7.23.2008

This Dam Won't Break Itself



The minute I found out that Childress really is going Greek, my perspective on the entire situation shifted. We've spent the last few days prattling on about what this could mean, how it could change everything, and how exactly the trend would mount. But now that it's no longer purely academic, we're back at square one. Or at least back to baby steps. This is an experiment, one that's anything but a sure thing. And that's where Josh Childress enters the picture—as an individual, not a symbol.

One of my all-time favorite cliches is "If ________ hadn't been born, someone would have had to invent him." It looks really stupid without context, but that's kind of how I feel about Brandon Jennings. As a pioneer, he's generic: A highly-touted high school player and surefire lottery pick with few tough decisions to make in the short-term. Some international team would always have been willing to fork out dough for pre-frosh of his caliber, no matter what position he played. It was just a matter of time until someone took this bold step, which only proves how doomed the age limit is. The marriage is brief, everyone but Stern and Brand understands, and the skirmish over where that first season is played is nearly circumscribed.

Childress, though, is entering a far more complicated situation. He's certainly the best NBA player to spurn that league, and will touch down in Europe as a test case for all others who are victims of a shortage of cap space around the league, bound to a crappy franchise, held back by a roster full of similar players, or utterly devoid of national hype. I hesitate to call him a victim, beacuse the Hawks did offer him a ton of money. But while Jennings operates in the realm of the inevitable, Childress has chosen the great unknown over a prison of circumstance.

And yet there's no guarantee it will work out, that we'll ever get to see this become a viable option for pros, or find the globalization of the game hastened in ways that would've been unimaginable only a week ago. For all the rewards Childress looks to reap—the largest contract in Euroleague history, a strong Euro, and significantly less taxation are among them—he is entering uncharted territory. Childress has the opportunity to make or break this option for future generations. You decide whether it's too strong to call that a burden, or the less somber "responsibility" will suffice.



In my Sporting Blog post, I made the comparison to Garnett's going pro. Without a doubt, KG's handling of this historic transition contributes to his unassailable reputation among nearly everyone involved with the NBA. At the risk of blasphemy or poor taste, you could also bring in Branch Rickey's hand-picking of Jackie Robinson, or Obama's irresistible narrative.

I'm not party to every behind-the-scenes conversation everywhere, but I don't think it's a coincidence that Childress was tapped to play this role. While he's athletic as hell, he's also carved out a reputation for defense, hustle, and team play. He rarely chafed at being stuck behind any number of other Atlanta SFs. He's smart on the court, and yeah, smart off of it by the most stodgy metrics: Try a 3.5 GPA and 1100 on his SATs at a school not known for catering to athletes. He's solidly middle-class, went to Stanford. . . in short, a model citizen who carries very little NBA stigma. In fact, if you're conspiracy-minded, you can imagine Stern himself picking Childress to bridge the two basketball worlds.

I realize I've wandered into dangerous territory here: Implicitly comparing taking a ton of money to integration, and suggesting that J.R. Smith wouldn't be afforded the same opportunity. But I come not to denigrate other players, or suggest that bias is hindering true global basketball understanding. Just pointing out that, if we accept that things could go wrong here, and realize that offering Childress the keys to Europe's basketball kingdom as the international game is on the rise might be a touchy subject, this will be a test case, an experiment. Whether this makes you see Childress as a hero or a pawn is another issue altogether.

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36 Comments:

At 7/23/2008 2:44 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

P.S. Sorry I missed the whole Nike controversy yesterday. I think it's stupid and if you want to attack it, you have to basically tear down a lot of the culture surrounding basketball.

And I think Josh Smith leaves now, because the Hawks have basically shamed themselves out of the NBA.

 
At 7/23/2008 3:01 PM, Blogger Browny said...

Interesting that you would bring up J.R. Smith, athletically a player on a the same or higher level than Josh, whose salary demands should be on par with that of Josh but whose history and background suggests would have a harder time adjusting to an alien culture where he is always the stranger.

A Stanford education would have at the very least exposed Josh to a great multiplicity of cultural and ethnic differences. I believe his view on international living would be more nuanced than that of J.R. Smith (what in God’s name does the J. R. stand for and how did he pull off this J.R. Smith naming business?) and therefore make him better able to deal with the culture shock of trying to succeed on and off the court, in a maybe not too supportive environment. Yes, not everybody will be able to deal with playing in Europe, where the racism is real and the crowds sometimes physically and emotional involved in the outcome of the games.

 
At 7/23/2008 3:05 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Minor nitpick: I don't know whether Childress is "certainly" the best NBAer to bolt for Europe; Joe Barry Carroll was pretty good (dumb as a box of rocks and lazy, sure, but he was good for 20 and 8 for almost the whole 80s). It was a while ago, so Childress is certainly the best to go this generation.

 
At 7/23/2008 3:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

JO, thanks for that. I could counter with "Childress could be reliably 20/8 if he started," but instead I'll plead "forgot about JBC."

On the other hand, maybe JBC is to Childress what Moses was to Garnett?

Browny, good point about diversity at Stanford.

 
At 7/23/2008 3:18 PM, Blogger mdesus said...

jawaan,

Wow I am stunned I'd never heard of him before. Granted, it's a bit before my time (I was born the year he was drafted), but I'm fairly shocked no one has mentioned that a guy averaged 20 plus a game went to europe for a year, dominated, and came back to average 20 plus. I would guess that'd be like carlos boozer dipping to europe for a year.

on a side note sorry for commenting so much I just have very few responsibilities (at work and in life), and am drawn to the narrative of this site.

 
At 7/23/2008 3:23 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Telling quote from Childress:

"They did their research," Childress said. "They know what type of player I am."

 
At 7/23/2008 3:37 PM, OpenID Βαρώνος Κόζιμο said...

Don't forget about Dominique as well, who also signed in Greece. He played quite well, winning the euroleague final four mvp in 96 or 97, can't really remember right now.

Since one of the points of the post is circumstance as a long time fan of Olympiakos, Josh's new time, i might as well say a couple of things to put things in perspective.

1. Rotation and minutes played is quite different in Europe. Papaloukas, arguably the best PG in Europe in the last 5 years, multiple MVP's and player of the Year awards and all, was his team;s sixth mean during this period. He rarely averages more than 25 min. His stats arenot eye popping, in fact it is very difficult to find a 20/10 player in Europe that actually plays for a powerhouse team.

2. Giannakis, Olympiakos coach (and also the coach of the grrek national team tha beat USA 2 years ago) is a firm believer in constant substitutions and roatations. Greece won the Euro in 205 and no player averaged more than 12-13 points and 4-5 rebs and assists.

3. This is where i am getting to: Josh probably won;t be amazing when it comes to stats. He will actually be judged whether he contributes to winning. I think nobody here in Gtreece expects anything more than 15 pts, 6 rebs and good defence nd teamwork. It's difficult to communicating what i am trying to say without sounding like sayong that urope is a Right Way Paradise, cause it's not. Just that Childress success or failre will be judged more from a team success perspective. (Olympiakos has recently aquired the aforementioned Papaloukas and Vujicic, probably the best big man in Europe besides Splitter: it's not like they are waiting for Childress to be Messiah, not even a leader)

 
At 7/23/2008 4:06 PM, Blogger Jason Hawk said...

Is that an illustration from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress at the end?

If so, you think the $$$ might help Chill buy something to transport his burden 'round the Continent?

 
At 7/23/2008 4:30 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

J.R. Smith's real name is Earl Smith, Jr. So that's where the JR came from. And these dipshit Nuggets better sign him to a long-term deal or I'm gonna scream.

 
At 7/23/2008 4:33 PM, OpenID tredecimal said...

Βαρώνος Κόζιμο , fan of Olympiakos, well done. That is cool stuff to know.

 
At 7/23/2008 4:35 PM, OpenID gpietras said...

A few thoughts:

1. It's important to note that he's got an opt-out clause after each of his three years. Presumably, his agents can be in contact with NBA teams each offseason, and just wait for a more lucrative/convenient situation to open up.

2. Along those lines, does this make Childress more or less valuable to NBA teams? Even if he wanted to come back, would his decision to defect be interpreted by front offices as one of those nebulous "character issues"? I'd tend to think that most franchises are more business-savvy than that, but lesser offenses have thrown up red flags in the past.

3. I know that they show international highlights on NBA TV, but is there any ultra-expensive cable package that shows Euroleague games? If there's one definite appeal for me in this situation, it's becoming more interested in the goings-on in Europe.

