The NBA. Where amazing happens, huh? David Stern has globalized the game of basketball to a level no one ever thought possible.  I mean look back at last season.  Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming and New Jersey Nets Power Forward Yi Jianlian provided the world with the most televised regular season game of all-time! I mean…the channel CCTV-5 in China is available in 210 million households!

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One of the biggest names in the NBA Draft came from a country where people run away from bulls for fun, and that’s Ricky Rubio. Dirk Nowitzki, all the way from Germany, is one of the biggest household names in the NBA. Tony Parker, one of the best point guards in the league, comes from France. Not many people know this, but 4 time NBA Champion and arguably the greatest basketball player in the world today, KB24 Kobe Bryant, spent most of his life growing up in Italy.

Now, this season it looks very likely that the NBA will have its first ever non-North American owner in Mikhail Prokhorov.  Provhorov is a 44 year old Russian billionaire who is a former amateur basketball player. Provhorov was ruled as the richest man in Russia by Forbes and has an estimated net worth of $9.5 billion.  With Provhorov’s ‘dough’, the New Jersey Nets will be able to move forward with their plans to move the team to Brooklyn. 

Prokhorov

The franchise started in the ABA in 1967 as the Americans.  They later became what we know them today as the Nets, where they bounced around to different arenas in New Jersey and New York before settling in the swamps of East Rutherford in 1981-82.

So a team that was once called the Americans may have a Russian man hangin out courtside with Jay-Z and Beyonce calling the shots and watching Yi Jianlian and the Nets. There is only one Russian player in the NBA, Andrei Kirilenko and David Stern is thrilled to possibly have another Russian presence in the league. “Interest in basketball and the NBA is growing rapidly on a global basis, and we are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov’s commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia,” Stern said in a statement.

Oh yeah, then there’s 2010. There’s that guy Lebron James who will become a free agent. The Nets have spent the last three seasons dumping cap space in order to sign Mr. James.  Bron Bron said in an interview in New York City last summer that Brooklyn was his favorite borough. Ok…. Oh yeah, and Jay-Z’s got his new album out, “The Blueprint 3” and in his latest video, Lebron James can be found shooting around with HOV rapping.

Reporters have asked LBJ basically every question there is regarding his decision coming up in one season, but they haven’t asked one and if you see him, make sure to ask: ‘Lebron, how do you feel about caviar?’

-Tommy T

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NBA Free Agents Deciding to Play in Europe; Change is to Come

By: Sean Speirs

            Money is everything.

            Professional European basketball teams have started to show up on the doorstep of some free-agent NBA athletes this off-season, offering them better contracts and overall salaries that just simply cannot be comparable to any offers the NBA could have proposed to a restricted free agent.

            And money is all it took to convince these athletes to move.

            Although Europe has always been a contender in past NBA off-seasons, premier European teams have started to realize this summer that they can offer better contracts to restricted free agents who may not have the same economic opportunity with an NBA career.

            The biggest transition deal so far has been from the Greek basketball club Olympiacos, who has signed Atlanta Hawks Forward Josh Childress for a three-year $20 million contract after taxes.  This deal also marked the biggest contract in Euroleague history.   

            25-year-old Childress, who averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last season, was the Hawks main force off the bench all throughout the 2007-2008 season.  As his contract expired this summer, the Hawks GM Rick Sund was able to match any offer from any NBA team.  However, due to the collective bargaining agreement, the Hawks could not match an offer from any international club.

            It has not been known yet how much the Hawks tried to offer Childress back, but due to the salary cap in the NBA, it was impossible to match Greece’s overall proposal.

            In the midst of Childress’ transaction, other NBA players who were restricted free agents this summer have been following the trend.  Such players include:

            -Earl Boykins:  The 5’5” guard is headed to Italy’s Virtus Bologna for a one-year, $3.5 million contract, making him Italy’s highest-paid player.

            -Nenad Krstic:  The once New Jersey Net center signed a two-year contract with Triumph Moscow worth $9 million.

            -Jannero Pargo:  The 28-year-old guard has signed a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow worth $3.5 million.

            So far, these players who have decided to transition over to Europe may seem like mere role-players (not even) to any typical NBA team.  An NBA fan might even go to say “go ahead, there is no reason to keep these non-producing players in the NBA anyway.” 

            Unfortunately, for such a case, the bigger picture is not being seen. 

            When dealt in Europe, the Childress’ and Boykins’ of the NBA will have and probably continue to be treated as stars both publically and financially.  They will receive countryside recognition that may possibly be equal to that of any NBA athlete superstar here in the United States.

            Which brings about the main problem that is bound to hit the NBA. 

            What if the superstar’s in the NBA, come their restricted free-agency time in the league, want to not only receive a better salary the NBA cannot offer, but also a greater fan-base that extends worldwide?

            NBA superstars such as Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, whose contracts expire in 2010 and 2011 respectively, have jokingly pondered about the thought of relocating. 

            But when the joke becomes a serious matter, how will it affect the NBA?

            There have already been written articles that compare possible future contract moves (that may send a Bryant, James, or Wade to Europe) with the move that brought European soccer sensation David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy.  An NBA superstar outcome to Europe would be just as big as Beckham’s, at least for American’s, since we seem to follow the NBA and its players more closely. 

