Knicks take on the Detroit Pistons at the O2 tonight

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The Independent Online

The Detroit Pistons players spent this afternoon exploring London – at least those who were prepared to venture out in the cold did – but for a couple of the New York Knicks, who will provide their opponents in tonight's NBA excursion across the Atlantic, there were footsteps to be retraced, and golden ones too.

In August, Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler were part of the latest Dream Team assembled to bring a genuine US global triumph in a team sport, winning Olympic gold at the North Greenwich Arena, as it was rebranded for the 2012 Games.

Anthony revelled in his London Olympic experience – his third Games and second gold – breaking the United States scoring record with 37 points, scored in just 14 minutes of game time, in a thumping of Nigeria. That came during the preliminary stages played on the Olympic Park before the games switched south of the river for the knockout stages, where the US beat Spain in the final.

"How can I forget? It was a special time in my life, a special moment," said Anthony of his first visit to London. "Just to be back in this arena once again, having a chance to play one last time back here in London in front of the fans who've been very gracious to myself and the game of basketball."

Tonight the O2 is back, and Anthony and Chandler are back, this time on domestic duty as the Knicks look to cement their leadership of the Atlantic Division and add more weight to suggestions this could be their year. If it is then victory over a Pistons side undergoing a rebuilding process is a must ahead of Monday's rather more local affair back home with the Brooklyn Nets, their closest pursuers in the division.

"Do we have an opportunity to win a title this year? Absolutely," said Mike Woodson, the Knicks coach. "If we stay healthy and play at a level that I think we can play at, we'll put ourselves in that position. But first we've got to play the Pistons and we'll deal with that first and foremost."

Woodson, like all involved in this long-haul league game, accepts there is more to the fixture – it's about spreading the NBA gospel in an area, or perhaps a marketplace, still to be converted. "I think as an organisation, to be able to go outside your country and expand your sport, to me it helps everybody," he said.

This is the second regular-season visit by the NBA to London. Two years ago, the then New Jersey Nets swept past the Toronto Raptors in two games. Last year was left blank because of the Games and this year it is just the one fixture being contested. It remains, though, very much a "business trip" as Greg Monroe of the Pistons put it.

"This is not about vacation and I don't think any of us is treating it that way," said Woodson. "This is a regular-season game. It's a game that we have got to win. It's not about vacation time. Vacation's in the summer."