Yesterday, Josh Childress became the fifth NBA player this year to dart from the pros in America and cross the water to Europe. Now a former Atlanta Hawk, Childress was a restricted free agent, meaning the Hawks could match any offer by another NBA team. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Childress signed with Olympiakos, a Greek team, so they do not have the chance to match the offer. That means Childress is gone. The deal with Olympiakos was worth $20 million over three years. Childress is a very good sixth-man and a great energy guy off the bench for the Hawks, but I don’t think he is worth more than six million dollars a year.
So Olympiakos overpaid, but that isn’t exactly newsworthy in sports. What is newsworthy is that a key NBA player chose to play in an inferior league overseas instead of the NBA. It has even been reported that the Hawks were offering Childress a deal worth around $36 million. If Childress was getting a solid deal from Atlanta, then why did he choose to leave the NBA. As I said above, this seems to be a growing theme amongst NBA players as Childress is the fifth, and most notable, player to leave the NBA for a European league this year.
Lesser known players such as Juan Carlos Navarro and Carlos Delfino have also switched continents, but those are both European-born players so their return to their home country is not that unbelievable. However, when an American-born player leaves money on the table to go play in Europe, that is troubling. Why would Childress choose Olympiakos over Atlanta? I’m sure he has a reason and I’m sure it is good. If it is a personal reason, then the NBA can breathe easier, but if it is a general reason which many NBA players can relate to, then the NBA has a problem. Childress could be the first of many players to switch continents.
Star high school player Brandon Jennings chose pro basketball in Europe over college basketball. Europe could become the hot spot for basketball if more high school players make choices like Jennings. The NBA’s rule to force high school players to spend one year in college could force those players overseas. It could jeopardize the NBA as we know it. What if the next Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, or Michael Jordan choose to go to Europe? What happens when Euroleagues become equal to the NBA? What happens when players want to play in Europe over America? Childress’s decision may be isolated, but if it isn’t, David Stern better get ready for a crisis.