September 01, 2011
The NBA owners and their locked-out players may have had a productive meeting on Wednesday. We don't know, because they said precious little to the press following the six-hour meeting outside of the quite-warming idea that overwrought rhetoric will hopefully become a thing of the past as the two sides get down to making a deal.
That hasn't stopped international teams from sniffing around and seeing if they can land an NBA player to work overseas during the lockout, if only for a few weeks. We can't say that Deron Williams(notes) set the precedent a month ago by deciding to play for a well-heeled team in Turkey, because there weren't many well-paying spots to go around -- even considering the sheer amount of international teams. And we can't consider former New York and Denver scorer Wilson Chandler(notes) to be a precedent-setter, either, because he bit the bullet and took a contract with a Chinese team without an opt-out clause.
No, what we're looking for is a good-to-great NBA player to take on a temporary job overseas with both the player knowing full well that he won't make nearly as much (and that this will be a stopgap scenario), and with the team knowing that the player could split when or if the lockout ever ends (and that this is, you guessed it, a stopgap scenario).
Who are the likely candidates? Well, with the help of Hoopshype, we've gathered a few possibilities.
Australia is still buzzing from Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan's declaration that Milwaukee Bucks center (and Australian native) Andrew Bogut(notes) is "a star to be reckoned with." First off, they love the word "reckoned" in Oz. Secondly, they're hoops-mad in Australia, and wouldn't mind watching Bogut work his way back from that debilitating elbow injury from 2010 with an Aussie team.
The Adelaide 36ers want to sniff him out, and see if it's worth it. From Adelaide Now:
Signing Bogut […] means insuring him against his NBA contract.
That premium figure is reportedly in the vicinity of $500,000.
"The question becomes does he make that back for you?" [36ers head coach Marty] Clarke said.
"How much sponsorship comes on the back of that type of attraction?
"The concern is how much any of those guys - Andrew, [Portland guard, and 36ers-signee] Patty [Mills] - will actually play.
"I'd struggle to see the NBA not going ahead - I think early January is the cut-off point when a season can no longer happen.
"But you would never rule (approaching) Andrew Bogut out."
This will be a reoccurring theme. Not only will these international teams break their relative bank to offer NBA players far, far less than what they'd make without a lockout (Bogut is on the hook for an eight-figure season, in U.S. dollars, this year), but the insurance rates will be through the roof. New sponsors, improved gate receipts and TV ratings are all bound to shoot up. But will they shoot up enough to make it worth it for a team like the 36ers?
Much less Bogut?
Tony Parker(notes), through a couple of translators, is just about ruling out playing for the French team he owns because of insurance concerns. Grizzlies guard Greivis Vasquez(notes), however, had some very nice things to say about the French and French culture and could see himself playing in Parker's home country.
Also nearly making eight figures this season, should the lockout ever lift, will be Andrea Bargnani(notes) of the Toronto Raptors. The scoring big man should have his fair share of offers should the NBA start later than usual, or not at all.
From La Gazzetta dello Sport, Sportando:
Montepaschi Siena is interested in Andrea Bargnani for the upcoming season, at least until NBA lockout ends. Il Mago has never talked about the possibility to return overseas during the lockout postponing any decision after Eurobasket where he is playing with Italian National Team. Toronto Raptors star is receiving a lot of proposals to play in Europe also by European top teams but Siena is ready to make a big offer for him when NBA will officially put off the beginning of the NBA season.
As it was with Bogut, Bargs is made for a league like that. We love Andrew, but he can't shoot to save his life at this point in his career, and his physical play and defensive mindset would fit right in with an NBL squad. Bargnani? He likes to shoot, and little else. For international play in Italy? Sign him up.
Corey Maggette(notes) is already ahead of the game in that regard. He's in Greece, met by hundreds of PAOK supporters, and while he hasn't signed off on a contract, he does seem to be enjoying the attention.
From Sportando, here's Maggette after touching down:
"I am happy to be here. When my manager told me about the possibility to sign in Greece, I thought it was a good opportunity for me. In the next days I want to know the coach, the gym, the facilities, the city and I will decide whether to sign or not here"
At the end of it, though, even with Maggette already in Greece, and Bogut, Parker and Bargnani being courted by teams in their home countries, the mercurial Nick Young(notes) might be the best chance an international team has for a flight risk. Although, like Wilson Chandler, the former Wizards guard and current free agent would be heading to China for the duration of the season. No opt-outs.
"Obviously, he is one of the biggest-name free agents out there," his agent, Aaron Mintz, said Wednesday afternoon. "Anyone under contract with the NBA can't go over there. You want scorers? Nick is one of the best scorers in the league, let alone available free agents."
Oh, agents. You're adorable.
OK, Nick is a scorer, even if he doesn't do anything else. And in this weak free-agent class, he is a name guy. And he's probably right to explore an opportunity in China.
Partially because there might not be an NBA season, and he'd be out of a paycheck for a year as it was (and Nick is coming off of a slim rookie contract). But mostly because it will be players like Young -- the sort of potential-laden but eventually lacking chuckers -- that will be hurting to find the sort of deals in the new collective bargaining agreement that may have earned them more than twice as much with the last CBAs.
That brings us to another point. While Turkey and China only appear to be the two countries that can offer goodly salaries to NBA types at this point, if the NBA gets its scorched-earth CBA that it is reportedly looking for, you will see plenty more passable-to-good or even good-to-great NBA players make this jump. Especially the free-agent types who usually have to wait until this time in the summer to get an NBA contract, regardless of a lockout.
Create those inroads now, lockout or otherwise. And pay attention, NBA fans. This is where the groundwork starts.