Euroleague Reluctant To Accept NBA Opt-Outs

Every day seems to bring a new rumor of an NBA player going to Europe for the duration of the lockout. At least threatening to go to Europe seems to be the trendy thing to do and one of the ways the players have tried to gain leverage over the owners.

For Americans it seems to make sense. Have the opportunity to add NBA-caliber players (let alone All Stars), why wouldn’t Euroleague and foreign teams jump at the opportunity if they have the money. Even if that means letting the players go back to the United States after the NBA’s labor struggles end.

Of course, things are not that simple. The Euroleague is the second best league in the world and you don’t get that way by adding quick-hit All Stars in the middle of the season. You get that way the same way you do in the NBA, by building a team and chemistry through a long season in domestic and international play.

In other words, the Euroleague is not amused with the NBA’s invasion of their territory.

“Our clubs need to have stable rosters,” Euroleague President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu told Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated via a translator. “They need to know how long they will be able to employ the player. No team will sign a player for only two or three months, or for an uncertain period of time. This is our forecast.”

It is with that in mind that so few players have actually signed contracts to play in the Euroleague. Deron Williams is the biggest name, signing with Besiktas. Jordan Farmar has signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel and Ersan Ilyasova has signed with Anadolu Efes in Turkey. Every other signing is just rumor at this point.

And it likely will stay rumor.

The Chinese Basketball Association is close to implementing a rule preventing teams from signing contracts that would allow players to return to the NBA at the conclusion of the lockout. Dwight Howard has already pulled his interest in going to China in response.

Euroleague does not appear close to making that kind of a ruling, trusting that the individual teams will make decisions that will benefit them. For a middling Euroleague team like Besiktas, bringing in Williams for a short time might be worth it.

The real complaint Euroleague is lodging is against the NBA. FIBA’s recent decision to allow players to sign overseas and jump back to the NBA once the lockout ends puzzled Bertomeu and the Euroleague.

Bertomeu alleged the NBA negotiated this deal with FIBA. It certainly would feed into any conspiracy theory you might have of the NBA trying to use the players interest in going overseas as a way to grow the league — and keep players in shape to avoid some of the disasters that occurred after the 1998 lockout.

Bertomeu said he asked FIBA what their decision was going to be before the lockout and asked FIBA to issue a decision immediately after the lockout began. He said the one month delay in FIBA’s decisions was some odd timing. The NBA, of course, denies any unfair dealing and says it was purely FIBA’s decision.

What might actually be happening is FIBA is afraid of stepping on the NBA’s toes. FIBA is very much independent, but the NBA is the most powerful basketball organization in the world. What they say goes. After all, it was the NBA that finally convince FIBA to move from a trapezoidal to a rectangular lane (FIBA has been urging the NBA to adopt its goaltending rules to no avail so far).

Bertomeu is very much fighting a perception in America that is not true. Euroleague is far above the D-League and college basketball in talent level. Teams already invest heavily in local talent and lower division youth teams. But don’t be surprised to see more Euroleague if this lockout continues. Even without NBA stars, European teams are going to show that team basketball trumps all.

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About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily