NBA PM: Is Europe Bad for NBA Stars?
Add Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard to the throngs of NBA stars who have publically mused over playing in Europe during the lockout. In an interview with Spain’s Málaga Hoy, which has been translated by Slam’s Marcel Mutoni, the NBA’s reigning three-time Defensive Player of the Year talked about his union’s situation and his own.
“I think most players agree,” Howard said. “I hope they fix the situation as soon as possible to avoid losing a game of the season. The NBA is a global competition followed by millions of viewers and should not pass things like this.
“It would be fun to play at Unicaja (a Spanish team that competes in the Euroleague and features former Raptors forward Jorge Garbajosa),” Howard continued. “It sure would be a great experience for me. If the break does not stop, I would come to Europe to continue to improve on a great team to end the lockout when ready.”
But amid the idle chatter of players who may or may not be posturing for the union’s sake, one NBA player with real European experience is calling it as he sees it. Phoenix Suns guard Josh Childress played two seasons for Olympiacos in Greece, but didn’t seem to endorse the idea to ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher. Most importantly, Childress echoed a claim that many European teams aren’t diligent, or in some cases competent, when it comes to paying players what they’re owed. And if you think the American court system is cumbersome, try suing an established team in a foreign country.
“One of the biggest things guys will have to realize is that whatever offer you get, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get all that money,” Childress said. “If a guy isn’t playing well or a team is out of the playoffs, they’ll just stop paying you. I know tons and tons of players who just walked away because they didn’t want to go through the hassle of going to court to get their money.”
While it’s understandable that role players—who obviously make less money than stars—are eager to play in Europe. Guaranteed contracts or not, they’ve acquired a lifestyle that needs to be supported. But the NBA’s biggest names—guys like Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant and Howard—would be jeopardizing their current and future NBA contracts by risking injury overseas. And Childress says NBA stars would be receive drastically different treatment than what they’re accustomed to from everyone: fans, referees, coaches, hotels and airlines.
“Here the stars run the show,” Childress says. “Over there it’s the coach, and the coach only. You really have to buy into the system. The style of play is slower, a lot closer to a college style. It’s a lot less reliant on talent and more on tactics and execution. They definitely have a high opinion of how they play the game and view NBA basketball as street ball. You go over there, you’re playing against everyone—other players, fans, referees, everyone. You don’t get calls because you’re stronger, faster and more athletic, so they think you should be able to take it.”
There is definitely a perception that some elite European teams can give players something akin to the NBA experience, but that’s another myth addressed by Childress.
“I played for one of the biggest clubs in Europe,” Childress says. “But there were still six- and seven-hour bus rides, we didn’t stay at the best hotels and we flew commercial nine out of 10 times. And not all coaches care about your body. It’s more military style. There’s no getting tired. I’ll be interested to see how guys’ bodies respond.”
Obviously some NBA players are just shooting the breeze when they speak about playing overseas, but now that the Nets’ Williams has made his intensions clear the threat seems so much more real. Turkish Airlines, which sponsors Euroleague, has already made a deal with Bryant, so it’s clear foreign companies are eager to pay NBA stars. But for Childress, the bottom line is that the players have even less control in Europe than they do in America; and the last thing any of these guys wants to do is to travel halfway around the world for another battle with management.
“No, I wouldn’t,” Childress said of possibly returning to Europe. “And I don’t know why guys would. I understand that guys really want to play. But you sometimes have to look at what you have and treat this as a business. The only way I could see it making sense is if you’re a player from a particular country going back. But for an American player with a good-sized guaranteed deal here, I can’t see why you’d do it.
“Do your research,” he continued. “Look into who the coaches are and the teams that don’t pay. The worst thing is going over to play for however many months and then having to fight to get your money. I welcome guys to ask me questions. I can help them out. They play by different rules over there.”
The NBA Will Fine You
NBA team employees are not allowed to comment on players to the media during the lockout. It seems like an easy rule to follow, but apparently there is some gray area and very little leeway for mistakes.
“There’s a line in the sand that the NBA has drawn for everybody, but nobody knows exactly where the line is,” one employee told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune. “Everybody is scared, not wanting to be the first to be hit with a fine.”
Case in point, acting Blazers general manager Chad Buchanan was threatened with a $1 million fine, a source told Eggers, for saying the word “yeah.”
During a recent interview, someone lamented about the cancelled summer league, and Buchanan gave the one-word answer before reportedly getting a major scare from the league.
We don’t know any of this for a fact, but I’m sure nobody wants to find out if the league is serious.
In Case You Missed It
NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner wrote Tuesday that for the first time, the money that is withheld from the players’ contracts and put into escrow will be returned to the players, amounting in a “$160 million infusion of cash in the midst of the league’s labor lockout.”
This escrow fund is comprised of eight percent of each player’s salary and was established to “ensure that the players’ share of basketball-related income does not exceed the contractually agreed-upon percentage, currently 57 percent.”
The final audit of the season will be wrapped up this month, and since the players have made less or close to 57 percent of the BRI, they will get to divvy up $160 million. In previous years—when most teams were well over the cap—players pulled in over 57 percent of the BRI through a combination of salary and benefits (and the benefits add up). But, thanks to last summer’s free agent bonanza and the subsequent rush to get under the cap, the players didn’t get overcompensated as they usually had been.
Aschburner writes that a player who makes the minimum salary would still get $37,888 while a star who makes $16 million would be due a $1.28 million check, all of which could help delay any ramifications from the financial losses of the lockout.
76ers About to Be Sold
The sale of the 76ers from Comcast Spectacor to a group headed by Joshua Harris has essentially been completed, according to several reports. The deal could be official within the week, and when it does it will be sent to the league’s Board of Governors for approval. Since there’s no rush to get a deal done—the league is locked out if you haven’t heard—the board won’t meet again until August, so no sale could be completed before then.
Dwyane Wade is running a youth basketball camp at Nova Southeastern University, but he took a moment to tell Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel how he’s recovering from the HEAT’s NBA Finals loss to the Mavericks.
“I haven’t watched ESPN in a long time,” Wade said. “Sorry ESPN. I love the network and all. It’s still hard to watch basketball.”
Wade was reportedly candid with the campers about the loss and didn’t hesitate to tell reporters that his attempts to lighten the situation simply cannot take the pain away.
“The sting is always going to be there when you lose,” Wade said. “Obviously, it was my first time ever losing the Finals. The sting is there, no question about it. I joke with the kids. I said, ‘All right, I’m going to make jokes about it. You guys are not going to ask me the question.’ Because the first thing, when they ask questions, they want to know stuff. I make sure I shed some light on it in a sense-of-humor type way, but the sting is still there.
“But you’ve got to move on,” he continued. “As I said, at the end of the year, we learn from it, but life continues to go and we’ll have a lot more basketball left in our lives to play and we’ll get another crack at it.”
Wade went on to say that he’s avoided the criticism. He pointed out that 28 other teams didn’t win the title either, just like the HEAT, so it’s nothing to be too upset over. As for the lockout, Wade feels it’s too early to miss the game just yet.
“I’m only a month away from the game,” he said. “I’m cool.”