NBA Lockout Watch, Day 14: Billy Hunter Supports Playing Overseas
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter this week told players that "playing abroad would keep the pressure on owners while allowing union members to continue making a living," according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. In a letter sent to players, Hunter wrote in part, "This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement. It is important for owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances." He added, "If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them." Beck notes NBA Commissioner David Stern has indicated that the league "would not stand in the way of players who want to work overseas." However, FIBA "has yet to say whether it will clear players who are under contract" to NBA teams. A statement from the sport's international federation is "expected soon." In his letter, Hunter said that he "believed there was no impediment to NBA players working abroad during the lockout, while contracts are suspended." He said that he "also believed that neither the NBA nor FIBA would block such a move." Hunter did advise that "foreign contracts should contain a clause that would allow players to return after the lockout was lifted." Hunter suggested players "secure appropriate protection," notably insurance, "to guard against any injury or unforeseen circumstances" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/14). A source indicated that there "are still unresolved legal issues regarding players with NBA contracts signing overseas during the lockout" (ESPN.com, 7/13).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Magic C Dwight Howard told a Spanish newspaper this week that "he'll consider playing overseas if the lockout continues." Howard, while on a promotional tour in Malaga, Spain, made reference to the city's professional basketball team, saying, "It would be fun to play at Unicaja, it sure would be a great experience for me. If the break does not stop I would come to Europe to continue to improve on a great team." Howard in a Twitter post later added the chances are "pretty high” he will play overseas and he has “something up my sleeve" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/13). Heat G Dwyane Wade, who last week indicated he would consider playing abroad, said yesterday, "At the end of the day we get that itch as a basketball player where you want to play the game of basketball. So I won't rule it out, but I have no idea when I will get that itch" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/14). Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki "gave an optimistic outlook in regards to the NBA lockout." He said, "I really can't see this going on too long. I think that the game is at a great stage -- I think The Finals having been watched by so many people as it has been in a long time. I just think both sides have to come together. It's always a little give and take, not one side is going to get everything. So hopefully we're going to get by this period and both settle in and get a deal done. I just can't see us having another long lockout" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/13).
POKING FUN AT THE SITUATION: Last night's ESPY Awards featured several members of the Mavericks taking shots at the lockout policy preventing players from having contact with team officials. Nowitzki was named Best Male Athlete of the Year, and said during his acceptance speech, "I want to also thank Mark Cuban, but since I can’t talk to him, you guys say ‘hello’ to him.” The Mavericks were later recognized as Best Team, which prompted the Mavericks owner and several players to walk onto the stage together. After Cuban took the award, he motioned for the players to come over to the microphone, saying, “Come on, come on. ... Oh yeah, I’ve got to stand over here, right?” Cuban moved a few feet away as Mavericks G Jason Kidd walked toward the microphone and said, “Well, you do have the checks, so you can pay the fines.” Cuban, Kidd and the audience laughed, and Kidd followed it by saying, “That’s just a million dollars" ("2011 ESPY Awards," ESPN, 7/13).