The NBA Lockout has players coming out the woodwork expressing interest towards playing overseas. What looks like a smart, short-term move on paper is actually much less desirable than advertised. The allure of the Euro and the Yuan has plenty of players weighing their options since owners shut the league down. Yet it’s not as simple as getting a new deal and basking in the glow of a new, valuable currency.
Former Celtics center Nenad Krstic is short on vowels but has plenty of wisdom on worldwide play. He split his career between the NBA and Russia’s Super League and saw the lockout storm brewing when Boston got eliminated last season. So he planned accordingly and headed out for another international stint with CSKA Moscow: one of the Euroleague’s premier clubs. His diligence made him potentially $9.8 million richer over two years with a second year option to boot. He talked to the Boston Herald, via Slam, about the potential influx of players when lockout loomed and how his diligence paid off.
“Despite all the talk from players about playing in Europe during the lockout, Krstic believes the overseas option is vastly overrated. ‘I don’t think you will see a lot coming here,’ Krstic said yesterday from his home in Kraljevo, Serbia. ‘Europe is not in a great situation financially. There are only four or five teams now that can offer much to NBA players, and those teams right now are almost full. ‘That’s a problem for NBA players, I think,’ he said. ‘It was a reason why I had to go right away. I got maybe the best contract in Europe because of that.’”
His words on Europe’s economy aren’t empty statements. Spain, Greece, Italy and Russia, all hotbeds for Euroleague basketball, have their own deficit problems: especially Spain and Greece. Players would be fighting for scraps at this point with few spots to spare.
The prognosis on marquee talent getting equal deals isn’t good either. Deron Williams’ (pictured) deal with Turkish team Besiktas offers up to $5 million for a year: down from roughly $32 Million he’d be owed in two years as an NBA player. That’s a humongous dive for a temporary home. More importantly, the move may haunt him if owners reach an agreement with the Player’s Association by fall.
China, on the other hand, has been another the apple of players and agents eyes since the country’s become an emergent force in the global economy. Nevertheless, their intent on capitalizing that space seems just as reactionary as their thoughts on signing with European clubs; not to mention China’s pro league can accommodate only so many players as well. Happy Walters, Amar’e Stoudemire’s agent, recently shed some light on the situation with ESPN.
“Walters said that leagues in China don’t start their seasons until December, so that would give some players more time to wait, but even still, with 12-15 teams in China and 2-3 Americans allowed per team, there are only about 40 more spots that could become available if players pass on the European teams that open up camp in the fall while waiting out the lockout.”
I’m not against players entertaining different avenues to play professional ball but hopes of playing elsewhere en masse are too soon and, weirdly enough, too late. Athletes already missed the boat on making major money in Europe and the money ship won’t return in the foreseeable future. Additionally, it’d be too soon to take one’s talents across time zones when you sit back and assess the lockout for what it is. Analysts have all kinds of speculations on when the lockout will end. And, admittedly, I’m on the outside looking in. Perhaps the owners and the NBA’s front office are really that stubborn to halt operations for an extended period.
Let’s nonetheless remind ourselves the NBA produced its most successful seasons in recent memory last year. There’s simply too much possible revenue on the table to ignore in spite of teams seeking protection from their ludicrous, overpaid contracts. The NBA is the most popular, highest grossing basketball league in the world. Most franchises ran in the red but a prolonged freeze won’t lighten their debts anytime soon. Moreover, the NBA is familiar ground to most of its players. Learning a new system under international rules isn’t easy: let alone living in another country.
Foreign pro leagues can’t offer enough comparable contracts, roster spots and similar visibility like the league. More importantly, NBA players under contract, depending on legal stipulations, may void their deals if they get injured overseas. Therefore, it’s still in NBA’s best interest to develop a new, fairly reasonable collective bargaining agreement. The lockout’s not even a month old after all. Hopefully the parties involved knew how to save for a rainy day if they’re still at odds months from now. Most players won’t find shelter in foreign lands and the franchises’s debts will only worsen if no money comes in.