Wednesday, July 23, 2008


It's a great place to visit (well, I've only been to Spain and England, but I've heard good things...), but is that where you want to go play basketball? Apparently for Josh Childress the answer is yes.

For those who don't know who he is, Childress is a small forward who was the 6th man on the Atlanta Hawks last season, and he probably should have been a starter. As a restricted free agent, Childress didn't have many options in the NBA-- the Hawks could match any offer from an NBA team, and apparently they were also reluctant to agree to a sign and trade.

So apparently Childress (and his agent) decided to think outside the box. He signed with Olympiacos (Greece) for about 3 years and $20 million, but with the added perk that his team would pay his taxes. That contract is apparently the most lucrative current contract in Europe, and probably ends up being more (once perks are included) than he could have earned here. And if Childress wants to return to the NBA (where the Hawks will retain his rights as a restricted free agent), he has an opt-out clause in his contract after every season. Not a bad deal.

This deal caught my attention for two reasons (aside from the general "Oh my god, an American chose to play in Europe over America" angle). First, I think Childress is a good player (WP48 of .206), and one I would have loved to have seen in a Sixers uniform. Granted that getting Childress was highly unlikely based on the Sixers' salary cap situation after the Brand signing, but he was starter quality (if not even better) while viewed as a back-up, so I had a vague hope that we could somehow steal him.

Second, the Sixers are currently negotiating with their own restricted free agent, Andre Igoudala. I've been assuming that there was basically no chance that Igoudala was going anywhere (and Mo Cheeks seemed to be under the same assumption, as evidenced by the article posted in the comments to one of my previous posts). The decision of Childress to head overseas gave me pause, but only for a moment. As I noted, Childress received the most lucrative current contract in Europe. Igoudala is almost certainly going to end up with a bigger contract than the one given to Childress (although according to WP48 he might not deserve a bigger one), so it seems unlikely that a European team is going to make Igoudala a better offer than the one the Sixers will (have?) put on the table.

On a more global view, I don't think that the decision of Childress (and a few international players) to leave the NBA for European leagues is really the start of a trend, but I guess it's always possible. If so, then it's possible we could end up in a situation where the top tier players remain in the NBA, the middle tier players go to Europe as the "big fish" over there, and the lower tier players make up the bulk of the NBA rosters. In that scenario, I think everyone in the NBA suffers because the quality of play becomes much more uneven. European basketball gets stronger, but still remains a step below the NBA. All in all, I don't think that's a great result for basketball fans (but maybe that's just because I watch the NBA and not European basketball).

What do you think?