Back in 2008, Josh Childress was supposed to be the poster boy for a new generation of NBA players who would consider competitive international offers with the same gusto that they would stateside deals. And with a three-year, $20 million deal on the table from the highly respected Olympiacos team in Greece, Childress would make far more (once taxes were considered) overseas than he would with the $5 million-per-year midlevel exemption he was pegged to make in the NBA.
Once the U.S. economy completely went into a tailspin a few months after Childress' signing, it seemed like the logical thing to do. NBA owners were going to tighten the purse strings, and every good international team needs a former NBA semi-star, right?
Except that the NBA owners kept spending, as if nothing ever happened. And international teams, reeling from their own uncertain economic futures, started playing it smart. But with the lockout having started, and several players musing about jumping overseas alongside the ones who have already jumped, playing outside the NBA this fall would seem to be a viable opportunity.
Apparently not. In a fine piece by ESPN's Ric Bucher, Childress is the lead voice in telling NBA players to stay home. Not because the food is funny and every car seems to come with a manual transmission. No, because according to Josh, those with guaranteed NBA contracts just shouldn't risk it.
"No, I wouldn't," [Childress] says. "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."
It's easy for Childress to say because, I'm sorry, he's one of the overpaid ones. One of the biggest foul owners crying foul (Phoenix's Richard Sarver) signed him to a five-year, $33 million deal last year, bidding against absolutely no one in that financial realm, to bring Childress back stateside, where he wanted to be. And Josh is damned if he's going to risk that deal by turning a knee somewhere in Italy.
Because it's not that any injury would completely wipe out a player for the length of their contract. No, it's that any lingering injury would give a team a chance to void a contract they don't want anymore. It doesn't have to be a career-ender to be a contract-ender.
Bucher goes on to quote agents that scoff at the idea of comparing playing overseas to your typical summer league or pick-up game, because there are clauses in NBA contracts that would prevent teams from voiding a deal because of an injury suffered in some stateside summertime hoops fun. And if we've noticed anything about player representatives of late, it's that agents are nearly unanimous in warning their players against jumps.
Remember, these are agents that are getting a cut, even if a player goes overseas to make less than $1 million (if it's prorated) during the lockout. They've got little to lose, and a small percentage of an overseas deal to gain, and they're still telling players to cool it.
Bucher goes on to point out that Turkey is alone in the way it is spending money on basketball players, mostly due to a booming economic strata that is feeding off its limited participation with a European Union that is spread thin as it includes several failing economies. For those expecting to pick up Deron Williams' $200,000-a-month salary anywhere other than Turkey, well, you've had it. And roster spots are running out.
And certainly don't look to Greece, where Childress signed that three-year, $20 million deal back in 2008. Not since the Greek economy took a tumble and a half last year.
Though it appears Childress' main concern isn't with the wide gulf between NBA accommodations (such as they were) and how things are handled by even the best of international teams, the change in lifestyle is worth a pause nearly as big as the pause needed to mull over a contract-killing injury.
"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."
We are too.
We're less interested in seeing how the owners will respond. Because they won't respond, in the slightest, because they don't care. Half the league could jump, and they wouldn't care. Hell, with the potential injuries and void-work that would follow, I'm sure they're hoping for the type of mass exodus players think they can use as leverage.
- Josh Childress