David Stern Better Start Worrying Immediately
Well, that didn't take long. Pretty much everyone wondered how long it would before other legitimate NBA players like Josh Childress decided to go abroad to Europe to rake in the cash.
And now we may even have a starter heading over there.
Yep, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Delonte West is apparently giving serious consideration about relocating to Russia to play for Dynamo Moscow, which is offering him a two-year, $10 million dollar contract. That's much better than his current one-year $2.7 million qualifying offer with the Cavs. There are teams interested in West, but he's a restricted free agent, just like Childress was before he signed with Athens Olympiakos. Obviously, Dynamo Moscow doesn't have to worry about that at all. NBA rules don't apply to them.
In addition to West, Lakers gunner Sasha "The Machine" Vujacic may also be heading to Europe as well. The Machine has said he's prepared to leave the team and accept an offer from a European team in the next few days if the Lakers don't make him an offer he deems fair - which would be in the range of $5 million per. In case you're noticing a growing trend here, The Machine is also a restricted free agent.
Lastly, the Warriors could lose one of their bright young stars as well. Andris Biedrins, literally the only guy on the Warriors who plays any defense, is apparently getting offers from Euro squads in the $10 million per year range. There's almost no way the Warriors can offer him that after having resigned Monta Ellis and brought in Corey Maggette.
Now, like Childress, none of these guys are stars. But these are all very good players. Vujacic averaged 8.8 points in 17.8 minutes this past season, shooting 45.4% from the field, including 43.7% from three-point range. Biedrins has long been considered the most prized piece of the Warriors' young nucleus aside from Monta Ellis. And West, hell, he was starting for the Cavs in the postseason. You think LeBron wants to lose a backcourt teammate and get nothing in return?
Better yet, do you think David Stern wants to see LeBron lose a teammate for nothing in return? And if you're Cleveland, you might as well just pay for LeBron's plane ticket to the Nets now.
The point is this. If David Stern thought Childress was just an anomaly, he thought wrong. Childress has literally started to open the floodgates. Pretty decent non-superstar players are starting to realize that their services are more valuable abroad than they are at home. Plus with the Euro crushing the dollar, Russia flush with oil money, and no salary caps abroad, why not go to Europe if they'll pay you double what you'd earn back in the states?
The interesting thing is that Euro teams seem to have found a weakness in the NBA's restricted free agent market and are exploiting it for all it's worth. Basically, the way the restricted free agent market works is another team can offer a restricted free agent a contract, but then the team which currently has the player's rights can match that offer and keep the player. This would seemingly create a bidding war, but that gets calmed by the fact that neither team wants to necessarily overpay the player, so generally restricted agency is a tough game to play where you have to offer just the right amount to coax a player away from a team without screwing yourself over. Whereas foreign teams, with no salary cap, don't have to worry about any of that at all.
I'm not sure changing the restricted free agent rules will even do much good. There's no other way to say this than that David Stern officially has a crisis on his hands. And in a few years time, who knows, US basketball stars may start pulling a reverse Beckham and head over to Europe for $250 million.
Considering what's going on right now, that doesn't just seem likely, it seems inevitable.