7.21.2008

Downhill Moses



This Josh Childress thing is, above all else, absolutely fucking hilarious. It's an embarrassment to the NBA—after all, you've got a lottery pick whose has developed his talent despite an adverse situation, ready to take on the league, threatening out of sheer frustration to pack it up and take his game overseas.

Brandon Jennings wants to change the system. Foreigners can return to the FIBA environment. Plain and simple, Childress belongs in the NBA. He just doesn't think of the Hawks as a valid NBA team, so much so that he's willing to make all sorts of personal and professional adjustments if it means finding some sort of credible situation.

I don't want to get all quasi-political here, but a player like Childress belongs in the NBA. That's the real threat international leagues pose: Not as a bigger draw in these troubled economic times, or as a reactionary barrier against Stern's plans for a worldwide brand. Far more gravely, they can actually erode the NBA as we know it. Letting players do what we fans have always wanted to do—i.e., completely disrespect organizations—and from there, take away from the base we pretty much count on inhabiting the NBA. As much as Jennings will be the glamor story, if Childress goes, and performs well, and enjoys himself, all of a sudden we might have another NBA/ABA situation on our hands.

And if Stern is wise, which he is, that's the situation he'll look back to. Over here, we still regard non-American teams as second-tier; unlike the ABA, international play is seen as both inferior and superior, deficient in pure ability but more akin to some people's vision of pure basketball. At the very least, it's different, and in theory, the Euro invasion was supposed to bring some of its ethos into the decaying league. That didn't quite work out, and the fact that it preceded this opposition on horizon kind of fucks up the ABA parallel.



At this point, the only smart interpretation is that overseas player can augment the NBA's identity, not overtake it. The other option is that it eats away at the league's core, further compromising it without exactly exporting it intact. The solutions? The safe play would be for Stern to somehow intervene and stem this hypothetical flow of talent to overseas. Make sure the Hawks let Childress go and maybe reconsider that age limit (because not everyone who heads there out of high school will be Brandon Jennings). Then again, these could be the first steps, or falling dominoes, toward a unified international league.

Stern wants a worldwide NBA franchise brand, and we can quibble over whether a merger of sorts would be a contradiction or compromise. It partly goes back to this tricky notion of the NBA's "identity." No longer is it as simple as a too-black game needing some whitening and fundamentals. Unlike the ABA's showmanship and creativity, it's not clear at this point what the international game does to enhance the NBA.

Then again, if the NBA itself starts to dissipate, then combining the two might be an exercise in pragmatism, not archetypes and keywords.

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32 Comments:

At 7/21/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger Bret LaGree said...

This post pretty much sums it up. Fans of the team have adopted a player-before-team POV.

It is hilarious and breathtaking in its magnitude of ineptitude. Any franchise can screw up a draft pick or three. To render an above-average 25-year-old restricted free agent who can fit in with anybody complete worthless to yourself is a feat incomparable.

 
At 7/21/2008 2:11 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

It's amazing how no team seems to want Josh Smith. It was puzzling me until on some ESPN show two Wise Old White Sportswriters had a lengthy discussion about the "questions" that surround him. "Character issues" and such. I had been under the impression that the only basketball-relevant question to be posed about him was "Will he ever get a quintuple-double?" but maybe I just need to hang out with Skip Bayless more often.

wv: kfgmati---former Central African "president-for-life" now quietly retired in Aix

 
At 7/21/2008 2:31 PM, Blogger Brendan K. said...

Is the Childress thing really anything more than a broken quirk or a year in the salary cap era, or a coincidence involving Childress' own skill set and an unwillingness to pay that much for a 6th man who isn't Manu? If you can name the franchise with a need at starting 2/3 and the money freedom to slot Childress there, then you can say he's getting purely fucked. But despite his talent abviously dictating he belongs in the NBA, he's not exactly been highly visible in ATL. Bad luck. Anybody think he'll actually play in Greece next season?

 
At 7/21/2008 2:50 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

The real worry on David Stern's mind has to be that the Euro is strong. Eventually, it will become affordable for Euro Leagues to start importing real stars. And one of those teams will find a way to make it profitable, in terms of attendance, team marketing, etc.

