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Even last summer some players turned down NBA offers to play in Europe. There were whispers that the European leagues were competing with the NBA for the same free agent talent. This summer, more of the same.
Then there were some big-name players this summer, mainly Andrei Kirilenko, musing about playing overseas. (In the case of Kirilenko, it can't happen unless the Jazz want it to, because FIBA nations honor each other's contracts.)
People wondered: is the European league becoming the new ABA? Will it flat out compete for top NBA talent?
We're getting close. ESPN's Chris Sheridan says Chris Webber has a chance to play for a lot of money in Greece.
Two sources familiar with the offer told ESPN.com that Olympiakos was offering a two-year deal that would net Webber between $10 million and $12 million, which would make him the highest-paid American player in Europe.
Webber has said he is leaning toward returning to the Detroit Pistons, although signing Webber prior to training camp, even for the veterans' minimum, would have cap ramifications that the Pistons want to avoid. Webber is said to be comfortable with the idea of waiting at least a month or two for the Pistons' roster issues to work themselves out, which would allow him to join them in midseason as he did in 2005-06.
One other thought, getting way ahead of ourselves: If this kind of stuff starts happening a lot, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in five years, might the NBA have more leverage with the Players' Association in taming the power of free agency? After all, the NBPA doesn't want to see all these big earners leave the fold either. And if they're never really free agents, they'll never really have the power to leave for Europe. Or, another idea: maybe the union will go international.