The NBA's European Vacation

To this point, just about every player in the NBA has hinted that he'd consider playing overseas if games are missed due to the lockout, but relatively few have actually taken the plunge. But if prominent NBA agent Happy Walters is to be believed, some big names may be getting their passports stamped shortly.

Here's a quick primer on what's going on and the implications for fantasy NBA players - especially in leagues that draft before the labor situation is completely settled.

1. NBA players under contract must have the option of returning when the NBA re-opens for business.
Deron Williams will be back. So will Nikolas Batum, and Timofey Mozgov, and any other NBA players with current contracts. FIBA - basketball's international governing organization - has announced that they'll allow players under contract to NBA teams to sign elsewhere, so long as they agree to return when the lockout is settled. So just about every one of these "I'm going to take a paid vacation and wait out the labor battle" contracts has an opt-out clause. The takeaway: don't panic if your top keeper announces he's signing in Istanbul.

2. Free Agents, on the other hand, can do whatever they want.
Players without current NBA contracts - and that includes restricted and unrestricted free agents, players selected in this year's draft and those that went undrafted - can sign overseas without any restriction. They can negotiate opt-outs to return when the lockout is settled, but that won't be required of them. E'Twaun Moore - a first-round draft pick of the Celtics - has a deal with Benetton Treviso that will allow him to return when the lockout is settled. Free-agent Sasha Vujacic, on the other hand, signed a one-year deal with an option for a second. It's unlikely that he'll be back. The takeaway: drafting an unsigned player is risky anyway, but if you're in a league that allows it, make sure you check that player's contract terms.

3. Lesser players may get more lucrative offers from better teams.
Now, the tricky part. Most international leagues limit the number of foreign players on each roster. Most good teams aren't eager to use those crucial roster spots on players who might not be around for the playoffs. So we may see the most lucrative offers, or spots on the best teams, reserved for players like Vujacic, who are willing to give up the right to return to the NBA when the lockout is settled.

Besiktas - the Turkish team that signed Williams and has been flirting with Kobe Bryant - is a special case. They aren't considered contenders for any of the European titles, and their ownership group has already displayed a willingness to throw money at superstars for headline-generating purposes. (You may remember them as the team that signed Allen Iverson to a contract last year.) The takeaway: some marginal players may find that playing overseas is more lucrative than playing in the NBA at this point - again, check contract terms before drafting.


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