Wouldn't it be funny if the real darkhorse in the LeBron 2010 sweepstakes isn't the Nets or Cavs, but a European club?

That would not happen, but 5-10 years down the road, if the Euro remains strong, then it might be possible for European clubs to take on prime NBA players...

 
At 7/21/2008 2:55 PM, Blogger Reverend Paul Revere said...

I think this could potentially do damage to the American fans more so than even to the NBA and its credibility. It's been evident for years now that Stern wants nothing more than a global product, and what better way than to suck up some Euro leagues and make the NBA truly international.
With players defecting, if if ever became a serious trend, Stern would have a legitimate excuse to start his international league revolution.
That would be horrible for fans and players alike. Can you image crossing the Atlantic for games, what sort of travel headaches that would put on teams and players.
Leave it to a privileged Stanford-ite to help put a seed of doubt in the NBA.

 
At 7/21/2008 3:23 PM, Blogger Browny said...

Missing the point completely – The rise of the “Euros” will put a halt to the manipulation contracts by NBA teams, prior to Europe being a viable alternative to the NBA, a Josh Childress would not have had a choice. The Kobes and Elton Brands of the world had leverage by virtue of their perceived earning power outside of basketball and the considerable demand for their services by rival teams but for the Matt Barnes of the league it was a take it or leave it world.

This will balance out the process better and ensure an equitable offer to mid level guys. Normally the usual course of business was for the front office to gamble on some big man and then try to get frugal with wing players, for every “can’t miss big man Jerome James” that misses, there are 30 combo guards or 2/3 swing players that will struggle to get the minimum. The problem is that Europe values the swing position players more than the NBA does at the moment and has shown a willingness to pay for talent at those positions.

 
At 7/21/2008 3:43 PM, Blogger Joshua R said...

That would be horrible for fans and players alike. Can you image crossing the Atlantic for games, what sort of travel headaches that would put on teams and players.
Leave it to a privileged Stanford-ite to help put a seed of doubt in the NBA.


Why exactly would this be horrible for fans?

I presume that if there really were to be a melding between Euro ball and the NBA they might want to go with an old school AL and NL type separation (pre-interleague play) and just have the winner of the Euroleague get slotted in the Finals or something. That would potentially solve the travel issues, although it's unclear whether the Euro teams could attract enough NBA talent to make them competitive. Maybe have something like the Little League World Series where the champion from China, America, and Europe play each other (with a wild card fourth team). Obviously, speculation.

 
At 7/21/2008 4:43 PM, Blogger Alexander J said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the economic changes that we are seeing, and how the Purchasing Power Parity of Euro clubs is only on the rise, in all sports, not just in the NBA's case.

Imagine if a Euro club had contacted Sean Marion and offered him a significant sum of money, despite his inability to speak English, let alone Spanish or French or Russian, he probably would consider it, just so he could have his ego properly stroked.

That said, there are NBA quality players in Europe right now, look at a guy like Bobby Brown who should have a spot on New Orlean's roster.

Also, issues with the dollar is mostly bad for white people, and this I find this most hilarious.

 
At 7/21/2008 5:22 PM, Blogger Gabe said...

Note: I don't know anything about Josh Childress' personality, except to assume he's a smart dude 'cause of the Stanford thing.

If you're a player, and you don't particularly love the game, but view it as a job you're willing to work hard at (and I'm sure there are a few players like this), why not play abroad? You're probably instantly a top talent, you gain more local fame as a team's "superstar", and get paid more than you would in the league.

Cultural barriers aside (and for some that might not be as big a deal) you're making more money, and probably working less. If the whole thing about not playing in the best league doesn't bug you, what's the down side?

 
At 7/21/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger Bernice said...

I like (and obviously hate) the idea of basketball as employment rather than enjoyment, but in order for Childress to actually feel that in Europe, he'd have to be remarkably self aware.

If a player has the opportunity to play with the best, he's obviously trying to define himself as the best, and to stand out. Moving to europe would erase Childress's dream - a flameout to the ultimate goal of ultimate cultural and athletic transcendancy that remains in the mind of almost all professional athletes. While this is possible in Europe, Childress would have to first realise that that entirely isn't going to happen in North America.

