Howard Beck, who does a great job with the NBA beat over at the New York Times, dug up this memo from the National Basketball Players Association urging players to follow in the footsteps of New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams and sign contracts overseas if they desire to.
“This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement,” NBPA director Billy Hunter writes in the e-mail sent to players. “It is important for the owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances. If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them.”
Using foreign contracts as leverage makes sense for the players, especially since they may not have many other bargaining chips. Owners tend to hold most of the cards in these labor disputes because they’re able to sustain themselves financially for longer than the players can. If players have a way out — and if superstars like Williams and Kevin Durant are willing to go abroad — they can temporarily raise their own status above that of the league in which they play. And of course there’s the paycheck.
“We believe that there is no impediment to your ability to pursue employment overseas during this lockout,” reads the memo. “Player contracts are suspended during the lockout, so you may sign with another team as long as you negotiate an out-clause allowing you to honor your NBA contract once the lockout ends. We do not believe that FIBA or the NBA will stand in the way of any players pursuing international opportunities, whether you are under contract or a free agent.”
While some players — maybe even some stars — will go abroad, it seems unlikely you’ll see any Celtics playing in another country. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Jermaine O’Neal, and Kevin Garnett are in the twilight of their careers, have made plenty of money, and could use the rest. Rajon Rondo is coming off a pretty severe elbow injury. Last year’s rookie Avery Bradley and this year’s rookies E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are the only other players definitely in the fold, and they and likely Celtic Jeff Green would be more likely to play somewhere if only to earn a paycheck and gain more experience. If the lockout drags on, though, you may see more stars taking deals abroad not because they need to, but because they want to prove a point.