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The Euro Effect

Wed, 07/23/2008 - 10:45am

 

[img_assist|nid=1563|title=Josh Childress|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=429] By now, you might have heard that Brandon Jennings has elected to spend a post-graduate year in Europe prior to embarking on an NBA career.

While the short-term ramifications of such a decision hold some interest to casual basketball fans, the genuinely intriguing aspect will be how recruiters handle a new batch of competitors.

However, that competition won’t be exclusive to prep circles. There appears to be a new trend that could potentially reinvent the NBA’s business model.

Josh Childress has accepted a 3-year, $20-million offer from Greek power Olympiakos. If he successfully transitions, he could be opening up a door into an NBA general manager’s worst nightmare.

Childress is a talented, versatile forward and one of the league’s top sixth men. He was a key component in the Hawks playoff push and was thought to be a priority in Atlanta’s offseason plans.

As a restricted free agent, the Hawks could match any offer an NBA team submitted. However, that provision doesn’t include proposals from overseas.

It’s highly unlikely that Childress would have seen a better offer this offseason. Memphis is currently the only squad with significant cap room, so Childress would likely have signed a one-year tender with Atlanta in order to hit the 2009 market as an unrestricted free agent.

But in today’s economic climate, it might make far more sense for Childress to accept this deal. The Euro is worth $1.58 in American currency, and Olympiakos would take care of his taxes. As long as the United States’ economy continues to struggle, look for more NBA-level players to explore this option.

A handful of international players with NBA experience (Carlos Delfino, Jorge Garabosa, Juan Carlos Navarro, Bostjan Nachbar, etc.) have already opted for big-money deals overseas -- far more lucrative contracts than they were in a position to negotiate with NBA clubs. Childress appears to be the first American-born player to consider leaving the NBA in the prime of his career -- not because of diminishing skills or a lack of options, but for a better contract offer.

If Childress ends up becoming a Greek basketball star, imagine what this could do to future free-agent negotiations.

European offers could be used to leverage owners into forking over more cash. Every restricted free agent could threaten to update his passport and hop on a plane if his contract demands aren’t met.

And that’s only part of the equation.

As basketball continues to grow in popularity overseas, it will obviously attract the attention of powerful entrepreneurs. In soccer, superstars are bought and sold like a high-stakes game of eBay. Christiano Ronaldo and Ronaldhino are just the latest examples.

Hypothetically, let’s say a billionaire from Macau wanted to capitalize on basketball’s exploding popularity in China. Let’s also say this billionaire has a wonderful working relationship with Nike’s Phil Knight. This billionaire decides his next major investment will be a hoops franchise with a state-of-the-art indoor arena. This billionaire wants to make a major splash, and his pockets are bottomless. He decides to put together an offer for one of Knight’s signature clients -- oh, say, LeBron James. This billionaire is prepared to offer James a 2-year deal in the neighborhood of $150 million.

What happens then?

This might sound outlandish right now, but sometime in the very near future, a scenario similar to the one detailed above will occur. These overseas teams obviously don’t fall under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement, so they’re free to offer any player as much money as they want.

Obviously, China isn’t the only option. Russia, Spain, Italy and dozens of other nations feature excellent basketball clubs with obscenely rich owners.

Most American superstars are also students of the game. They appreciate the NBA’s history. Like MJ, Magic, Larry, Russell, Wilt, Kareem and Oscar before them, they want rings. They want glory.

Taking time off to cash in overseas obviously takes time away from competing for NBA championships. But someone will come along looking to write their own history.

As long as America’s economy continues to flounder, wealthy international basketball squads can consider themselves in the mix for the world’s top talent. As recent Olympic history has shown us, the United States isn’t the be-all, end-all in global hoops competition. There are top-flight basketball leagues everywhere, with plenty of money to go around.

In addition, basketball isn’t some “passing fad” in the international sports world. Clearly, nothing will supplant soccer in most of these nations, but basketball isn’t going anywhere. These leagues feature tradition, die-hard fans and high skill level.

Yes, there will be logistical issues, along with a myriad of cultural and language barriers. Of course, money speaks all languages.

akaftan
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wealthy European teams

"Obviously, China isn’t the only option. Russia, Spain, Italy and dozens of other nations feature excellent basketball clubs with obscenely rich owners."

