SBD/Issue 212/Franchises

Hawks F Josh Childress Leaving NBA For Greek Team Olympiakos

Childress Spurns Hawks' Offer
To Join Greek Basketball Team
Hawks restricted free agent F Josh Childress yesterday signed a three-year, $32.5M deal with Greek team Olympiakos "rather than accepting a deal from the Hawks," according to Sekou Smith of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION. Childress is the "first player at this stage of his NBA career to spurn the [NBA] for one of its international alternatives." The Hawks had offered Childress a five-year, $33M contract, but the team's "slow-paced negotiating tactics and the limits of restricted free agency, combined with what Childress called Wednesday 'the opportunity of a lifetime,' resulted in his decision." Smith writes whether other NBAers "follow remains to be seen, but Pandora's Box has clearly been opened." Childress: "I've talked with a few guys and it could become a trend." Childress' decision to leave the NBA "could have a much more tangible impact on players already in the league, particularly those trapped" by restricted free agency. The Hawks will retain Childress' NBA rights for "at least the next two years, provided they tender qualifying offers to him every summer," and Childress' Olympiakos contract offers the "flexibility to return to the NBA via an opt-out clause at the end of the first two years of the deal." Smith notes seven other NBAers have signed deals this summer with European teams. High school G Brandon Jennings earlier this month decided to forgo college and instead sign a professional contract with an Italian team (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/24). Childress' agent Lon Babby yesterday said that the Olympiakos deal was worth "in the neighborhood of $21[M] over three years after taxes." ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan reported the contract is "believed to be the most lucrative contract ever offered to an American player to head overseas" (ESPN.com, 7/23).

Many Writers Feel Childress' Signing With
Olympiakos Does Not Bode Well For Hawks
BLACK EYE FOR THE HAWKS: Babby said of Childress' decision to accept the Olympiakos offer instead of the Hawks contract, "We didn't sneak out of town. We were in touch with the Hawks on a daily basis. There was an ongoing dialogue. There was nothing melodramatic about how the process unfolded" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/24). But Childress said that the Hawks "moved slowly" and he was "frustrated by that, after having been given indications that the Hawks would quickly get contracts done for Childress" and Hawks restricted free agent F Josh Smith. Childress: "There was no urgency [by the Hawks], no drive to get anything done" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/23). ESPN.com's John Hollinger wrote Childress was "pushed into this position when the Hawks first didn't extend him a year ago, and then followed that up by not making a strong enough initial offer to him in free agency" this offseason. The move is a "crushing blow to the franchise on multiple levels." It deprives the Hawks of "one of the best sixth men in the game," and it also "leaves them scrambling to fill out the roster, with most of the offseason's top free agents already claimed by other teams." Hollinger: "Nothing could do more to perpetuate the Hawks' standing as one of the league's worst-run organizations than to have a player they desperately wanted to keep bolt for another continent" (ESPN.com, 7/23). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes, "This summer was the test. The Hawks flunked. Are we surprised?" The team "couldn't persuade [Childress] to stay. They got outspent and outhustled by a team from Greece." After the "ham-handed non-negotiation, the Hawks should forfeit all claim to being big-league" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/24). YAHOO SPORTS.com's Adrian Wojnarowski wrote of new Hawks GM Rick Sund, 'The opening salvo on his watch -- losing Childress to Greece -- is a disaster for the Hawks" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/23).  

A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME? SI.com's Steve Aschburner wrote in the wake of Childress' deal, NBA players "suddenly appear to have newfound leverage" in contract negotiations. Childress' move "represents the next logical phase in this shrinking basketball world." While European players such as Juan Carlos Navarro and Carlos Delfino decided to play professionally in Europe, what is "different about Childress' signing is that he isn't heading back home, he's venturing far from it" (SI.com, 7/23). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Kahn wrote the "struggling U.S. economy, the ludicrous salary of the superstars that are strangling the NBA salary cap for the mid-range players and the prospective luxury tax hanging over the heads of owners has created a change in tenor throughout the league. ... A lot of young restricted free agents are getting nothing more than qualifying offers in the $2.5[M] range, and the European teams are offering them twice that money with the much stronger Euro also trumping the dollar" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/23). The GLOBE & MAIL's Michael Grange writes with the "weakening of the U.S. dollar compared with the euro, European clubs have never been in a better position to compete financially with NBA teams, which are limited by the salary cap and luxury-tax threshold." The "growth of the European game and the presence of more and deeper-pocketed clubs means that there are between 10 and 15 teams in position to offer players money that might exceed what's available for them in the NBA" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/24). YAHOO's Wojnarowski added, "A threshold has been crossed in the sport. Suddenly, Europe is evolving into a true rival in free agency" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/23). Washington Post reporter Katie Carrera wondered if the NBA has to "make an agreement with some of those European Leagues to prevent teams from bleeding out in the NBA” (“Washington Post Live,” CSN, 7/23).

Stern Feels Childress Signing Could Prove
To Be Beneficial To NBA In Long Run
NO CAUSE FOR CONCERN: NBA agent Marc Cornstein said, "I can't say how many players will go, but I think a lot will explore this." But ESPN.com's Sheridan cited an NBA agent who said that he "does not believe the Childress signing will become a trend because there are not enough European clubs willing to spend money on an NBA level." NBA President of League & Basketball Operations Joel Litvin added, "The level of concern is low" (ESPN.com, 7/23). NBA Commissioner David Stern said that the "presence of a player like Childress could only help promote basketball in Europe, where soccer remains the primary sport." Stern: "We think that this actually may encourage more people to play basketball, and in the long run it's only going to benefit the NBA" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).

REMEMBER THIS MOMENT: SPORTINGNEWS.com's Nathaniel Friedman, under the alias Bethlehem Shoals, wrote that Childress' "every move will be scrutinized by eyes on both sides of the Atlantic (and Pacific), since this experiment could have a ripple effect for years to come." This move is "right up there with [Celtics F] Kevin Garnett's decision" to enter the NBA Draft straight from high school in '95 (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/23). TRUEHOOP's Henry Abbott wrote Childress has "opened some doors." Europe offers a "good brand of basketball. It may open people's eyes to some ideas that could make the [NBA] better. There is also, of course, the chance that Childress will be a trend-setter" (ESPN.com, 7/23).

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