Posted on: July 29, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2011 5:05 pm
The NBA players' association disagrees with me over the usefulness of players signing overseas during the lockout. We can differ over how much leverage the strategy provides in collective bargaining, but there's no disputing this notion: Players are pursuing deals overseas with the full backing and encouragement of the union.
The latest subplot of international intrigue came Friday, with word that Bucks guard Keyon Dooling -- a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association -- was close to a deal with the Turkish team Efes Istanbul. Earlier, we learned that none other than Kobe Bryant was scheduled to meet over the weekend with Besiktas, the Turkish team that previously signed Nets guard Deron Williams.
Seref Yalcin, head of basketball operations for Besiktas, told reporters in Turkey this week that there's a "50 percent chance" that Bryant signs with a Turkish team, according to Reuters. Despite the fact that Besiktas' assets are frozen in connection with a soccer match-fixing scandal, Yalcin said, "Money will not be a problem." He cited Turkish Airlines, with whom Bryant has a promotional agreement, and two oil companies as potential sponsors for a contract that could pay Bryant between $500,000 and $1 million a month.
Williams' deal with Besiktas reportedly is for $5 million, with an escape clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.
Also on Friday, FIBA -- the governing body of international basketball -- issued a statement saying it will approve the transfer of players under contract with NBA teams to play for FIBA teams during the lockout. NBA officials have been under the impression for months that one risk of imposing a lockout is seeing players find opportunities to play -- and make money -- overseas. Legally, the NBA has no way to stop them, especially now that FIBA is on board.
UPDATE: Later Friday, NBPA executive director Billy Hunter released a statement applauding FIBA's decision.
"The NBPA and our players are gratified by today's announcement by FIBA, although it comes as no surprise," Hunter said. "We have consistently advised our members that in the event of a lockout they would have the right to be compensated for playing basketball irrespective of whether they were under contract to an NBA team or not. We have encouraged all of our players to pursue such opportunities and will continue to do so. In the face of the economic pressure that the NBA has attempted to exert by imposing a lockout, our players are unified and eager to demonstrate that the NBA's tactics will be unsuccessful."
Whether or not significant stars follow Williams to FIBA clubs remains to be seen, but Bryant would be the biggest fish ensnared by the strategy and could pull others along with him. Whether signing overseas provides actual leverage to the union in showing that the NBA isn't the only game in town for locked-out players, or simply illustrates that stars are going to "get theirs" and leave the lockout to the rank and file, is a matter for debate. But there is no questioning where the NBPA stands on this issue: The union has told players it will support, and encourage their efforts to get jobs overseas.
Who will insure the players' current and future NBA earnings against injury while they're globetrotting during the lockout is an issue that every player contemplating such a move has to seriously consider.