In Billy Hunter's memo to players, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association encourages NBA athletes to take their talents overseas and push back against the pressure applied by the owners in locking them out. Deron Williams, who just agreed to a contract with Turkish squad Besiktas in the event of a prolonged work stoppage, was singled out (the New York Times has the entire memo here):
"...I especially commend Deron Williams for the wisdom and courage he has demonstrated these past few days. Deron explored the alternatives available to him and ultimately did not hesitate to avail himself of the best option with which he was presented, signing with Turkey's Besiktas. Following the lead of our other All-Star players who have come to the bargaining table and supported the union's efforts since negotiations began, and the many All-Stars who have come before them that sacrificed so that we may prosper today, Deron again demonstrates that NBA players will not be intimidated by the league's hard-line tactics..."
They may not be "intimidated," but I'm also not convinced the lack of fear will translate into a mass European vacation. As I wrote after Besiktas' coach name-dropped Kobe, at the end of the day, I find it hard to believe many players actually want to go overseas. Yes, many are reportedly asking their agents for details about their options, but that's just due diligence. It's important to know your options.
It's also important to understand your options, and overseas play isn't necessarily as peachy and/or creamy as Hunter presents. Ask Josh Childress, former Olympiakos/current Sun, who recently shared tales of woe with ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher. Access to the entire article requires an Insider account, but this excerpt from Childress illustrates several potential culture shocks beyond language, food or lifestyle:
"Here the stars run the show. Over there it's the coach, and the coach only. You really have to buy into the system. The style of play is slower, a lot closer to a college style. It's a lot less reliant on talent and more on tactics and execution. They definitely have a high opinion of how they play the game and view NBA basketball as street ball. You go over there, you're playing against everyone -- other players, fans, referees, everyone. You don't get calls because you're stronger, faster and more athletic, so they think you should be able to take it.
"I played for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. But there were still six- and seven-hour bus rides, we didn't stay at the best hotels and we flew commercial nine out of 10 times. And not all coaches care about your body. It's more military style. There's no getting tired. I'll be interested to see how guys' bodies respond."
Assuming we even get that far, it definitely will be.