Photo: AP Images
One point of order in the question of locked-out NBA players going overseas: for some players, there’s no need for a note from FIBA, or a ruling on the validity of contracts.We’re talking about any player who goes into the lockout without a deal. Since the start date for a labour stoppage would likely come before the free agency period begins, this issue is very, very real.
Players on rookie contracts would get qualifying offers from their teams allowing them to enter restricted free agency, but couldn’t sign them; unrestricted free agents would be free, so free. These guys would owe nothing to no one and could go off and sign with the pro basketball team of their choice, whenever they wanted. Since free agents always have the option of going to Europe, it’s also not as if they run the risk of fouling up negotiations and pissing off Stern.
This isn’t just a technicality. While the Class of 2011 is no 2010—not by any stretch of the imagination—there are certainly some quality players who would be free to up and walk into another league if they were so inclined. The best: Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, Nene, J.R. Smith, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Redd, David West, Jeff Green, Wilson Chandler, Andrei Kirilenko, and yes, Carmelo Anthony.
Many of these guys will likely sign extensions before the lockout, seeing as the new CBA may be considerably less kind to players. This means, then, that the threat of a lockout limits their options. Forget about adding an additional year — Nene, who has a one-year player option for 2011-12, would be foolish (from a money perspective) to not stay in Denver and reap the benefits of the current salary structure.
But Nene is a coveted free agent. What about someone like J.R. Smith, whose market value is eternally uncertain, and who is hardly an essential part of that team?
What remains to be seen is whether playing overseas will be seen as an attractive option, or a semi-desperate option. For borderline players in the Class of 2011, it might be a life-saver. For upper tier guys? Going overseas might be less important than the decision that lands them in that position to begin with.
If Nene or Melo don’t sign extensions, the real news is that when the league does start up again, they are definitely looking to entertain a change of scenery.
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