Josh Childress has been there — when the Atlanta Hawks tried to lowball him, he took a three-year deal to go play for Olympiacos in Greece. Childress has played at Europe in his prime.
He has done what everyone is talking about. He sees a lot of guys — Ty Lawson is the latest, joining Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and others — saying they are open to playing in Europe during the NBA lockout. Deron Williams has a deal to play in Turkey if the lockout lasts into September (and it very likely will).
Childress doesn’t get it. He has four years, $27 million left on his NBA deal and he wouldn’t risk it heading back to Europe. He told that to ESPN’s Ric Bucher (on the site’s pay-per-view Insider):
“No, I wouldn’t,” he says. “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.”
The risk is losing out on your deal if you get injured. Williams has two years, $34 million on his deal and is gearing up to opt out of the last year of his deal to get a huge free agent payday (from the Nets or someone else). If he were to suffer a major injury playing in Europe — where the game is allowed to be more physical than in the NBA — he risks all of it. NBA teams can void a contract if a player is injured playing in Europe. But even if he comes back from that injury he may not make near what he would have made before.
NBA contracts cannot be voided if a player is injured playing in a pickup game or in Summer League. Go read Bucher’s well done piece, he goes into it in detail, but the bottom line is every standard NBA contract has a clause that lets players play in the summer in training for the next season. Things like Summer League, pickup games and pro-ams are included on the list of things allowed.
Playing in Europe is not. Barnstorming tours of China are not.
For stars it is different. It’s a risk — one NBA players with guaranteed deals are taking to make a fraction of their current deal. Childress doesn’t get it. A lot of agents don’t either. Which is why despite players talking big about the idea, when it comes time to sign you will not see many actually put pen to paper.
Childress also adds that it is commercial flights, not five-star hotels and a very different system in Europe than America.
“Here the stars run the show,” Childress says. “Over there it’s the coach, and the coach only. You really have to buy into the system. The style of play is slower, a lot closer to a college style. It’s a lot less reliant on talent and more on tactics and execution. They definitely have a high opinion of how they play the game and view NBA basketball as street ball. You go over there, you’re playing against everyone — other players, fans, referees, everyone. You don’t get calls because you’re stronger, faster and more athletic, so they think you should be able to take it.”