Los Angeles Lakers: overseas

Stein: Sources say Odom, Besiktas have agreement

November, 24, 2011
11/24/11
10:36
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
They couldn't tempt Kobe Bryant, but as ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports, the Turkish club Besiktas appears to have landed a different Laker to pair with Deron Williams. Lamar Odom, sources say, has agreed to play with the Istanbul-based squad:
"Final details will not be sorted out before Friday, sources said, but Odom has indicated that he plans to join the Istanbul-based team as early as next week if the NBA lockout continues. Sources told ESPN.com that the deal would pay Odom in excess of $2 million if he spends the rest of the season with Besiktas. The deal -- first reported in Turkey by NTV Spor and local journalist Mete Aktas -- will include an opt-out clause to return to the NBA as soon as the lockout ends, same as in Williams' contract.

In an ideal world, Odom will never board a plane, after settlement talks planned for Friday between the league and its players bear fruit, bringing a swift end to the lockout. More likely, any progress will be slower, allowing Odom the opportunity to pond hop.

As I've written, for L.O., it's a good call. He's many things, but historically at least an offseason self-starter hasn't been one of them. When NBA camps eventually open they will be incredibly short. Players typically using a normal preseason to work themselves into shape, as Odom often has, won't have that opportunity. Adding the structure of a team environment can only help. Moreover, Odom is a rhythm player. Getting a few games under his belt (particularly in European competition, which tends to emphasize team play and ball movement, two things at which he excels) makes it that much more likely Odom will hit the ground running when/if the NBA season begins.

Add in the nice chunk of change he'll pocket, and it's a solid proposition for all involved.

For a little more opinion on Odom-to-Turkey, check out the newest edition of The Forum:

PodKast: Matt Barnes, lockout talk and Rise of the Planet of the Apes

August, 6, 2011
8/06/11
3:51
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There are three things Lakers fans can always count on: Death, taxes and Ear Candy. Brian and I would like to think we're the most enjoyable item. Among the talking points:

PODCAST
Andy and Brian talk with Lakers forward Matt Barnes about his knee, the Lakers' playoff fizzle and his charity golf tournament. Plus, thoughts on the lockout and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Podcast Listen
- After establishing that Trey Johnson will in fact be playing in Italy next season -- as opposed to India -- we discuss why he felt inclined to commit in August to an overseas gig: The lockout. The mood has grown so tense, what with the NBA's recent lawsuit and such, Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter declared that were he a bettin' man, his money would be on a canceled 2012 season.

Of course, it's important to remember public negotiations rarely use the media to convey sunshine and lollipops. Even if both sides felt confident about avoiding Armageddon, they'd never cop to it, on or off the record.

- Having said that, if you take Hunter at his word, it's not just the owners and players standing to lose a substantial chunk of change. David Stern could be out ten figures, according to recent reports. Considering the league is crying poor, should Stern's salary raise eyebrows? And how would fans feel if, in the event of a missed season, he served as Commish for a Euro league?

- With "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" coming out this weekend, we lament how scientists in movies clearly never watch science fiction movies. Otherwise, they'd have learned by now that creating a super "pick your animal" always leads to disaster!

- Finally, our conversation with Matt Barnes, who joined us earlier that day. Topics include the status of his knee, his thoughts on the Lakers' playoff fizzle and his charity golf tournament. Unfortunately, we spoke right before he slugged an opponent during a San Fran Pro Am, so we couldn't ask about the incident. Hopefully, our interview didn't put him in a bad mood.

The Triangle: Lockout leverage

August, 5, 2011
8/05/11
2:59
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The NBA is in "All Lockout, All The Time" mode these days, so The Triangle is following suit. The K Bros and Ramona Shelburne examine who currently has the upper hand between the players and owners, and whether superstars going overseas strengthens or weakens the players' position at the bargaining table.

Billy Hunter's email to the players

July, 14, 2011
7/14/11
12:48
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
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.

Kobe Bryant name-dropped by Turkish coach

July, 7, 2011
7/07/11
7:00
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With the lockout now six days in the books, the world has waited for an NBA player to apply pressure by committing to an overseas squad. Sonny Weems fired the first warning shot, but was mostly met with responses along the lines of "Who is Sonny Weems?" On Thursday, however, things got a little more interesting.

ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher confirmed reports that All-Star point guard/theoretical Nets building block Deron Williams has agreed to play for Besiktas in the event of a prolonged lockout. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Turkish roundball circuit, this is the same team that briefly employed Allen Iverson.) With an agreement also in place with Hawks backup center -- and serial head butter -- Zaza Pachulia, Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman is apparently confident enough to shoot the moon:

"If there's a possibility, we'll talk with Kobe (Bryant) if he'd like to play in Europe with Deron and with other guys to play we can talk with him," Ataman said. "If Kobe would like to play with us, we will also contact his agent and maybe with him."

And with that bit of name dropping, let the rumor mill turn!!!

Or, if I may inject a bit of sanity... it's more than a little premature to fret Kobe ordering some (presumably free) Turkish Airline tickets and donning Besiktas white and black.

Ataman merely said he'd like to speak with Team Kobe, which is stating the patently obvious. For that matter, I'm sure he'd love to speak with Team LeBron, Team Rose and Team Dwight, too. That he chose to drop Kobe's name in particular feels more indicative of Kobe's worldwide popularity (bigger than any NBA player) and newly minted Turkish celebrity than the actual likelihood of something happening.

Yes, I realize Bryant has European roots and would easily attract individual sponsorship (which Ataman told SI's Sam Amick would provide bigger paydays for D.Will and, theoretically, Kobe.) And Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported Kobe would be "open to considering overseas offers." But again, why not? Bryant would be silly not to take a phone call.

Still, that's a long way from actually uprooting his family or committing to a life away from them on the other side of the planet. (Frankly, we're a long way from Williams boarding a jet. He wouldn't report until late August or early September, when the lockout could either be over or close enough to a resolution to bow out.) When you factor the history of players experiencing problems getting paid overseas, the culture adjustment, and by Kobe's ginormous standards, the relative pittance he'd earn at this stage of his NBA championship window, a Turkish schlep feels like a major hassle.

It makes way more sense to lead a frivolous barnstorming tour in China (which, as ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin wisely notes, would probably enhance his brand than playing in Turkey, and at half the sweat.)

Naturally, everyone is curious about the next step. Will other players feel emboldened by a player of Williams' stature and follow suit? I'm guessing no, since I think the idea of going overseas doesn't appeal to most NBA baller and most clubs can't afford to sweeten the pot. But it's certainly less stigmatic than during the last work stoppage. And does Deron's move (and maybe a few others) really put the screws to the owners? Again, I don't think so, because they knew Europe loomed going into this lockout. Plus, if they're truly willing to sacrifice a season to "win," they're by definition thinking about a picture too big to cave over a few stars updating passports.

Mostly, this wrinkle adds spice to an already zesty story line. And perhaps a little more posturing in an endless series of bluffs. As I said before, Williams is a long way from truly committed to a season overseas. I've long felt these negotiations and verbal battles have featured a fair amount of mutual posturing, heels dug in because nothing truly substantive has been lost yet. In other words, because they can.

Once crunch time approaches, I expect both sides to work harder in earnest to find a resolution in lieu of missing half or more of a season. Call me naive, but I believed that yesterday and I believe it today.

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