            Although most of the NBA’s superstars are already somewhat big names in Europe, the experience of playing against new forms of competition and living in a different country could be something worthwhile and appealing to the athlete.

            When the chips are set, the overall outcome will always come down to money.  It ultimately did for the restricted free agents this summer, and probably will for one of the NBA’s super-stars in off-seasons to come. 

            At least the NBA has time to think of a way to keep their game-selling stars in the league, or else a possible Bryant-less and James-less future is in sight.  And without them or other superstar moneymakers, then there will be no money, sales, or profit driving the NBA.

            And money…is everything.

BY: Sean Speirs

IMAGE COURTESY OF YAHOOSPORTS.COM

With so much going on in the sports world, welcome to my weekly summary of the most important events of the week in everything that is sports…

As the baseball season reaches the 50 game mark, I have a few observations:

1. Johan Santana is not the pitcher he was made out to be. For someone who is pegged as the greatest pitcher in baseball, he has been awfully hittable the past season and a half. Over his past 43 starts, he has given up 44 homeruns. That is over one per game, way too many for an ace to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great pitcher, but there has to be a reason why the Yankees would not include both Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy in a deal, why the Red Sox refused to part with both Ellsbury and Lester, and why the eventual deal was such a steal for the Mets. I think we’re about to see a massive decline over the next two years from Santana.

2. Josh Hamilton and Lance Berkman both have legitimate shots at winning the famous “Triple Crown”. Hamilton leads the AL in batting average, RBI’s, and Homeruns, while Berkman leads the NL in HR’s and RBI’s and is only second to Chipper Jone’s incredible impersonation of Ted Williams’ batting average (he’s currently hitting .412). While neither will win it, its fun to see the feel good stories from of these Texas Terrors.

3. Will there be playoff baseball in New York? As of right now, not a chance in hell. The Yankees have no pitching beyond Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera. The bullpen is a mess and the rotation is full of has beens and rookies who are not quite ready for prime time. I’d look for them to rebound but not as much as they did last year. The Mets on the other hand should be dominating the NL East. On paper they are the second best team in the National League (second only to the Chicago Cubs) and should be blowing away the competition in a division in which every contending team has its flaws. I don’t expect Willie Randolph to last the season and the Mets to not make the playoffs again this year. At least there will be no collapse.

For those who love and follow sports closely like myself, there is nothing better than witnessing an instant classic and watching one player to see what he or she will do next. This past week saw three such instances: The reemergence of hockey as an entertaining sport due to Sid “the kid” Crosby, a classic game seven in the NBA, and an even better game played for the UEFA Cup Championship. Hockey has needed a marketable star for quite awhile to build a new fan base. Sidney Crosby is just that person. As the heir apparent to “Super Mario” in Pittsburgh, the NHL should be marketing this guy like Lebron James, David Ortiz, and Dwayne Wade are marketed. Get this guy on TV pronto! Also, the match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Finals is a dream match-up for those who love hockey. Both of these teams have the talent, tradition, and fan base to reinvigorate hockey to upgrade it from a “C” level sport to a “B” level sport.

For those lucky enough to watch game 7 of the Cavs/Celtics series, you witnessed two players who absolutely willed their team to victory, with only one winning out. I remember watching the game with my friends trying to predict how many points Lebron James and Paul Pierce would each have at the end of the game. I boldly stated each would finish with over 50, no problem. The battle between these two players was something I have never witnessed as an NBA fan. I am not old enough to even try and discuss the Bird/Magic rivalry and Michael Jordan never truly had someone he could call his equal, it makes me smile being able to watch two players at the top of their game pushing so hard to win that nothing can stop them. I love that vibe and can’t wait for more of it if any combination of Boston and SA/LA make the finals. Could you imagine KG vs Timmy D in the post? Or Kobe and Pierce going at it all night? Bring it on!

However, the only thing that topped that performance was the UEFA Cup Championship between Chelsea and Manchester United. This was one hell of a soccer game, that had fantastic finishes, gut-wrenching saves, and skill that makes you wonder how the players control a soccer ball the way they do. But, as I watching the game, I couldn’t take my eyes off of one player: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s greatest flopper and owner of a mullet. I believe he is the greatest athlete in the world and was playing with the soccer ball like it was a yo-yo attached to his big toes. As a soccer player myself, I couldn’t even fathom attempting half of the moves he performed with such precision that it made me giddy like a little school child. The game is on ESPN360.com and i recommend you spending some quality time with the world’s most popular game.

Before I leave, three things I am looking forward to this weekend:

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Cate Blanchett as the villain. Thats all I need to be motivated to see this.

2. Game 2 of Lakers and Spurs. Game One was awesome and I believe every game in this series will be played with as much intensity and fire as game one. Welcome to SEVEN GAME SEVENS!

3. Memorial Day bbq’s and beach days. The first true of summer is here and I plan on honoring my troops the same way they would most likely enjoy a summer afternoon if they were home: drink some beer, grill some dogs, and chill out in the sun all day long. I can’t wait.

Happy Memorial Day!

BEARD