Thursday, July 21, 2011
By Chris Broussard
I spoke with several agents on Thursday about the possibility of their players going overseas and heard varying opinions. One prominent agent who represents one of league's top players was completely sold on the idea of players competing for teams in Europe or Asia during the lockout.
He said 80 percent of the players in the league are pursuing, considering, or open to the idea of playing overseas. He said agents aren't being forthright publicly about their clients' desires to play overseas because there are only a limited number of opportunities available and they want to keep their negotiations secret.
This agent thinks big money awaits players overseas (as much as $1 million per month) and not just in terms of revenue made from playing ball. He also believes the opportunity exists to negotiate favorable merchandising agreements overseas, whereas players would get a significant amount of money from the jersey sales their overseas clubs would generate.
For instance, if Kobe Bryant signed with Besiktas in Turkey, can you imagine how many of his Besiktas jerseys would sell worldwide? Even here in the States, my guess is that a Bryant Besiktas jersey would be a huge seller. According to this agent, a player could negotiate a deal that would enable him to get a ton of the money his jersey sales generate.
This agent was so excited about the opportunities overseas that he said this:
"If there's no agreement in place by September, all of my players will be playing overseas.''
Trust me, if that's true, Deron Williams' name won't be the only one creating a buzz overseas.
"The players' preference is to be in training camp, playing in the NBA,'' the agent said. "But if the league puts them in the position where they have to go elsewhere to play, then they're going to pursue those opportunties.''
Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are among the superstars who are reportedly willing to consider playing overseas. One superstar who, at least for now, is not looking into playing elsewhere is LeBron James, according to sources.
Other agents weren't so high on the idea of playing overseas. Some felt it wasn't worth it for a superstar player with a large NBA contract to risk injury by playing overseas. Sure, he can get insurance in case of injury, but the premiums on a contract worth $30, $40, $50 million is not cheap.
One agent said he's trying to get clients who are free agents jobs overseas, but he's advising those who are signed to NBA clubs to stay in America.
Brandon Jennings, who played one season in Italy straight out of high school, said he's not currently pursuing an opportunity overseas, though he didn't rule it out completely.
"Right now, I'm just grinding and staying in the weight room,'' he said in a text. "I wouldn't mind going back overseas if it's the right situation. And I would have to get paid everything up front.''
That last sentence is a reference to the European clubs' habit of paying players late, if at all.
One owner has told some business associates that he doesn't think there will be an All-Star Game this season. That could mean one of two things: a 50-game season or no season at all.
Neither option is what fans want to hear.
One big-time agent told me he believes it's all or nothing for the players and the owners: that there will either be a full 82-game season or no season at all.
The staffs for the NBA and the players union are meeting Friday in New York. Neither commissioner David Stern nor union chief Billy Hunter will be present. The plan is to discuss things such as the salary cap, the luxury tax and the rookie wage scale - things outside of the most important issue of the revenue split, the percentage of basketball related income that the players receive.
A meeting including Stern, Hunter, owners and player reps probably won't occur until the first week of August, which will leave the two sides about one month to work with before games start being cancelled.