NBA PM: Mass NBA Exodus to Europe?
It’s been an interesting week in the NBA. A few days ago former New York Knicks president Dave Checketts announced that the lockout was over, sending out a wave of optimism and relief that was quickly squashed when the truth came out shortly thereafter . . .that the lockout was not over.
A few days after that, talks had swung the opposite direction, to a point that NBA commissioner David Stern called “the nuclear winter of the NBA.” The Players announced a decision to decertify their union, the NBA responded by filing an anti-trust suit, and things have spiraled out of control from there.
It is now widely believed that the Players do not actually intend to decertify the union, but rather are using that threat as a ploy to try and reach more agreeable terms with the Owners, but sham or not, the recent downgrade in talks between the two sides seems to be sparking a great deal of interest on the part of NBA players in playing overseas.
A significant number of players have already left the country in search of greener pastures, but over the last 48 hours we’ve begun to see some of the players who were not previously interested in going overseas suddenly display an interest. Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Wesley Matthews and Stephen Curry have all reportedly begun exploring European options, a clear indication that they (or at least, their agents) believe the 2011-12 season is now in serious jeopardy.
One of the real issues facing players at this point is how to maintain their physical conditioning without the standard NBA schedule in place to help them plan. More than a few players have turned up to various charity games a little on the hefty side, and even more are admitting that it’s hard to stay in NBA shape without the game to motivate them. Many plan their workouts based on the start of a new season, and with no season currently in the offing it’s become difficult for players to find the edge.
Don’t be surprised if we see more and more players starting to look overseas for that motivation. FIBA may not be anywhere close to the NBA, but at least it is competitive full-court basketball, which is more than most players are able to find stateside.
Keep in mind that most players have NBA outs written into their overseas contracts, meaning that as soon as the lockout lifts they will be released from their deals. So while the news out of New York isn’t good, the departure of more players to Europe is not a sign of the End Times.
It is, however, another sign that the end of the lockout may not be right around the corner.
John Wall Takes Proactive Stance
Washington Wizards point guard John Wall was in Dallas last weekend to take part in a Josh Howard Foundation charity event, and took some time to talk to HOOPSWORLD about making a difference with inner-city kids, the player who inspired him and possibly playing against him in the near future, going back to school and more in this exclusive interview:
Dwight Howard: Super Role Model
Most NBA fans know Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard as the fun-loving, larger-than-life guy who loves to entertain off the court almost as much as he loves to dominate on it. Now, together with long-time Orlando writer John Denton, he has published a children’s book aimed at helping kids dream big . . .and also achieve those dreams. The book is called All You Can Be: Learning and Growing Through Sports, and it’s something every sports fan – every parent – will want to add to their children’s bookshelves.
Dwight may be one of the NBA’s brightest stars, but like so many professional athletes he remembers very well his humble beginnings. He spends time working with inner city kids and also works closely with the Boys & Girls Clubs as part of the NBA Cares initiative. He even turned to the kids of the Boys & Girls Clubs to provide illustrations for his book, and the artwork appears throughout.
The book is laid out in five sections, appropriately called quarters, with an overtime section thrown in for fun. In The First Quarter, Howard takes us back to his own childhood, reflecting on his parents and how involved they were in his day-to-day activities. He also shares a lesson that we can all relate to: “The best friends are the ones who care about you as a person, not about what you can do for them.” That’s a lesson that has served Howard well in the wake of his rise to superstardom. As Howard conveys, it’s incredibly important for kids to choose their friends wisely.
The Second Quarter shifts to his early dreams of playing basketball, and also how important his trademark smile has been to his life. “I love making people smile,” says Howard, who is notorious in NBA circles for his outrageous and contagious sense of humor. Some have questioned whether Dwight might smile too much out on the basketball court, but he is quick to point out that he plays his best when he is having fun, and his smile is the clear indication of just how much fun he’s having. He adds that his dreams have always been as big as his smile, and he encourages his readers to dream big, aim high, and work hard to accomplish their goals. He himself began writing out his dreams and putting them on the wall of his bedroom in eighth grade. That helped him achieve his dream of making it to the NBA, though he also admits that it didn’t hurt when he grew seven inches as a freshman in high school.
The Orlando Magic made Howard the top pick in the 2004 NBA draft, marking the beginning of what he calls “a magical ride,” also the title of The Third Quarter. Dwight would be the last high school player to ever be drafted number one, and he recalls sitting in the Green Room and hearing analysts say he probably wouldn’t pan out because he was straight out of high school. That gave him even more motivation to be the best, as did his first two seasons in the league, when his coaches didn’t even run plays for him. He pushed himself to add muscle, to get stronger, and to be mentally tougher. He learned the real meaning of sacrifice, choosing to work out instead of going out with his friends. He learned that success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s something you have to work and sacrifice to achieve.
In 2008 Howard felt like he finally broke through, and as such he calls The Fourth Quarter “Breaking Through.” It was during the 2008 All-Star slam dunk competition that he donned a red cap and Superman shirt and slammed home the winning dunk. He dubbed himself the new Superman, walking in the footsteps of Shaquille O’Neal, who also bore that nickname. He got the Magic back to the playoffs, had a series of 20-point, 20-rebound games, and even became part of Team USA. He even led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009, and his popularity has soared ever since.
Overtime, then, is all about giving back. Having achieved the ultimate success, Howard found himself in a unique position as far as having an impact on the lives of others. Money is one thing, but spending time can be even more impactful, especially for Superman. As Howard notes, “giving a gift might make them feel good in that moment, but in my experience, people will always remember the time you spent with them more than anything else.”
Far too few celebrities truly embrace their role model status, and it’s great to see Dwight Howard staying true to his values even as his star rises higher every year. All You Can Be is not only an inspiration read, the pictures and quotes will help kids to dream big, set goals, and work hard to achieve those goals starting at a young age. It’s a must-read, and something you’ll want to share with your kids for years to come.
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