Take for example Bosh's ridiculous dreads, Childress's 'fro, and Drew Gooden's Ducktail/Upsidedownburns.
All superficial attempts to define oneself in a league of stars.

To most, self-actualization in a small pond just isn't enough.

 
At 7/21/2008 6:09 PM, Blogger mdesus said...

Me encanta el titulo del articulo. I think you are way unplaying the economic factors here. I mean is anyone out there really willing to give josh childress 20 million over 3 years? When you factor into that the no state tax since he's playing and living abroad that's silly loot. I mean it wouldn't be the worst contract in NBA history if he got it, but Josh Childress going for more than the mle would be a major coup for him. Maybe I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure the mle is below 7 mil a year (maybe I'm wrong here). I mean he could go there for three years, and then come back, and still be in the prime of his career. I mean for a while we've seen tertiary guys do this. Carlos Delfino is going to make 10 mil plus a year, and no way was he getting even half of that in the nba.

 
At 7/21/2008 6:25 PM, Blogger Gabe said...

@Bernice:

I guess we're starting from different assumptions about the ultimate goal of pro athletes. I haven't been around enough (any), so you may know more than me. I appreciate your point about his 'fro, and that may indeed point to his desire to establish himself.

Still, as mdesus points out, for some players it's all about the Benjamins. Paging Darius Miles? He would be great at exploiting athletic talent (if he still has any) for cash while not trying to hard in Europe.

 
At 7/21/2008 8:34 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

http://www.chuckecheeses-sa.com/pix/chucke_adds.gif

 
At 7/22/2008 12:49 AM, OpenID tredecimal said...

I'm just sticking bits of paper in my mouth and practicing my lip for trumpet here, but...

"competition's good, it brings out the vital parts"

The closer the leagues become- in not just talent, but style and roster competition*- the more interleague play makes sense.
Say Brandon Jennings & Childress are the wave of the future, and this kind of thing goes on for the next 25 years. (just so that doesn't sound like geologic time, 25 years ago, the Sixers won the Finals and Moses was MVP) The NBA will become...just another basketball league. The players who play there will have to make the choice to be there, because the game is just as good overseas and the money may be better (and the herb laws laxer or non-existent)(plus who hasn't wanted to fuck their way across Europe?). Holy crap, could this become the rebirth of player-regional-gulp, national?! loyalty?
If advancing that was ever part of the rationale of instituting the age limit and the various intricacies of the MLEs & RFAs and such, then DAMN, Stern is even more steps ahead of us all than the Joker. I don't think he is, but anyways. Exciting time to be a hoops fan.

*isn't there a 2 foreign player limit? or is that specific to league? anyone?

 
At 7/22/2008 1:54 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Mentioned this obliquely on Sporting News, but I'll repeat it here: Part of what makes Childress valuable, impressive, meaningful, whatever, is that he can do so many things well (but never amazingly) on the floor at such high a level. What exactly happens if he's put up against lesser competition? The entire foundation of his good name in the NBA is irrelevant. The same sort of goes for Shawn Marion. Or what about this one: a lot of Marion's defensive acclaim came because of his noble effort, against the team's culture, on the Suns. What exactly are the expectations when the context changes?

My point on TSB was that Childress can't exactly up his NBA stock overseas, since what he does there wouldn't prove how (surprisingly) effective he can be, in many ways, against American pros.

 
At 7/22/2008 2:57 AM, Blogger T. said...

Baron Davis and Steve Nash dressed in goofy clothes, riding a tandem bike in Santa Monica.

http://www.faniq.com/blog/Steve-Nash-And-Baron-Davis-Ride-A-Tandem-Bike-In-Santa-Monica-Blog-10411

 
At 7/22/2008 2:59 AM, Blogger T. said...

@tredecimal - easily gotten around by playing fast and loose with citizenship. Examples include JR Holden (plays for CSKA Moscow AND the Russian National Team) Becky Hammon (also playing for the Russian National Team this summer in Beijing) , Chris Kamen (German ancestry) - procuring a passport through connections or fishy means is all super common in sports.

