There are a handful of NBA players heading to Israel when the lockout drags into the NBA season: Jordan Farmar and Omri Casspi are the big names. (Note, I’m not even saying “if” games are lost anymore because it seems unavoidable.)
But they may be joined by a bigger name.
In an article at the New York Newsday where Roger Mason Jr. parrots the union lines about reasons he would play overseas (and it might be a smart move for him), Alan Hahn throws in this note:
It’s also an easier decision for (Mason), a free agent, than some of his Knicks teammates, especially Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the latter of whom, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, has recently been contacted by a different team from the Israel league.
If Stoudemire were to play overseas, a team like Maccabi Tel Aviv would make some sense (that is where Farmar and Casspi are playing). It’s one of the powerhouse teams of European basketball and one that has taken on NBA players under contract.
But Stoudemire is a bigger name — and a bigger salary — than either of the other signings. And for him it is a bigger risk because if he were to get injured playing overseas the Knicks could void his deal. Remember, Stoudemire is a guy who has already had microfracture surgery and major eye surgery. He would be taking a risk and getting insurance on his contract would be expensive.
But, the talk is out there.
This is a hypothetical exercise, Dwight Howard is not going to play overseas. He may say he is open to it but there is only in infinitesimal chance Dwight Howard would actually lace up the Adidas. The fact is he is on the verge of a huge new contract — the max under whatever the new labor deal allows — and he is not going to risk that by risking injury overseas. He’s not going.
But back to our hypothetical. If Howard were to play overseas, where would he go? What he told Spanish publication Marca may surprise (translation by Hoopshype).
MARCA: If you play overseas, I have the hunch that you would choose China rather than Europe.
Dwight Howard: Yes, I think China has more options. I’ve thought about it, but not in depth. The issue is the potential of injury.
Why China? It’s about the money. It’s always about the money.
Dwight Howard is one of maybe half a dozen true international NBA stars, the icons people know in other countries. China is the biggest market in the world, and right now Kobe owns it (he has his own Chinese Web site, his on charity foundation for China, and remember how LeBron marveled at the media crush on Kobe at the Beijing Olympics).
Everyone wants a piece of that market. Dwight Howard wants a piece of that market. That’s why China. Cue Mars Blackmon — It’s got to be the shoes. And selling the shoes in China, the most populous nation on the planet, the largest potential shoe market on the planet.
Really, he should just hook up with Kobe’s barnstorming tour.
All this talk of NBA players jumping to Europe… there’s a few reasons we’re skeptical here. And not just because we’re skeptical of everything.
One big issue is money — few European teams can afford to approach even an average NBA salary. At the high end of the rumors, Deron Williams would make $5 million in Turkey — which is $11 million less than he would in the NBA.
Then there is the illustrative case of Andrei Kirilenko, as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
According to Marca.com, Kirilenko recently approached Spanish League power Real Madrid about a contract, but the club balked over his $5.8 million salary request.
Kirilenko was paid $17.8 million last season, when injuries again limited his contribution to the Jazz. In 64 games, he averaged 11.7 points and 5.1 rebounds.
We’re just saying, don’t expect name NBA players to race overseas where they will be paid a fraction of their NBA salaries (and risk those salaries, if they get hurt playing in Europe and NBA team can void the deal).