Why Josh Childress Left the NBA for Olympiacos and the Impact This Unprecedented Move Will Have On the NBA As Well As the World
Did the Hawks blow it?
After back-to-back appearances in the Euroleague Quarterfinal Playoffs, Olympiacos Piraeus is back and ready to take the next step.
Though around the continent some may think that the Reds are stuck in the shadow of rival Panathinaikos, fans in Greece who witnessed a classic best-of-five finals series last season know that very little separates Olympiacos from the reigning Euroleague champs. Olympiacos was founded in the 1930s and won the first of its nine Greek League titles in 1949. It would also add seven Greek Cup titles to its trophy case, but it was in the 1990s that the Reds made their biggest mark. The middle of that decade belonged to Olympiacos, not only in Greece, but all around the continent. Head coach Ioannis Ioannidis led Olympiacos to four Greek League titles between 1993 and 1996, and to the Euroleague title game in 1994 and 1995. When Dusan Ivkovic came to the bench in 1997, Olympiacos promptly won the Triple Crown – Greek League, Greek Cup and Euroleague – the latter by beating Barcelona 73-58 in Rome. Although there was a return to the Final Four in 1999, a few years went by before the Reds won another trophy. A drought ended in 2001-02 with a Greek Cup victory, while Olympiacos also reached the Greek League finals and came within a victory of the Euroleague Final Four. With the exception of a spot in the Greek Cup final in 2004, the next two years were rather quiet. However the Reds returned to prominence in 2005-06 by taking then-defending champion Maccabi Tel Aviv to three games in the quarterfinals and going to the finals in the domestic playoffs. Last season was also an exciting one, despite falling to Tau Ceramica in the Euroleague quarters. Coach Pini Gershon and co. took Panathinaikos to the distance before coming up short in the Greek League finals. That performance may serve as a warning that this season, the Reds are set to go the distance.
Europe is putting the basketball world on notice with the signing of NBA restricted free agent Josh Childress. The NBA has marginalized 2nd tier players by giving them mid level exception dollars so as a result, cats like Eddie House have been playing on the league minimum for years.
No longer, for these players have leverage to effectively drive up the market by threatening or actually bouncing to Europe.
This move is unprecedented. Childress is a 25 year old talent who has yet to hit his stride. Yes he was a sixth man, but he is immensely skilled.
He also will bang it on the best of them.
Does David Stern have a potential present and futuristic problem on his hands?
I asked him why he made such an unprecedented move at this stage in his career (relevant to Greek culture) and the Stanford grad was excited about the prospect as well as disappointed in the Hawks lack of viewing him as a priority signing : “I think that living in the United States my whole life…obviously it’s different. It’s a different culture; a different mindset. Since I’ve been in the league, I’ve taken a trip every summer to Europe or over seas somewhere. I kinda had an idea how it would be. It’s gonna be very interesting to go play in a bunch of different countries and see a different environment. Basketball is becoming more global, so there are fans outside the United States. From my standpoint with the Hawks, I think it was a situation where I wanted to get something done early. The initial Hawks offer was something I thought was below what I wanted, so i went out and sought another offer. With that statement, the offer didn’t have to be from another NBA team. I was a bit frustrated in the process due to the lack of hurry by anyone. There were sign and trades from championship caliber teams willing to make deals. Even still, things moved slowly. These deals were more lucrative for myself. I just felt there was no urgency or drive to get anything done. My agents and I wanted to make something happen. When this opportunity came about, it grew legs and ran. It happened so fast. I got over here (Greece) and I enjoyed it.”
MT: Josh was there nothing in the team dynamic that affected this decision? Was it just about the front office?
JS: “The team had a great year last year. Especially me being in Atlanta my first year when we won 13 games and the second year, 26. We had steady improvement. With that improvement, myself–as well as Josh Smith–had expectations that things would get done fast. The process got drawn out…one week, two weeks…three weeks…so at some point you have to go ahead and be the aggressor. I think there was a feeling that the more time went by, the more opportunities would dry up. I wanted to be proactive in this process from day one.”
Question for TSF readers: If you were 25 and had the opportunity to capitalize on a very lucrative offer (approx. 3 yrs, 34 million with an opt out after each season…which is boss) from a team not in the NBA would you take it?
I would seriously consider it personally.
I wondered of Olympiacos’ market sense being they offered Chris Webber big money last season. They seem to want to become a major player in luring NBA free agents with their obviously very deep pockets. Lon Babby explains the best way he knows how:
“This was a very deliberate process. Obviously, we did our due diligence on the team…on the league. We did a masterful job of negotiating with Josh involved every step of the way–along with his brothers carefully considering every aspect of it. We tried to take the emotion out of it; to look at it as a business proposition. We looked at it long term, we looked at it short term. Josh is intelligent and has enough intellectual curiosity that allowed him to make a decision that maybe other players are not equipped to make. He relied on his intelligence and business sense and all we had to do was lay it out for him as clearly as possible. He made the decision after very careful consideration.”
I wanted to give fans an idea of where Olympiacos is globally in terms of finances. Could they be compared to the Yankees or are the owners seen as someone of Mark Cuban’s ilk?
Josh attacks the question: “To answer that…in the first meeting we had in Vegas, they made it very clear they were very professional. They told me this team has the professional budget of a NBA team. I can within reason say that I wasn’t surprised when I came over here. It was very top notch. They are very very close to an NBA team.”
Expect this move to be scrutinized inside and out of the L. Josh commented he was on the front page of six different newspapers when word of his signing hit. It will be interesting to see if he becomes the player he aspires to be playing against non NBA competition because he will have a huge bullseye on the front and back of his new jersey. Will he improve on his game being he will be one of the first options? Do you think Josh will return to the NBA? He said in the conference that he intends to play in Greece the duration of his contract. Is that a good move? Sorry to bombard you all with questions, but I think the psychology of this move–if properly scrutinized–will help further a discussion on traditional NBA dealings with its players and also agents. The owners have something to seriously think about. This move, combined with Brandon Jennings challenging the age limit by foregoing the NBA until next season, could either force the NBA to challenge its self assurance or ultimately rip it apart at its Spalding seams.
One thing that is very evident is the world wants to close the talent gap quick fast and a hurry to capitalize financially on the globalization of basketball, we shall see very soon just what kind of impact this intriguing move has on the NBA as well as the game itself.