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Monday, December 29, 2008
Agent: Boykins to stay in Italy

By Marc Stein
ESPN.com

The agent for veteran guard Earl Boykins said Monday that Boykins is on his way back to Italy despite overseas reports that he would be leaving his Italian club and possibly returning to the NBA.

Cleveland-based Mark Termini told ESPN.com that Boykins will be rejoining Virtus Bologna this week after Boykins ignored his club's denial of a request to return to the United States for a four-day break at Christmas.

Boykins
Boykins

"Earl flew home [to Cleveland] due to a medical situation with his young son," Termini said. "The club preferred to have his child receive treatment in Italy, but that was not comfortable for Earl and his family."

Boykins was one of 11 established NBA players to sign with European teams over the summer and has been one of the most successful of the high-profile recruits. Bologna is in second place in Italy's top division (Serie A) and unbeaten in European competition this season since signing Boykins to a one-year deal with sponsorship and marketing provisions that, according to Termini, made Boykins the highest-paid player in Italy this season at $3.5 million.

Virtus president Claudio Sabatini was quoted on Italian television last week as describing Boykins' decision to fly back to the States without permission as "unacceptable behavior."

"We have clear ideas on what we have to do," Sabatini added, leading to widespread speculation that Boykins would soon be released by Bologna and thus become a candidate to be signed by an NBA team.

Termini, though, insisted that the 5-foot-5 guard "remains under contract" in Italy.

"We will further discuss the matter with club management after his arrival back in Bologna," Termini said.

In 12 league games as Bologna's leading scorer, Boykins has averaged 16.3 points in 31.7 minutes, shooting 46.4 percent from the floor, 45.2 on 3-pointers and 89.9 percent from the line. Bologna is scheduled to face first-place Montepaschi Siena (12-0) on the road Sunday.

In the FIBA EuroChallenge -- Europe's third-tier club competion behind the Euroleague and ULEB Cup -- Bologna is 4-0 and leading its group, with Boykins averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game.

Of the 11 players to sign abroad this summer, Boykins was one of just four who played almost exclusively in the NBA before heading overseas, joining Josh Childress (Atlanta to Greece), Jannero Pargo (New Orleans to Russia) and Carlos Arroyo (Orlando to Israel).

Childress spurned a five-year offer worth an estimated $33 million from the Atlanta Hawks to sign a three-year deal worth at least $20 million from Greek power Olympiacos. With the Orlando Magic signing Anthony Johnson in the summer to serve as Jameer Nelson's backup, Arroyo chose to sign a three-year deal with Israeli giants Maccabi Tel-Aviv that will pay him $2.5 million net per season, with Maccabi covering Arroyo's taxes.

Childress and Arroyo each have an escape provision in their contracts which enables them to return to the NBA after each of the next two seasons if they choose. As for Pargo, it emerged earlier this month that multiple NBA teams, according to front-office sources, are monitoring the crippling effect of the global economic crisis in Russia in hopes that Pargo will wind up returning to the league before the end of this season.

Boykins, 32, had a breakout season offensively in 2006-07, averaging nearly 15 points per game for Denver and Milwaukee. But a limited free-agent market for rotation players in the summer of 2007 -- after he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Bucks at $3 million -- prompted Boykins to wait until late January before signing with the Charlotte Bobcats.

Boykins wound up playing in 36 games for the Bobcats, but he averaged just 5.1 points and shot below 40 percent from the floor (.355) for the first time since establishing himself as a full-time NBA player with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2001-02.

Boykins' deal includes income from Bologna's sponsorship and marketing arms, which is not an option for NBA players because of salary-cap restrictions.

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.