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Euroleague Needs to Know its Role, Shut its Mouth

A couple of interesting pieces here from SI’s Ian Thomsen regarding the NBA’s relationships with leagues overseas.  The main article examines Euroleague’s issues with granting out clauses to NBA players, which would enable them to return to the US whenever the lockout ends, but don’t overlook the sidebar about FIBA’s proposal to David Stern about preventing young Euros from coming to the States before they’re ready.

The Euroleague is hoping the ongoing labor negotiations may enable young European players to postpone their move to the NBA, according to Euroleague president and CEO Jordi Bertomeu.

Bertomeu told that he met with NBa commissioner David Stern approximately a year and a half ago to discuss ways to help prevent young Europeans from moving to the NBA prematurely.

“The goal is to create more stars like Manu Ginobili of Argentina and fewer busts like Nikoloz Tskitishvili of Georgia,” says Bertomeu.

While reading that last line, I had to go back and check to make sure this was Bertomeu talking, and not David Stern.  That’s because this is the goal of the NBA masquerading as the goal of the Euroleague.  The real goal of the Euroleague is to hold on to as many of these young players as they can, for as long as they can.  They want to squeeze every dollar out of these kids before they head off to greener pastures. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, except that for some reason Jordi Bertomeu has taken it upon himself to lie to everyone’s faces in the name of protecting young players.

Then there’s the fact that, even leaving aside Euroleague’s money-grubbing, the request makes no sense.  From the article:

Under the former CBA, American players could be drafted essentially one year after their senior year of high school, while international players needed to be at least 19 in the year in which they were drafted.

Maybe it’s different on the metric system, but “19” and “one year after high school” appear to be almost exactly the same age.  And yet Bertomeu wants to raise that minimum age or otherwise make the transition to the NBA more difficult for his best young talent.  Does he somehow believe that talent less prepared for the NBA than American high school players of the same age, while in the same breath claiming the Euroleague to be among the best competition in the world?  Of course not: he’s trying to save face while his league gets treated, in his words, a “little bit like the NBDL.”

Stern, to his credit – and it’s hard to credit him for much these days – is playing it cool.  He rather flippantly says he “doesn’t remember the memo,” and that while the topic came up in discussions with Bertomeu, it was a low priority given the other issues facing the league.  This is as it should be.  What is not as it should be is the Euroleague’s attempts to weasel its way out of the judgment of a free market, keeping the best players from following the money, and, as we’ve seen with their bitching and moaning about out clauses, the money from following the best players.

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