As the NBA tries to build its brand throughout Europe, the New York Knicks will take on the Detroit Pistons from the O2 Arena in London this Thursday.  The Knicks will have to block out all of the fanfare and sharpen their focus to pick up a pace-keeping win against a beatable Pistons squad.

The Knicks will certainly be aided by the return of defensive juggernaut Iman Shumpert.  Shumpert is set to return after missing the beginning of the season due to a torn ACL.  He suffered the injury during last seasons first round playoff matchup vs the Heat.  There has been recent news suggesting that Shumpert might start at shooting guard in his first action of the season.  It will be interesting to see how Coach Mike Woodson integrates Shumpert into the lineup.  With Felton's injury weakening the Knicks at guard, Shump will be a welcome sight to Knick's fans.

The Knicks come into the game off of a much needed win against the New Orleans Hornets.  Prior to that game, the Knicks had lost three straight and given up ground to the rest of the East's top teams.  Still sitting in second in the conference, the Knicks must continue to play consistently and beat teams under .500.

More importantly, the Knicks are seriously fending off hard charging contenders for that coveted 2 spot.  There are 5 teams currently within 4 games back of the Knicks position.  With teams like Boston and Brooklyn with winning  of streaks of at least 6, and with the Pacers and Bulls set to have their stars (Danny Granger and Derrick Rose respectively) back by the all-star break, the Knicks need to keep winning.

Carmelo Anthony is still leading the East in scoring and playing like a much deserving MVP candidate.  He will obviously remain the focus of the Knicks offense.  Despite some epic performances in the past few seasons, Melo has proven that he can't do it alone.  He will need help from Amare Stoudemire, who recently returned from injury.  Stoudemire is still not at 100%, and Woodson will likely play Stoudemire more and more to see if the all-star forward fits in with this new Knicks team.  JR Smith is putting up his best numbers as a pro this season, and he'll have to continue to be a spark off the bench for the Knicks team.

The Pistons will arrive in London coming off of a loss, but playing better now then at the beginning of the year.  They've won 5 of 7 including a victory over the Miami Heat.  To this point, the Pistons have been the 9th best defensive tea in the league, giving up only 96 ppg.  For the Pistons to win, they will have to keep the Knicks high powered offense to under 100 points.  The Knicks are 18-6 in games that they've scored over 100 points, including a win over the Pistons.

The Knicks must play a high effort game Thursday afternoon to take a victory back home.  From the NBA standpoint, playing only its third regular season game in Europe, what better way to market the league than to have one of the most popular teams in the sport play overseas.