We keep hearing rumors that there is going to be a flood of NBA players signing overseas soon — including some All-Star level players.
If it happens — and that’s a big if — they still will not be signing with the best teams in Europe. They will be signing with the also-rans of the continent — not with the teams in the EuroLeague (a secondary competition pitting best club teams from different leagues against each other, like soccer’s Champion’s League).
The powerhouse teams with the names even American basketball fans quickly recognize — FC Barcelona, CSKA Moscow, Real Madrid and others — are not going to sign a guy they may lose mid-season when the labor situation is resolved and the lockout ends. Don’t take my word for it (even though we’ve said that from the start around here), take the word of the EuroLeague CEO Jordi Bertomeu, who spoke to Ian Thomsen at Sports Illustrated.
“Our clubs need to have stable rosters,” said Bertomeu via a translator. “They need to know how long they will be able to employ the player. No team will sign a player for only two or three months, or for an uncertain period of time. This is our forecast….
The reason is partially the FIBA ruling that came down. What FIBA (basketball’s international governing body) said is that if a player is under an NBA contract they can sign elsewhere during the lockout but there must be an out clause that lets them return to the NBA once the lockout ends.
That does make the big name programs hesitant, they have not signed NBA stars. Maccabi Tel Aviv did sign the Nets Jordan Farmar and gave him an out clause, but that is an exception to the rule. And Farmar is no All-Star level player, he fits their system and he can be replaced fairly easily.
Instead, you have Deron Williams signing with Besiktas, a team that finished sixth in the unimpressive Turkish league last season. Besiktas is not in EuroLeague or other premiere international competitions. Or you have players flirting with China, where there is big money but the basketball is several notches below Spain and other big European markets (even Turkey). For these lesser teams the chance to raise their marketing profile and win a few games makes the investment worth it, even if they lose the player mid season.
For the big franchises, that turnover doesn’t make sense. There are NBA players that would want to go — Ricky Rubio and Pau Gasol both played for Barcelona, they might want to go back if the lockout drags on. The reason it won’t happen is it doesn’t work for Barcelona to rent a player.
“FC Barcelona wouldn’t import an NBA superstar because they would rather invest in a local talent,” said Bertomeu. “And it isn’t their budgetary strategy to spend so much money on a basketball player. That could change … but we don’t think it would happen, because it’s not part of the internal politics of the club.”