posted 2011-09-07 14:00:22

NBA Lockout - Players going abroad: Empty threat or sound logic?

Jill Matusiak

Contributing Writer

In theory, training camp in the National Basketball Association is scheduled to begin in October. In reality, they may not begin until the new year.

The clock is ticking for NBA players and owners to negotiate a deal and end the labor dispute that looks likely to cause a lockout for at least part of the season. Basketball fans have been left wondering if the season will go on or if they will have to find a new sport to watch. Hockey anyone?

While it has been well publicized that several out-of-work players are examining their options in professional leagues overseas, it remains to be seen how many will actually sign contracts abroad and prove that their words are more than empty threats and bargaining tools?

Point guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets signed a one-year, five million dollar contract to play for Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League. The contract includes the right for Williams to opt-out should the NBA season take place. Leandro Barbosa, Nenad Krstic, Earl Clark, Reggie Williams, and Nicolas Batum, among others, have also signed the dotted line to play abroad.

With talks of major salary cuts at home, many players could decide to follow that trend. The possibility of opt-out clauses in overseas contracts makes it a very logical move.

Will this be the “mass exodus” it has been rumored to be? That is doubtful for a multitude of reasons. It is true that many foreign countries would love to pay outrageous salaries to big names like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. But there is slim to no chance that will occur.

That is because these superstars are under long-term lucrative contracts with their respective NBA teams. If a player decided to play abroad, he would have to forfeit his NBA contract. Clearly, there would be much more to jeopardize than gain in that scenario.

In addition, players exploring international options need to consider whether they are prepared for the culture shock that will be presented by an international environment. Basketball may be basketball, but most NBA players are accustomed to the comforts of the United States.

Those who are genuinely looking abroad better get the ball rolling quickly. European training camps begin at the end of September, and roster spots are filling up fast.