There’s a lot of players throwing out the, “If there’s a lockout I’ll go play in Europe” card. Like it’s some kind of trump card.
And if you’re Kevin Durant or Deron Williams or Pau Gasol and you go play for a team like Barcelona, life will be pretty darn good.
But that is not the norm of European basketball. A lot of those leagues — and even some teams in the top leagues — are more like playing in the minor leagues. With experiences NBA players would find shocking. Mark Deeks lays it out at the New York Times.
The difference in salary payments lies not only their magnitude, but their synergy. There are some European leagues where it is more common to be paid late than to be paid on time; in extreme cases, players are lured to the team with false promises, and then not paid at all. Financial problems are permeating even the continent’s strongest leagues, and regulations brought in to try to reverse this trend are often ignored. As amazing as it seems that a sports team would not prioritize paying its players, it happens. A lot.
An equally apparent difference is in the crowd support. While high-level European games can at times be remarkably badly attended affairs, those who do attend are hardened, passionate and obsessively loyal. Poor performances are seen as personal insults and are met with the kind of retribution that’s easy to get away with when seated a considerable distance from the target at an elevated position, readily armed with rudimentary projectiles….
If you can’t run a pick-and-roll, you won’t play. If you’re only effective in isolation sets, you won’t get used. You will practice almost every day, and you will practice far more than you play. You won’t average 20 points, you won’t get paid as much, and the front office will toy with you and your agent as to whether they even want you on the team. Imports are a necessity, but also a luxury. They are treated differently from the domestic players because they can always be replaced.
And that’s just the on the court part. Off the court the creature comforts that make the NBA lifestyle envious are gone. You do not get to run the building with your entourage. Nobody speaks the language and nobody is bending over backwards to help you. The culture shock will be worse than the adjustments in the game.
Go read the whole piece. Especially if you’re one of those NBA players who think they can just drop into a European league and it will be all good.