While NBA arenas remain dark, more unemployed players are considering working overseas until more light is shed on the lingering labour lockout that threatens to wipe out the already abbreviated 2011—12 season.
German wunderkind Dirk Nowitzki of the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, reigning two—time league scoring champ Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat are the latest superstars interested in listening to offers to take their skills outside the U.S. until the court of law decides the fate of the more than five—month—old impasse that has claimed the first six weeks of the schedule through December 15.
NBA commissioner David Stern held a conference call last Thursday with all 30 owners to discuss their options after the players rejected the last proposal, dissolved their union and hit them with a pair of antitrust law suits.
The league may be compelled to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement to get the season underway, or face the prospect of a long legal battle that would more than likely cancel the entire campaign.
Nowitzki remains optimistic the season can be saved, though, he is also becoming increasingly realistic there may not be one at all.
“I still can’t believe that we’re not going to have a season, (in the NBA),” Nowitzki told ESPN over the weekend. “I can’t see us not playing. But if the lockout still stays strong, I’ve got a decision to make.” After carrying the Mavericks past the Heat to their first NBA Championship last June for which he was named the Finals Most Valuable Player, Nowitzki took a well—deserved summer off. He played in the European Championships in September, and has recently begun training while listening to offers from clubs.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back out there,” Nowitzki said. “I’ve said it a bunch of times: There’s no way I can go a whole year without playing.” Nowitzki is intrigued by Spanish media reports that Real Madrid is interested in signing him.
“It’s a great club with a great tradition,” Nowitzki said of the Spanish powerhouse. “I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s something you’d have to look at hard.” Nowitzki also told ESPN he has changed his mind and would be open to playing in the German Bundesliga for perhaps reigning champions Bamberg, Bayern Munich and ALBA Berline.
“In this situation,” Nowitzki said, “you’ve got to look at every option.” Durant has been in talks with German club BBC Bayreuth, and while his agent Aaron Godwin confirmed the report from SPOX.com, he differed on the timeline of a deal.
“We’re just exploring every option that we have,” he said, “but the deal is not in its final stages.” Earlier, SPOX.com quoted Bayreuth general manager Uli Eichbaum as saying, “We’re in the final stages of a deal and I’m an optimist.
It’s not looking bad.” Durant had been undecided about playing overseas, but last weekend the prolific scorer claimed to be weighing offers from Maccabi Tel—Aviv in Israel and Valencia in Spain.
“I’m right on the fence with playing overseas,” he told Yahoo Sports, “and I’m about to jump over.” Wade has been disappointed with the lack of progress by the stubborn sides to hammer out a new labour deal. Still, the Heat star has every intention of playing this season, even if it means on the other side of the pond.
“I can’t see myself sitting out a full year, not playing basketball, at some kind of high level,” he told reporters Thursday night at the filming of a Gatorade commercial.
“Obviously, the level I want to be playing on is the NBA level and that’s what we’re going continue to try to do,” he said. “But if that is not the case, I will try to find a way where I can play at a high level.” Wade has already notified his agent Henry Thomas to keep an ear open for overseas offers.
“I have gotten on the phone with my agent, saying, ‘Listen, maybe we need to peak our head on the other side and see the possibilities,’” he said.
“Obviously, to have a season and go back January 1st and to know you need 30 days once the deal is complete, something’s got to be done soon. But you’ve got to open up the possibility, so I am looking.” Other stars reportedly in talks with overseas clubs include: Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Chicago’s Luol Deng, Joakim and Carlos Boozer, Phoenix’s Marcin Gortat and Denver’s Nene.
Already, Phoenix restricted free—agent guard Aaron Brooks agreed to a one—year deal with Guandong of the Chinese Basketball Association; while the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the same league signed Portland guard Patty Mills and offered Dallas free agent guard J.J. Barea a contract.
San Antonio backup centre Tiago Splitter is headed to Valencia of Spain, and Houston guard Goran Dragic agreed to a one—year deal to play for Spanish club Caja Laboral until the end of the lockout.
Keywords: NBA lock-out