You had to expect that the first guys to go hauling across the pond would be those who traversed the body of water in the first place. In short, Europeans are flocking back to their respective homelands in the face of the lockout and a seemingly unavoidable loss of games. Take Nicolas Batum, for example. From BasketSession.com, translation provided by Blazers Edge:
According to a source familiar with the matter, Nicolas Batum signed with SLUC Nancy. The winger Portland Trail Blazers and the team will begin the season in France Pro A and the Euroleague with Nancy in the case quite likely that the lockout blocks the start of the NBA season.
We knew very advanced contacts between the two parties, but nothing was sure yet.
Batum is a pretty significant building block for the Blazers, as they’ve turned down a half-dozen trade offers for him in the past year. That has to make Blazers management (and by extension Paul Allen) a little nervous. Meanwhile, Batum gets to go on a working vacation at home. That’s a pretty fantastic setup.
Everyone keeps talking about how none of these players is going to Europe. And contracts keep getting signed. At some point this is going to be more of an issue than just a hypothetical, and the owners will be gulping down the idea of a player suffering a significant injury when he’s not earning them money. That has to cause at least a flinch.