Since Deron Williams signed on to play in Turkey for the duration of the NBA lockout, the list of current stars expressing various levels of interest in exploring similar employment opportunities overseas is becoming pretty extensive. What they may find as they continue to investigate, however, is that the list of quality organizations similarly interested in offering million dollar part-time jobs - that would end exactly as long as it takes to secure labor peace in the Association – may fall far short of meeting that demand.
European perennial powerhouse, CSKA Moscow, is a model for both organizational success as well as financial stability in professional basketball overseas. CSKA could not only offer as close to an NBA environment as any international club could, with respect to competition and amenities, but they could also pay these guys like NBA’ers as well. Only they’re not interested in doing so on a temporary basis.
I spoke with Nikolai Tsynkevich, Press Officer with CSKA Moscow, and he explained to me his club’s position on the subject of signing locked-out NBA players for an undefined length of time:
“Businesswise, our club is not interested to sign players who can leave the team in the middle of the season, or even after one season. Our club is trying to build a successful team for years to come, and not looking for short-time benefits.
You cannot guarantee anything, but I can tell you that our club considers the signing campaign practically done. The only scenario I could see to add someone else is the injuries which can happen in preseason and during the Eurobasket, because CSKA sends nine players to the National Teams out of fourteen on active roster.”
He went on to tell me that while the climate may change in October, he doesn’t expect any of his rival clubs to pursue the signing of locked-out NBA players either without at least a full-year commitment.
“We will know more about the NBA season delay / cancellation in October, but I am pretty sure that all the big European clubs think the same. Nobody wants to rebuild the team in the middle of the season.”
Which makes sense if you’re goal is to build a team that is able to compete for a championship. Top salaries for European stars are typically around three million euros annually, and could get as high as about five million euros. Contracts max out around an equivalent of $10 million stateside, but there aren’t a lot of those deals out there. The idea of paying any portion of that to a player who won’t be around when it comes time to actually win that championship – possibly - has many of the clubs who could pay these guys not interested in doing so for that reason.
Two other European clubs that could traditionally finance an NBA salary package, and have in the past, include Olympiakos and Panathinaikos from Greece. Olympiakos is currently losing players, however, and Panathinaikosis having money issues as well in response to a financial crisis that’s sweeping their county. These are issues that could limit their respective viabilities as potential landing spots as well while NBA labor negotiations continue.
If players were willing to waive the proverbial “Deron Williams exception” though, who knows? I think it would be fair to assume that it would be a dramatic game-changer as far as legitimate, comfortable, professional basketball playing options overseas that would make sense for current NBA stars and players alike. Until they are willing to consider that though, and jump right into the world of overseas hoops as opposed to simply dipping their toes in it, there doesn’t appear to be all that many jobs out their for them regardless of however interested they may be in finding them.