For those who thought NBA players defecting to play overseas is just a negotiating ploy during the lockout better think again as the line appears to be getting longer and more star-studded.
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard told the Associated Press over the weekend he will consider playing in China or Europe this upcoming season if there is no end in sight for the current NBA lockout. Howard, by far, would be the biggest name to bolt and undoubtedly would lead to more big name NBA stars heading overseas.
New Jersey Nets star point guard Deron Williams was the first to come out and threaten to play overseas during the lockout. Williams apparently made good on his threat over the weekend when he tweeted: “just made it official, headed to Turkey … signed with Besiktas.”
If any of the star players did sign with overseas teams, they all will sign deals that will release them once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached and the lockout ends. Still, the idea of NBA players going overseas is a thought NBA owners can’t be comfortable with.
Williams’ departure was thought to be a blow to the NBA that one of its star players could earn a living playing overseas during the work stoppage here. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant has also said he will explore European opportunities and so has New Orleans Hornet point guard Chris Paul.
But a star of Howard’s magnitude might actually be the one that will get owners to the table in a bargaining mood. In the meantime, a move to, say, China, could pave the way to international stardom for a player the status of Howard.
Howard wouldn’t say whether or not he is in contact with any teams overseas during the interview but he gave enough to ensure there is some mutual interest.
“The big thing for me is not giving too much information away, but at the same time I still need to let people know what’s going on with me,” Howard said. “I don’t want to just sit over here and forget about basketball and waste, you know, opportunities for me to get better.”
If there is a risk for Howard, it would be that he will be the most coveted free agent come the summer of 2012. He could stand to lose major money should he suffer a serious injury while playing overseas.
But 2012 isn’t an overriding concern for Howard at this point with the pending lockout threatening to derail the entire 2011-12 season.
“If I decide to go overseas, the main thing is for me to continue to get better, not to do the things that I normally do, but do better at the things I’m not good at,” Howard said. “So I can use that talent to go overseas, working on my skills and staying in great shape.”
(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)