– What does Josh Childress signing with a foreign team mean for the NBA?
David Bauman (agent for Andrew Bogut and Predrag Stojakovic): That signing will have a huge impact on the thinking of general managers and agents around the league. No longer will GMs be able to make low offers to players, or threaten them with the “right to match” any offer. Furthermore, when given a choice of the mid-level (roughly $5.5 million, minus 50 percent for taxes, or $2.8 million net) or signing for $5 or $6 million (net of taxes) in Europe, the decision is easy for some players. Furthermore, in Europe the clubs provide plane tickets for family members to visit, nice houses and apartments, luxury cars, schooling for children, and the clubs pay an agents’ fee of up to 10 percent. The time is coming when Europe will be a viable alternative for NBA players, just as David Beckham left England to play in Spain, and then left Spain to play in the MLS.
Bill Neff (agent for Jason Hart and Kevin Ollie): It adds a bit of leverage, for sure. But I will bet any amount of money he does not finish his contract there and returns here. He got more there, but at what price? Will he ultimately be happier? I think not.
Chris Luchey (agent for Wilson Chandler): In my opinion it begins to change the entire dynamics of free agency. Teams being conservative in the past based on restricted free agents will now have a much larger and more efficient threat. How do you match an European offer?
Guy Zucker (agent for Thabo Sefolosha and Ryan Bowen): It means that this has become a truly global market, that is now relevant for a larger number of NBA players, where the NBA is still the biggest but not the only significant player.
Bill McCandless (agent for Mickael Pietrus): Most agents have for some time regarded restricted free agency as an oxymoron. With certain exceptions, restricted free agents have not be truly free. And during a player’s RFA year, it has been historically unlikely that the free agent will be fairly compensated by his team or another team willing to make an offer. But Childress’ willingness to play outside the NBA, in his prime, means that teams may think twice about letting the player dangle all summer long. And now, while Europe might have been an option for Nachbar and other European-born players, it seems that the smartest American players can jump to Europe and make more money.
– Do you see the beginning of a trend here?
DB: The salary cap is only getting tighter… I don’t see a player like Lebron James or Kobe Bryant signing in Europe, but the players who are at the next level down will have some serious options.
BN: I do not necessarily see a trend. It is nice that there is competition for a player’s services since the CBA does not provide it.
CL: The trend is being set that some players may opt for their market value regardless of what league they are in. NBA teams now have to deal with offers from a market that they have no control of. It can reshape the collective bargaining agreement and the free agency market.
GZ: It’s way past the beginning. Players will go where the money is the highest, in general. The trend has more to do with bigger global economic factors – the weakening of the dollar vs. euro and the explosion of energy prices, which benefits Russia, for example – than with basketball factors. Obviously, with more players leaving, it has also become more acceptable to go the foreign route.
BM: Yes, I do see a trend. European teams are getting bigger and bigger budgets, and now have the ability to lure American players to their leagues.
– How big a hit to restricted free agency is this?
DB: In the past, it has always been assumed that restricted free agents were stuck. They either had to take a team’s lowball offer of an extension, get an offer sheet, or sign the qualifying offer and play one more year. Now players can simply sign in Europe and leave their NBA shocked and holding their rights but nothing more. It is interesting to note that I just signed Andrew Bogut to a five-year, $72.5 million contract extension with Milwaukee. The Bucks value Andrew, respected him, and offered him a very fair contract to commit to the Bucks. It is clear that they did not want to leave anything to chance – an offer sheet next summer, Andrew signing the qualifying offer and leaving as an unrestricted free agent, or something as crazy as a huge offer from Europe. But neither Andrew nor I wanted to have to deal with restricted free agency either… The system is overly restricted and it is not allowing the free flow of free agents.
BN: If the management had their way, there would be no free agency so Josh Childress will be a speck on the horizon. I hope he gets all his money there. Very few players do.
CL: I think this move will help several of the free agents available now. Josh Smith, Iguodala and others should benefit from it, in my opinion. I think this move will help several of the free agents available now.
GZ: It’s a significant hit, since restricted free agency is rarely free agency, in reality, if players have only one market to choose from. Now they have better alternatives, in some cases.
BM: I am not sure that every NBA team is shaking in its boots at the prospect of losing its stars, but for mid-level American players and all European players except stars, players who are good rotation players, Europe is a serious option.
– Would you have adviced one of your players to do the same thing Childress did?
DB: My advice to any of my players with respect to contract offers is to weigh the pros and the cons. If a European club makes an offer to one of my NBA players, I would encourage him to look at it seriously. What Lon Babby and Jim Tanner did with Josh Childress was sound advice… They asked him to have an open mind, and by traveling to Greece and seeing the reality over there, he is able to judge their offer both on financial terms and in terms of the reality of what life in Greece would be like.
BN: I certainly would have looked for leverage so they did nothing wrong. I just hope they explained to him that the Greek tax rate is significantly less than our tax rate so he will have substantial taxes here. We live in an irrational market. Chris Duhon can make $6 million while Matt Barnes makes $926,000. In essence, we have a hard cap so I love that they looked around when there was no real competition for his services and as long as he understands these things and still makes an informed decision, more power to him.
CL: I think each specific player and situation is different, depends on the numbers and more importantly the maturity of the player.
GZ: Absolutely yes!
BM: At $21 million, net of taxes, who wouldn’t have advised his client to take a look? The world is getting smaller and smaller, and where would you really rather live: a smaller market U.S. city in the snow belt or Athens?
– What are the main downsides to leaving the NBA for Europe?
DB: The main downsides to leaving the NBA is the quality of play and the lifestyle. The NBA starts training camp in October and the regular season ends in mid-April. Non-playoff teams are done by April 18. The player gets the spring, summer and part of fall to himself. In Europe, the season starts mid-August, and runs through June. That is 10 months! Although the number of games played is less than or equal to the NBA, it is spread out over an additional three months. There are no back-to-back games, rather a maximum of three games per week. Usually, there is one game on a weekend, and one game midweek.
The other aspects are adjusting to a foreign country. Most European players coming to the NBA get homesick, miss their family and friends and hate the food. It takes them about one year to adjust. I think the same can be expected for an American going to Europe, especially a top NBA player who expected to be competing for an NBA championship.
I also think players might experience regret about leaving the comfy confines of the NBA – private planes, four seasons hotels, nice arenas, well-behaved fans, respectful refereeing, and a well-organized league. Europe is Europe – nice for a time, but I don’t know if a top NBA guy – a Childress, Josh Smith, or a Corey Maggette would enjoy it over there. Guys like Bogut, Stojakovic, Radmanovic (who are all my clients) would certainly be able to do it without hesitation because they are international players. But the top American players, I am not sure if that is a recipe for success.
BN: A contract there is not really worth the paper it is written on. Payments can be slow, a coach can change his mind on you after a few games and he will still be restricted when he returns.
CL: I think at the end of the day every American-born basketball player wants to play at the highest level, which is the NBA.
GZ: Much longer season, living further away from home and possibly losing on a potentially bigger NBA deal in the future.
BM: A restricted free agent leaving the NBA will remain a restricted free agent in the future. A year in Europe does not remove the RFA tag.