 
At 7/23/2008 4:41 PM, Blogger Joe said...

Glad to see Hawks fans are taking this well...

http://runaroundsues.blogspot.com/2008/07/being-that-this-is-blog-and-nobody-is.html

 
At 7/23/2008 4:57 PM, Blogger RHYbread said...

@gpietras You'll probably have to deal with extremely expensive PPV packages to watch Euro basketball on your TV.

I'd recommend SopCast, TVU and the like to watch Euroleague games. Quality isn't great, but it's not atrocious either. It sucks having to wake up early and stuff for soccer but it's well worth it if you're a fan. Check you myp2p.eu for everything you need to get started.

 
At 7/23/2008 5:37 PM, Blogger Matías Castañon said...

J.R Smith? In Europe? No, thanks...

 
At 7/23/2008 5:41 PM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

nique was already 34 and post-achilles injury when he went to greece, and he only stayed one season before going back to the spurs. very different from childress about to enter his prime signing a multi-year deal. this is kind of unprecedented except for the joe barely cares thing, or maybe when cowens retired and drove a cab for half a season?

 
At 7/23/2008 6:53 PM, Blogger The Other Van Gundy said...

Maybe all of Childress's Stanford friends went abroad and he felt like he missed out. That's the solidly middle class thing to do, right? Go to Europe and maybe get a handjob from some Dutch girl?

 
At 7/23/2008 7:22 PM, Blogger T. said...

Josh Childress is the exception, not the forerunner - a large majority of American NBA players aren't going to leave the comforts of having a Cheesecake Factory in every city. It's only when the choice is between the NBDL and the big bucks in Europe that the choice becomes difficult. I couldn't see any more than a handful of other American mid-level players following his example.

I'd say the best players to go to Europe were Michael Ray Richardson (sure, banned by the league, but was a 20/8 player one year and a real contender for "best point guard in the league not named Magic) and Bob McAdoo (former league scoring champ, MVP, 2nd overall pick) - but he left when he was 34.

 
At 7/23/2008 8:06 PM, Blogger Tree Frog said...

The picture of Sai Baba is oddly appropriate for this entry.

The guy is a relatively non-spectacular orator and spiritual leader - I'd peg him at precisely the same level Josh Childress occupies. Yet somehow he's built a following numbering in the millions and he's managed to do good things for a bunch of people by mostly traveling around and smiling to strangers while taking their donations.

And his picture, though people don't REALLY believe in him, is in goddamned near every Hindu's house next to the dead relatives, holy rocks and gods.

Oddly appropriate.

 
At 7/23/2008 8:57 PM, OpenID tasmaniandad said...

Isn't the case of Danny Ferry relevant here? Some important differences, of course. But maybe more similar than all these 34-year-olds.

 
At 7/23/2008 11:00 PM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

Right, Danny Ferry! People went bugfuck when that happened. It's probably because of how bad he was when he came back---even when he eventually rehabilitated into a solid bench guy he was still a colossal bust as a #2---that it's been so long until something analogous to Jennings/Childress happened the next time.

 
At 7/24/2008 12:41 AM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

I might be sheltered, but is 1100 on your SATs actually good? Okay, rather than having other people look it up for me, I did it myself: http://www.collegeboard.com/prod_downloads/highered/ra/sat/SATPercentileRanks.pdf

I'm obviously too lazy to search hard enough for a combined percentile table (although I doubt College Board would make this public), but it looks like an 1100 is equivalent to about the 55th percentile, which isn't really that great, especially for somewhere like Stanford. Of course, Childress, knowing that he had a full scholarship, probably didn't try very hard on the test, so he's probably smarter than his score. Oh yes, also the SAT is racist.

 
At 7/24/2008 12:55 AM, Blogger Sons of Big Daddy Drew said...

You stole my "prattling on" line!

 
At 7/24/2008 1:38 AM, Blogger jawaan oldham said...

spanish bombs: a jock getting an 1100 on his SATs is like an academic who can bench 300, not unheard of but rare enough to be like, "wow, that semiotician's jacked" or "holy shit, a pro athlete got four figures on his SAT."

 
At 7/24/2008 10:54 AM, Blogger Quantavius Sturdivant said...

totally forgot about danny ferry.

doesn't it seem strange that the same organization that gave him a 10 year contract back in the day, only to have him become a colossal bust would give him a big contract to be the gm and fuck up any chance of contending with lebron by assembling the worst possible supporting cast around him?