 
At 7/22/2008 7:36 AM, Blogger Danny said...

You guys are failing to see this as a businessperson:
By NBA talent being wooed into Europe with Higher Salaries, that means that the parent companies that own these teams are spending more money. If they are spending more, they will have incentive to increase their own revenue to cover the cost of the big contracts. The best way to do this is by having modern arenas with proper suites, box seating, and modern concession.
That is what the NBA has been waiting for to globalize. The arenas. And Stern and the current owners, won't have to subsidize a single penny to bring these teams up to speed. The owners of the international teams will most likely want to take part in the marketing machine that is the NBA, and will allow for the NBA to expand into Europe, making this a truly global game...

 
At 7/22/2008 7:59 AM, Blogger Steve said...

I don't think having NBA teams in Europe will work. For starters, are salaries paid in US Dollars or Euros? What about all the extra travel? What if the players object to the extra travel?

Also, would the NBA create new franchises or admit Euroleague teams into the NBA? If they do that, what teams get in, and what teams don't?

 
At 7/22/2008 8:11 AM, Blogger Danny said...

A microcosm of this senerio already exists: What do they do in Canada with the Raptors? Do the use US or Canadian money? What taxes do they use.
Contrary to amusing populists' beliefs, Canada is not the USA's 51'st state. Heq, some of Canada wants to secede to be their own.

An interesting note is that different states in the US have different tax laws, Florida having some of the lowest. If that is a consideration, why don't more players go out of their way to play there?
Like others have said, an AL NL system is an easy solution to travel.
Being that teams are individual franchises in the NBA, they could be created OR be admitted in, assuming they had access to proper arenas (revenue streams). Players will go where the money is. I am sure more Euros will end up playing for Euro teams an vice-versa, but that isn't to say trades couldn't happen.

 
At 7/22/2008 10:29 AM, Blogger mdesus said...

Danny,

While I'm struggling to think of examples I'm pretty confident players do go out of their way to play in miami... I love your first point about the modernization of european arenas. Moreover, US sports fans (ok maybe not football fans) have a lot to learn by european (or south american) sports fans. I've been going to a lot of Chivas games since I've been in Guadalajara, and the environment cannot compare to that of an American sporting event. If they weren't constantly hurling toilet paper on the pitch, and weren't so dang stabby I'd love for American sports to replicate their enthusiasm and joy (especially in the NBA were crowds are often so terrible). I know this is unrelated, but it kills me when mid game they are playing music, and none of the stadium seems to be paying much attention. What sucks for these guys is that they actually only reap partial florida tax benefits from playing there. They have to pay state income tax for each state they play in. That means that dwayne wade doesn't get to realize all the cushy florida tax breaks because each game check gets taxed at a different rate depending on where the game was played. Espn had an article up a while ago about cska moscow, and how they are looking to do exactly what Danny pointed out. The issue is teams would need fucking concords to fly to russia in any sort of reasonable time. That shit takes a day of travel right now (more if you don't have a private jet obviously). There will never be a single integrated entity of a league, but having competing leagues would be awesome. The world more or less recognizes that the English premier league is the best futbol league, but the spanish and italian leagues are not far behind, and it's not an upset at all when their top teams best england. It'd be dope to have a situation like that for basketball. As for pot laws, in Russia everything is basically legal if you have a little money (same in Mexico). Spain has technically very harsh drug laws, but they are never enforced for hash (no one smokes weed there). England ha come within a hair of decriminalizing pot several times. Italy is basically the same as Spain, but with better clothes and worse trains.

 
At 7/22/2008 10:33 AM, Blogger mdesus said...

wow my spelling, grammar, and geography is terrible.

 
At 7/22/2008 4:59 PM, Blogger DV said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 7/22/2008 5:18 PM, Blogger Sons Of Shawn Kemp said...

As alluded to by Shoals, our collective minds' eye's Ideal World Order would resonate within a seamless and gargantuan Association spread across the real pee-en-owe-W (Playing Nations Of the World). This idealized scenario, as is the case with perfect storms of every order/scale/magnitude, is eons away. We wish it-they weren't so. It-they is-are.

