November 14, 2011
The players' union has decertified, the league isn't very happy about it, and we're now in serious danger of losing the entire season. It's a bad situation for anyone involved with the NBA.
Some people, though, saw this thoroughly impolite dust-up coming way back in July and acted accordingly. As soon as Billy Hunter and union leadership decided not to decertify in July, a handful of agents and players correctly predicted the owners' capacity for intractability and started looking for the first opportunities overseas. Knowing there would be a limited amount of spots, they acted quickly and decisively.
It was a risk, but one that's paid off handsomely now that most NBA players will probably be out of a job for a full season. If a deal had been reached, players like Deron Williams(notes) (now in Turkey) and J.R. Smith(notes) (now in China) may have scrambled to return to the states and, in the case of the latter, find a contract. Now, they're sitting in fairly nice foreign hotel suites while everyone else does their own scrambling to find a job. As Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted this afternoon, several high-profile players are already getting serious about new jobs.
Playing overseas isn't a 24-hour party by any means. There's an entirely different culture, both basketballular and otherwise, and Ty Lawson(notes) has been vocal about experiencing racism in Lithuania. However, in the grand scheme of professional basketball employment, the guys overseas are in far better shape than those sitting at home playing "Call of Duty" in America. They're getting regular, solid paychecks, expanding their foreign fan bases, and generally doing what NBA players are supposed to do. It's just happening in countries they've never lived in before.
So, even as their situations may not be ideal, it's worth commending these players and their agents for their foresight. Most anyone with a clear picture of the league's position in July thought they weren't ready to negotiate in good faith. Only a few people acted accordingly. It's enough to wonder where the players might be now if more had treated the situation more seriously from the beginning.