New overseas trend could hurt the NBA
The league-wide NBA lockout was a result of a broken business model which has cost NBA owners millions of dollars annually. As a result of the work stoppage, high profile NBA superstars such as Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant and even Dwyane Wade have considered leaving their cushy American lifestyle in exchange for a plane ticket abroad.
Although globalizing the NBA has been commissioner David Stern’s goal for several years, I doubt this is the scenario he had in mind. As the lockout discussions continue to heat up over the coming months, it will be interesting to see which stars stay and which ones end up calling the owners’ bluff.
Whether the trend becomes a legitimate way for players to earn a living during the lockout or whether it is merely an aberration, here are five reasons why these overseas stints would be bad for the NBA.
An injury could cost stars millions in guaranteed money
Imagine how the New Jersey Nets would feel if Deron Williams tore his ACL and was unable to play for a long stretch of time.
How would the Los Angeles Lakers respond if Kobe Bryant tweaked an ankle while playing in an exhibition game in Turkey or China? The answer is not a simple one, as both parties would have legitimate beef.
For one thing, millions of dollars would be lost in guaranteed money by players who suffer injuries while playing outside the confines of an NBA arena. Insurance policies would also have to be put in place at the expense of the club who agrees to bring these players over.
It would also cause a rift between star player and the organization that trusted their franchise player in the hands of a different country. These are all sticky situations to deal with. Not exactly the formula for winning an NBA championship in the near future.
Former NBA All-Stars such as Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, and Steve Francis have recently decided to leave the comforts of the league to take their talents overseas with mixed results.
Iverson, unable to find a team that would give starter minutes to a 35–year-old former No. 1 overall pick, decided to play for Besiktas, a Turkish club which Nets star point guard Deron Williams has recently been linked with.
After playing just seven games with Besiktas, Iverson left the team and returned to the United States in order to have a lesion removed from his right leg. The former scoring champion is now trying to rejoin the NBA, with the new mindset of contributing in any capacity that would be beneficial to a team. Let's just say the list of potential suitors looks far from promising.
And who can forget the disastrous relationship between former high school phenom Jeremy Tyler and the Israeli club Maccabi Haifa? Tyler simply left the team after numerous incidents of immaturity caused him to lose playing time, nearly derailing his once-promising career.
Having to deal with similar distractions from borderline NBA players could do more harm than good for an overseas club in contention for a league championship.
Josh Childress became a less effective player after he returned from Greece
In 2008, the Atlanta Hawks’ Josh Childress defied conventional thinking when he decided to sign a three-year $20 million deal with Olympiakos, a top club in Greece. His decision sparked a national stir, largely due to the fact that an NBA player would voluntarily choose to live overseas instead of taking the much safer domestic route.
In his first season overseas, Childress put up meager averages of 8.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game. Not shocking considering he averaged 11.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.9 steals in his previous season with the Hawks, but underwhelming nonetheless.
When the 28-year-old swingman decided it was time to resurrect his NBA career by signing with the Phoenix Suns last season, his numbers and minutes took a hit while he struggled to find his place in head coach Alvin Gentry’s rotation.
In just over 16 minutes per game, Childress posted averages of 5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 0.6 steals a game. Although his career his far from over, it can be argued that leaving the NBA during his prime playing years made Childress a less effective player upon his return.
Players union president Derek Fisher could face uphill battle
At a time when the players need to give the appearance of togetherness, high profile stars such as Williams and even mid-level players such as Sonny Weems are putting a dent in that image of unity.
While players union president Derek Fisher of the Lakers and executive director Billy Hunter are working countless hours convincing the owners that they are “standing together," players are openly in talks with overseas clubs and putting themselves at risk in order to make a few more bucks.
Not the image fans were hoping for either. In the long run, these displays of individualism will hurt the players union and their leverage at the bargaining table.
By playing overseas, NBA stars are sending a clear message to team owners and David Stern—players play the games and excite fans, owners just write the checks.
On the other hand, the owners are the ones with the most money and owning an NBA team is a costly addition to their business portfolio with minimal returns for the majority. It would make sense for owners to want more say in how their business is operated, and for their "employees" to come back down to earth a little bit.
If as many teams and owners are losing money as they claim, it could be a long while before a new collective bargaining agreement is hammered out and games begin to be played. If this continues, the distance between continents will pale in comparison to the distance in negotiation talks in the months to come.