Greek Childress might very well prove to be a tipping point... as applied to a series of minor events that were kickstarted by late first rounders eschewing the then mighty Dollah in favour of the Euroleagues and blood drenched Rubles. And yet we would scream triumphantly amidst their retreat(s): "Thy pallor is a cause for LMAO" / "And laterally challenged thou art" / "And unshaven".

When the NBA's unique economics, of which daily songs of exhaltation/sorrow were sung on the message boards of lore, mandate that a 70th %ile player is to make only 50th %ile money (in-joke for the Capoligists... haw haw, guffaw et al), are we THAT far away from the savage event horizon when some Russian oligarch offers a 95 %ile player 3/100 and makes a mockery of our beloved CBA in the process?

No. No we don't envision a partipicant of 'Bronian/KB8y seminality fleeing. That falls beyond even our scope. But... (without name-whoring any further) a baby-tier beneath? Ah, THIS we CAN see.

Since evolution can only come at the cost of destruction, or it's threat, could this be something we'd *gulp* root for?

 
At 7/22/2008 7:44 PM, Blogger El Presidente said...

No one has mentioned what happens if you go to play overseas and are injured. Are contracts guaranteed/insured the same way they are here?

 
At 7/23/2008 12:18 AM, Blogger T. said...

@el presidente - I'm pretty sure its a case by case/team by team basis. Paul Shirley wrote about being injured in Russia in his book - and he kept getting paid and working out with the team and the team covered medical expenses. But there's millions of stories of poor payment records, passport confiscation and other dubious business methods that overseas players have to deal with - and I'd wager those teams try to get out of paying for a player's injury or medical expensies or contract.

 
At 7/23/2008 1:55 AM, Blogger Matías Castañon said...

Hi!! First of all, excuse me for my english cuz i don´t practice a lot.

I was thinking about this and i'm not agree with the last words. Why would the NBA make some changes for things like this? I mean, the League got the best guys, who sell shirts all around the world and make sold outs in cities like London or Berlin (where the basketball is a minor sport). The NBA doesn't need a guy like Childress, there's a lot of good players waiting for an oportunity.

And this is been say by an european guy...

PS: I try to analize this in my blog, http://ataque-princeton.blogspot.com (sorry, it's in spanish).

 
At 7/23/2008 3:32 AM, Blogger D.J. Foster said...

It appears as if FD has gone global as well.

David Stern will strike down any resistance/competition. As long as he's commish, the NBA will be the one and only. Childress will go, and then fade away, and we'll forget he ever happened. He'll be a fun trivia question, and that's about it.

If I were Stern I'd be MUCH MUCH more worried about guys like Jennings.

 
At 7/23/2008 8:59 AM, Blogger John said...

I love it! Basketball is getting a little bit closer to resembling world football where everything is a free for all - the free market reigns supreme, the most deserving teams always win their respective leagues and The Right Way isn't even a concept. Globilization, thy name is Soccer...and hopefully basketball. Can't effin' wait.

 
At 7/23/2008 11:40 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

HE DID IT post in a minute.

 
At 7/23/2008 4:11 PM, Blogger Sons Of Shawn Kemp said...

We were operating on the premise that he DID.

 
At 7/28/2008 2:55 AM, Blogger milaz said...

I have not read all the comments here, but some general comments on the post...

First of all, why is "this Josh Childress thing" such an embarrassment to the NBA? And why is it necessarily a measure of the quality of the game or competition in a league?

There are players - both European and American - that have had the choice to play in either continent and chosen one over the other for their OWN reasons. Whether these are that one league is - in their own perspective - "easier", "faster", "more profitable", or gives them, personally, more exposure is totally their won decision. Childress, did not want to stay in Atlanta more than anything and who is to say that going to a team that is one of the best in Europe is not better than staying as part of a mismanaged NBA team?

The rest of your philosophical ramblings (ABA parallel? International league?) are nice to think about, but when all is said and done, they hardly matter if not for a merely historical/literary perspective.

 

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