NBA: Weekend Review

August 4th, 2008

By: Steve Kyler 



The European Exodus : Add Carlos Arroyo to the list of NBA players crossing the pond, agreeing yesterday to a 3-year deal in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv filling the last roster spot for the Euroleague power house. The deal is worth roughly $7.5 million, or $2.5 million per year, almost half what Carlos earned in Orlando last year. Carlos was on Maccabi's radar for some time, and in landing him they locked up their roster. The appeal of the European offers is real – virtually tax free money, nice luxury apartments and cars to use while playing for the team, and a much shorter season with fewer games. The idea that a mega-star type player will one day very soon cross the pond is still a bit of stretch, for instance the idea that LeBron James would go to Greece in 2010 is almost insane. LeBron has not achieved any of the goals he set out to achieve and in the next two years it's unlikely he gets two championships, two league MVPs, a scoring title and a Defensive Player of the Year award before July 2010. The real European threat is the middle class in the NBA. The current NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement rewards top rookies and top tier players, at the expense of the middle class. This issue will come up again in the next round of collective bargaining talks. The current agreement expires after the 2010-11 season; the NBA has the option to extend the current deal through the 2011-12 season. The NBA must exercise its option to extend the deal by December 15, 2010. One of the core reasons star players like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade opted for shorter terms deals, was in part because their percentage of the salary cap rate increases after seven season in the league, but also in the event that the Collective Bargaining situation changes, if the league opts not to extend – which is unlikely - both players wanted to be able to negotiate on what is expected to be better terms for the top tier. The NBA's position on Europe grabbing NBA players is it's a global business and a global game that they helped develop. The agent's position is the NBA needs to address this issue and needs to do it quickly. Every time a NBA player leaves the league, especially players with name value, this issue gets closer to getting ugly. There are roughly 40 top tier NBA players; there are easily 170 middle class players each year in the NBA; combined that is the bulk of the league. The next round of labor talks could get very ugly and you can point to Europe as why.

Shaq Wants JWill: Shaquille O'Neal is urging the Phoenix Suns to get into the Jason Williams sweepstakes. Jason was with Shaq in Miami for the past three seasons, and is still unsigned. The Williams' camp is weighing some European offers that are above the NBA minimum and still holding out that Miami may make a better offer as well. The Suns are looking for a reserve point guard to back up Steve Nash, and are trying to get second-round draft pick Goran Dragic into a deal. Dragic has a $1 million Euro buyout - roughly $1.5 million US - of which the Suns can pay up to $500,000 towards without penalty towards the salary cap. Dragic is seeking a multi-year deal well above the NBA minimum begging the question, if the Suns are willing to spend $2 million on Dragic, would they get a better player in Williams at or near the same money? The Suns will likely be luxury tax payers in 2008-2009 unless they can find a taker for Boris Diaw's remaining four years and $36 million. The Suns have been active in trade talks involving both Diaw and Leandro Barbosa who they have been shopping since the draft, with very little interest in Diaw and very little value in return for Barbosa. With the Suns in Luxury Tax range now, every contract signed going forward could face a dollar for dollar penalty next summer. The tax is not computed until the end of the year, so it's possible the Suns could trigger a deal cutting some salary before the trade deadline and avoid the tax, but tax ramifications do factor into these final roster spots. Given the Suns infatuation in Goran Dragic, Shaq may have a rookie on the roster instead of the veteran he thinks the club needs.

Pride In Your Country?: Chris Kaman is getting a lot of heat for joining the German National team. He has been called a traitor and a turncoat on sports radio shows across the country, and it's expected he'll face some boos and catcalls when he returns to the NBA in October. The funniest part about all of this is this bogus expectation of national pride when it comes to the Olympics. The Olympics is the biggest joke in sports. The athletes on most of these teams are simply highly paid professionals, most do not live or train in the country they will compete for next week. The Olympics is far more about marketing and ad dollars than the games and sports being played. There are billions of dollars paid and spent on the Olympics, all under this guise of national pride. Don't get it twisted; I want to see the US teams bring home the gold, because I am caught up in it too. I am just not naive enough to buy into this "he's a traitor" stuff, because it's not like Chris Kaman is giving the Germans nuclear secrets or the source code to Windows Vista. The chance to win an Olympic medal is a special thing, a thing reserved for a select few and if a loophole somewhere gives you the chance to do that, I would support you in that endeavor. You don't think Jamaica really wanted to prove its Bobsledding dominance do you? They got in where they could fit in. Chris Kaman was never going to represent the US in Olympic play, he wasn't even on the top 50 list, so it's not like he is spurning his country to play for Team Deutschland. The Olympics is about business, and big business at that. And for the record, when the Scottish National Team is organizing its 2012 London roster, I will be ready.