NBA PM: Overseas Risk Vs. Reward
Now that FIBA has officially announced that they will approve the transfer of NBA players who are currently under contract (see the press release below), get ready for an onslaught of headlines regarding NBA stars joining foreign teams. The question now becomes, is that really what’s best for the players or the teams they might be joining?
The first answer is yes. The toughest thing for players to do, including veteran players, is to stay in top condition and NBA shape while not playing NBA games. There are a number of veterans around the league who have managed to play the majority of their teams’ games because they have excellent offseason programs, but those players are definitely in the minority. While ironmen like Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash have been able to stay on the court a high percentage of the time, you also have players like Tracy McGrady, Shaquille O’Neal and, perhaps most famously, Charles Barkley, who always seemed to feel like they could play their way into shape once training camp began. As a result, they all missed significant numbers of games, especially later in their careers.
Working out is one thing, but actually playing competitive basketball is the best way for NBA players to stay in shape while they wait for the lockout to end. As long as there is no NBA, FIBA offers the most competitive basketball atmosphere on the planet.
Off the court there are also plenty of reasons for players – especially star players – to take their talents overseas. Nothing could be bigger for adidas than for Dwight Howard to play a few games in China, where literally billions of basketball fans are waiting to embrace him . . .and buy his shoes, his jerseys, and even his characteristic Tech-fit sleeve. Nike can’t wait to grab a larger share of the European shoe market behind Kobe Bryant, and so on. Bryant and Howard won’t make anything like their NBA salaries playing elsewhere, but the extra money they make as a result of their expanded marketing brand should more than make up for it.
There are plenty of reasons for NBA players to seek refuge in the other basketball-starved corners of the world while they wait out what promises to be a cold war between the players union and the owners as they fight over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement, but there are also plenty of risks involved.
First and foremost, don’t expect to see any free agents playing organized basketball anywhere. Free agent forward Shane Battier recently joked that he’s not even playing a game of pick-up basketball before he signs his next NBA contract; one wrong turn or misstep and a free agent could find himself looking for a different line of work. Having an NBA contract isn’t much of a safety net, though. If a player under contract to the NBA gets injured playing elsewhere that contract can be voided, and that’s a risk no player will take lightly.
At the end of the day, basketball players are going to play basketball. They’re either going to play as part of their daily routine with one of the powerhouses of basketball – IMG Academies, Impact Basketball, Attack Athletics, etc. – or they’re going to play on their own in less formal settings. It’s not that much more of a risk to play competitively overseas, though the Euroleague teams to play a special brand of basketball that would make the touch-foul NBA set cringe. There are risks, as there are with any activity, but the rewards could well prove to make the risks worth taking for a large number of NBA stars.
FIBA Welcomes NBA Players
FIBA has confirmed it will approve the transfer of players under contract with the NBA deciding to play for clubs of FIBA affiliated leagues during the on-going lockout.
During a lockout NBA players who continue to be under contract with an NBA team are free to play anywhere they want, whether for their national teams and/or for club teams.
If an NBA player requests to play for a club of a FIBA affiliated league, the NBA will not object but will state that the player will have to return to his NBA team as soon as the lockout ends. Consequently, FIBA will deliver a letter of clearance subject to the receipt of a declaration signed by the player, stating that he will return to his NBA team when the lockout is over.
“As the world governing body for basketball, we strongly hope that the labour dispute will be resolved as soon as possible, and that the NBA season is able to begin as scheduled,” said FIBA Secretary General and IOC member, Patrick Baumann.
“In view of our role to promote basketball worldwide, we support any player wishing to play the game, wherever and whenever. We do so while obviously taking the interests, rights and obligations of all parties into account,” he added.
“We are delighted to see that, in spite of widespread doubts related to the lockout, National Teams competing in this summer’s Olympic Qualifiers will be able to count on the participation of most of their NBA stars.”
Any NBA player deciding to play during the lockout, does so at his own risk, notably if he sustains an injury.
FIBA has stated that it is up to the clubs to decide whether or not they shall sign a waiver clearing them of any responsibility towards the player in case of injury and other reasons preventing him from returning to the NBA and from fulfilling his obligations vis-à-vis his NBA team.
As HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy reported this afternoon, NBPA Vice President Keyon Dooling is on the verge of signing a one-year deal with a Turkish basketball team, a deal that has no NBA-out. That’s a pretty good indication of where Dooling thinks the talks between players and owners are likely to lead.
Could Adelman Coach Minnesota?
When Rick Adelman elected not to return to the Houston Rockets it wasn’t because the team didn’t want him back; it was because he wasn’t interested in returning. Years of makeshift lineups and unwanted trades took their toll on Adelman, who always made the best of the situation regardless. There aren’t many coaches who could take a team without either of their all-stars as close to the playoffs as Adelman consistently got the Rockets while Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady made headlines with their injuries. That’s exactly what has the Timberwolves so interested in making Adelman their next head coach.
Minnesota seems an unlikely choice for Adelman, who would really like another title shot before he hangs up his clipboard for the last time. After all, the Timberwolves had the worst record in the NBA last season. They are, however, a young and healthy team, and given Adelman’s propensity for turning young, unproven players into starters on playoff-caliber teams, he could be just the right man to lead Minnesota back to the playoffs. Imagine what Adelman could do with budding young stars like Kevin Love and Michael Beasley, not to mention the very promising young talents of Derrick Williams, Ricky Rubio and Wes Johnson.
Adelman’s decision to do his interview with David Kahn over the phone rather than visit in person seemed a pretty good indication that the former wasn’t overly interested in what the latter was offering, but according to Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, it could simply come down to money. If the Timberwolves are willing to cough up $4-5 million a season, Adelman would strongly consider taking the job. If they want to go to cheap they’re likely to get stuck with someone like Don Nelson or Bernie Bickerstaff, neither of whom is likely to inspire confidence in the players, much less the beleaguered fan base.
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