As a leverage move, many NBA superstars have been debating whether or not to make the jump overseas. Philadelphia 76ers first round draft pick Nikola Vucevic recently became the first Sixer to join the growing trend, followed shortly thereafter by Craig Brackins. I can't blame either player for their decision. Both are young and in need of an important development year. For the NBA players fighting for a spot on the end of the bench, going overseas is a viable option. However for the upper echelon of talent, it is a big mistake.
I've read several comments top tier players have made in favor of playing overseas. None of them understand the issues which come from playing in a foreign country. For instance...
"If I can't practice, I can't practice. It is as simple as that. It ain't about that at all. It's easy to sum it up if you're just talking about practice. We're sitting here, and I'm supposed to be the franchise player, and we're talking about practice. I mean listen, we're sitting here talking about practice, not a game, not a game, not a game, but we're talking about practice. Not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it's my last but we're talking about practice man. How silly is that?"
"Now I know that I'm supposed to lead by example and all that but I'm not shoving that aside like it don't mean anything. I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice. When you come to the arena, and you see me play, you've seen me play right, you've seen me give everything I've got, but we're talking about practice right now." (Allen Iverson)
One of the most memorable quotes in Philadelphia sports, and possibly NBA history features Allen Iverson's tirade to the late Phil Jasner's questions about his practice habits.
There is no doubt during the regular season practice lacks the same intensity as the preseason, due to the amount of games played each week. However in Europe, with fewer games and a longer season, NBA stars will have to learn to love practice again.
The NBA regular season has 82 games and lasts about five and a half months. An average European season has anywhere between 30 and 50 games and lasts seven and a half months. 40 less games and two more months equals absurd amounts of time spent practicing. Especially when you consider the amount of two-a-days, (two practices per day) which run throughout the season. Mentally dealing with that much practice may be difficult if not accustomed to it.
When I was little I used to seal a deal with a pinky swear. To an eight year old that meant as much as a contract. Then I grew up and realized as a professional basketball player overseas, a contract meant as much as a pinky swear.
Overseas teams are notorious for failing to pay players. Every player I have spoken to, including myself, is owed money from various teams. Unfortunately there is not much to do about it. Foreign legal systems are tricky and costly. Trying to recoup money owed is rarely successful.
TNT analyst and former Philadelphia 76er Charles Barkley recently reiterated this point last week when asked about NBA players going abroad. "Those foreign teams are very famous for not paying players," Barkley said. "(Josh) Childress said they don't pay a lot of players."
Although some countries will be able to afford an expensive and talented player, others will not. But that will not stop them from trying. Regardless if they find appropriate sponsors and somehow are able to pay the allotted salary, once the lockout ends and their star heads stateside, expect those sponsors to stop sending checks and expect the remainder of the team to stop receiving a deposit into their bank account.
The ramifications of playing overseas while in a locked out contract have been widely discussed. The NBA has decided not to sanction any game taking place outside the confines of the league during the lockout. This means any injury received while playing in an overseas game would not be covered.
This has deterred several elite players from making the trek overseas...That is unless a foreign team is willing to insure the player for the rate of their current contract, if a serious or career threatening injury occurs.
"Well, I think it would be a mistake for Derrick Rose to go overseas," Sixer alumn Charles Barkley recently told ESPN radio's Waddle and Silvy Show. "I think any great player has got too much at stake. You could go there and hurt yourself...If you are as great as Derrick Rose, why would you risk your NBA career and contract by going overseas? I just don't think that's very smart."
Agreed Charles, and here's why...Remember the scene in Varsity Blues when Jonathon Moxon stages a coup against legendary coach Bud Kilmer, in order to keep the team physician from inserting a needle in running back Wendell Brown's knee? An amazing piece of cinematic history no doubt, and a site any player venturing overseas needs to get accustomed to.
The handling of athletes by overseas trainers and doctors has come under scrutiny as of late. In the event of an injury to a top player, many teams may decide to give a cortisone/god knows what shot in order to alleviate the pain and allow said player to play. Although the injury may start off small, if it is not properly treated it could lead to a serious, and more debilitating injury.
I'm not saying all of these incidents await any player who decides to go play overseas. I am merely trying to inform anyone who is excited about the prospect of going overseas that it is not all Champagne and Caviar over there. It is very different from the NBA lifestyle these players are accustomed to.