Over the last week a flood of reports, tweets and super sleuth work at ethnic restaurants have surfaced, indicating numerous NBA stars are pondering the possibility of playing overseas should the NBA lockout drag on into the fall.
Tuesday afternoon league owners gave the first indication that they’re willing to budge a bit on the massive rift between their group and the players they employ. In the first labor negotiation action since the lockout began, the owners announced they would return $160 million from the NBA’s escrow fund to the players’ wallets.
That money initially belonged to the players and was supposed to make its way back to them at the end of the season until the owners declared they would keep the cash and distribute it among themselves.
So there’s one very minor victory for the players.
Meantime, All-Stars Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard joined the parade of high-profile players toying with the idea of playing overseas should the lockout continue into next season.
(Watch video of Durant’s China tour here.)
Here’s the statement from the league:
“That cash could ease or delay the point at which some players begin to feel financial hardship from the lockout. Based on the "average" NBA salary of $5.7 million, the escrow rebate would be worth $456,000. A minimum-salaried player ($473,604) would be due $37,888 while a $16 million superstar could expect $1.28 million coming back.”
While in Beijing on a promotional tour for Nike, Durant said he’s open to testing the international waters should the lockout continue.
“We’ll see, I would like to try something new. But of course, my first option is playing in the NBA. So now I want to see how this lockout goes.”
In related news, Kevin Durant loves Yao Ming and China loves Kevin Durant.
New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams was the first big name to declare his desire to play abroad last Thursday — a move Durant called “very brave.” Since then Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and several others have also reportedly floated the idea. Wednesday dazzling dunker Dwight Howard was asked whether he’d consider playing in Europe.
“It would be fun to play at Unicaja, it sure would be a great experience for me. If the break does not stop, I would come to Europe to continue to improve on a great team to end the lockout when ready.”
But one NBA player with recent experience playing overseas cautions players against being too headstrong. Josh Childress, who signed a three-year $20 million deal with Olympiacos (Greece) in 2008, is back stateside, under contract with the the Phoenix Suns, locked out and not considering another cross-Atlantic move.
Here’s the advice Childress — who has four years left on a five-year, $33 million deal with the Suns — shared with ESPN’s Ric Bucher:
"No, I wouldn't (play overseas). 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."
And of course there’s also the lifestyle change. The Orlando Sentinel’s Shannon J. Owens worries the culture shock might be too much for some pampered stars to bear. Owens’ brother, international basketball player Chris Owens who has played abroad since he was cut by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2003, can attest to the vast cultural differences surrounding the game — he’s been pelted by hot coins hurled by unruly fans in Turkey.