This is not entirely true. There are only about six to ten teams that can currenty compete financially with the NBA, and they are all in either Russia, Spain, or Greece. Italy's teams, while traditionally very strong, have seen a three or four year period in which the budgets of the likes of Real Madrid, AXA Barcellona, Olympiakos, Panathinaikos, and especially CSKA Moscow have soared above theirs, making it financially impossible to resign or sign the top-tier international players. Giorgio Armani has recently become the owner of Olimpia "Armani Jeans" Milano, and has sought to increase their budget. In the future, they could potentially compete with the top European teams on an economic level. The best team in Italy--Siena--has a fairly small budget, but has fantastic management and team play.

Childress could very well be a trendsetter. He not only has great size and supreme athleticism for a European swingman (he's 6'6" without shoes), but he is fundamentally sound, a good-to-great defender, and solid in virtually all facets of the NBA game, which should translate exceptionally well to Europe.

The NBA could lose some players over to Europe within the next two-three seasons, but once our fiscally clueless president leaves office, and when the economy begins to rebound--analysts expect this to happen by late 2009 or 2010 at the latest--the dollar-euro exchange rate should start to even out, giving European clubs a much smaller financial edge.

mathieu
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What about 14 yo prospects?

In Soccer, teams give contract to very young kids with high potential.
Don't you think some of the top European team, will start proposing contract to the best 14-16 yo US prospects?
In that case, and if the NBA does not adjust, it is very possible that the top talents (Lebron type) start their pro career at 16 yo (look at Ricky Rubio) in an Euroleague team. In that case, once they are 19yo, they could be bound to an European team with huge salaries and buyouts so they become virtually undraftable.

Do you think this scenario could/will happen?

CorMag
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I definetly agree with

I definetly agree with mathieu. Also in europe, sports wear brands and shoe companies throwing contracts at talented kids, which is not allowed in the US....will be interesting to see how David Stern reacts to this. Any comments from him on that situation already available?

stimy15
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I Don't Know about that...

I think there is potential for people offering contracts to kids, but not too many parents in the US are going to let their kid sign a long contract in Europe at 14... I think my biggest worry is that some of the superstars like LeBron will be offered outlandish contracts that are unthinkable in the NBA and then we will not be seeing the top notch basketball we are used to.

Pablo5
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Don´t blocking the sun with a finger!

I am in complete disagreement with what you believed. Perhaps the American super ego distorts his vision of reality. I think your view is a lack of respect and I am totally angry lot.
The IFF years ago that basketball is more than NBA, is seen in international competitions, games of European teams against the NBA's draft in its ...
Each year more foreigners were selected because their level is higher than that of the NCA's top. Ours become stars there, not by the pseudo amateurism in college, but because here the training is much more serious and retailer. The American talent disappeared with the litter of Jordan, think more young people there to sign a contract with Nike and buy the new Mercedes Benz that improve their shooting and defense.
Unfortunately, the American game became a race dogs that jump much like a playground tournament (a show, like the wrestling) a serious little league, in which parties and arbitrators entered the steps all the players commit time soon, to improve their show, they will end the stinging balloon leaving! do not have any control of the players.
I was touched to see players from the Knicks losing games by 30 points and hours to find them on the discs laughing as if nothing. That's basketball?
Because cree that foreigners returning from there? for money? or because competition is the worst? players are there in the hope of finding the league who saw in television, Larry, Magic and Mike and encounter something that is far lower than where they played. And it is true, but look at the numbers of novices foreigners, as Scola and Navarro .. Please stop lying!
If foreigners play in their league, would have the same numbers as in europe, because NBA players are as bad as any team in Europe
but comparing numbers Kasun or Ilyasova in the NBA and in Barcelona, are equally bad!

With FIBA, you lose a final and the players cry, finish exhausted all games, basketball is played seriously in all aspects and at a level where you do not play. Here is played basketball.
Here, the teams work out every day, play every game until the last second like a final, is controlled doping of players and were suspended.

Money is a detail, all these players who are leaving Europe to the NBA or those who are leaving the NBA to Europe have no need of money, we are talking about people who at least has a million dollars in his account .. They do not need money
You are only blocking the sun with a finger, the NBA is neither in the best league around the world.
But look at the stars of the league, players franchise, Biedrins, Leandrinho, Diaw, Pietrus, Ilgauskas, Pau, Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Dirk, Yao, Scola, Deng, Nocioni, Gordon, Calderon, Bargiani, Bogut (to name some) are all foreigners and the vast majority formed in FIBA ...

If you control doping, his players would be a thousand times worse than FIBA

I invite you to see the Euroleague, basketball and look good.

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Thank you very much for this information.
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