 
At 7/24/2008 12:06 PM, Blogger avery said...

...is josh childress still going to be the SLAM technology columnist? What type of stuff do they have in Greece that we don't over here?

Josh Childress=the new Paul Shirley
"Can I Have some more Baklava?"--COMING SUMMER 2009 w/ foreword from Billups or Shoals

 
At 7/24/2008 4:47 PM, Blogger 800# said...

Carl Landry is threatening to jump! Mass hysteria!
http://www.sportingnews.com/yourturn/viewtopic.php?t=437766

This is my question: if the dollar makes a rally does this move matter? Or does this influence the next CBA enough to mark a generational shift?

 
At 7/25/2008 12:09 AM, Blogger truth in parts said...

is it so much the euro taking an s on the dollar or is it just euro teams having more dough to dish around? the euros seem to love the game much as those 06 nba commercials so the squads are probably raking in some change, whether its benjamins or queen elizabeths.

smells like inevitable in the air. echo obama in berlin. a world that stands as one balls as one homie

 
At 7/25/2008 1:44 AM, Blogger milaz said...

Ρε Αμερικανάκια...,

Why are you so worried? "This Dam won't break itself" and "a large majority of American NBA players aren't going to leave the comforts of having a Cheesecake Factory in every city"... Are you joking? Ever seen a basketball game in Greece or Europe? It's not the Cheesecake Factory but have you ever eaten some soublaki under the Parthenon?

 
At 7/25/2008 9:27 AM, Blogger T. said...

If the passion of fans were enough incentive to convince NBA players to play somewhere - they'd have all stayed in college.

And you're confusing my tastes with those of NBA players. I've eaten sovlaki in Athens - but I've also taken NBA players to eat at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Taipei and Outback Steakhouse in Beijing - two of the better cities in Greater China for food and they still choose restaurants which are around the corner.*


*God Shammgod when he lived in Shaanxi province ate every meal at McDonald's.

The lesson? Average American professional basketball players aren't very adventurous when it comes to food.

I still say it will take either unusual NBA players or unusual circumstances (i.e. Ferry, Richardson) to send players overseas. Unless of course the dollar continues to tank.

 
At 7/25/2008 9:34 AM, Blogger El Presidente said...

If hoopshype ain't lying, Andris Biedrins is being offered a HEFTY contract from a Russian squad. Now things are becoming interesting...

 
At 7/25/2008 11:31 AM, OpenID jsross119 said...

Childress got an 1100 on the SATs when the test was out of 1600, definitely higher than 55th percentile, although I have no idea what percentile that would score as (probably 75th-80th).

The test changed 3 or so years ago and is now out of 2400.

 
At 7/25/2008 12:20 PM, Blogger 10FootBongz said...

If that was a picture of the real Sai Baba, he would be transparent. You just can't expect a camera to be able to hold his image.
Love all, serve all, bitches.

 
At 7/25/2008 12:28 PM, Blogger 10FootBongz said...

Tree Frog,
One note on the SB, I know quite a few people who really DO believe in him (having had sick relatives become healthy after meeting him). Plus, he still rocks the great head of hair even though he is OLD.

 
At 7/25/2008 2:37 PM, Blogger TheGreatPumpkin said...

jsross: Each section of the SAT, GMAT, GRE is on a scale of 0-60 (integers only). They translate raw results to a scaled score using a median of 30 and a normal distribution of contemporaneous scores. Then they add a zero to the end and add 200. So the reported score is on a scale from 200-800.

[LSAT is also on a scale of 0-60, and then they add 120 for some strange reason, so the reported score is on a scale from 120-180.]

All this is to say that (in the old SAT framework, before the writing section was introduced) the median score on math was 500 and the median score on verbal was 500, so the overall median was 1000. Childress barely beat the median.

Sorry, I know this had nothing to do with basketball. Here's a vaguely basketball-related point: Has everyone seen this video of Childress groovin it in an Athens club? (i found this on Truehoop of course)

 
At 7/28/2008 2:39 AM, Blogger Kimberly said...

Well do you think the Atlanta Hawks team is going to a deal with Maurice Evans?

http://greatbasketballers.blogspot.com

 
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