If more NBA players want to make themselves available to play ball overseas they apparently have the blessing of players’ association executive director Billy Hunter.
ESPN obtained a memo Wednesday that Hunter sent out to players this week expressing his support if they look elsewhere to earn a living while the NBA lockout is ongoing. This was likely in response to word last week New Jersey Nets all-star point guard Deron Williams has agreed to play for Turkish team Besiktas if the lockout continues into the fall.
Other prominent players such as Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant and New Yorks Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire have been mentioned as possible candidates to play in Europe next season if the NBA is still in a holding pattern due to the current NBA lockout.
Being willing to play elsewhere may be the players' strongest bargaining chip in contentious negotiations to come up with a new collective bargaining agreement. Right now, the owners appear to have all the power and the public support.
"This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement," Hunter wrote in the memo. "It is important for the owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances.
"If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them."
Hunter also made a point of mentioning Williams, who is the biggest name so far to commit to an overseas franchise.
"I especially commend Deron Williams for the wisdom and courage he has demonstrated these past few days. Deron explored the alternatives available to him and ultimately did not hesitate to avail himself of the best option with which he was presented, signing with Turkey's Besiktas.
"Following the lead of our other all-star players who have come to the bargaining table and supported the union's efforts since negotiations began, and the many all-stars who have come before them that sacrificed so that we may prosper today, Deron again demonstrates that NBA players will not be intimidated by the league's hard-line tactics."
Should more NBA players take the option of playing overseas during the lockout it could certainly hinder the owners' bargaining power to lower pay, rework revenue sharing and institute a stricter salary cap.
Right now the players and owners seem far apart in reaching a deal to the end lockout that began July 1. This is the first work stoppage in the NBA since the 1998-99 campaign when the season was reduced to 50 games. Some believe the entire 2011-12 season could be lost this time because of the huge differences for the two sides.
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