- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trevor Booker’s first choice is to be sitting on the Washington Wizards‘ bench come November, ready to enter the game and provide some defensive energy. But if the NBA still is in a lockout when the season is scheduled to start, Booker has his backup plan in place.

He is heading overseas and will play for Bnei HaSharon of the Israeli Basketball League this season.

“I talked it over with my family, and we all decided it would be a good idea,” Booker said. “I think the international competition will be a challenge.”

Booker, who is under contract with the Wizards through next season, had his agent negotiate a deal with Bnei HaSharon that gives him insurance protection, and an opt-out clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends.

“I am afraid we won’t have an [NBA] season. I hope both sides will come to an agreement, but in case they don’t, we have to make other plans,” Booker said. “It will be discouraging if we end up losing the season, but if the lockout looks like it’s going to drag on, I think a lot of other players will think about going overseas. Players just want to play.”

Booker has spent his offseason traveling and working out at Clemson to stay in shape, but hasn’t been involved in any summer-league games. He added that he’s not concerned about getting injured.

“I just try not to think about getting hurt,” said Booker, who missed the final month last season after breaking a bone in his right foot. Booker said he keeps up to date on the lockout by reading a weekly newsletter from players union executive director Billy Hunter.

Wizards teammate John Wall has done his share of traveling this offseason as well and has stayed active by playing in summer-league games, including the Goodman League vs. Drew League showdown held last weekend at Trinity University, but said he has no plans to go overseas at this time.

“I’m thinking about it, but I’m not really planning on doing it,” Wall said.

While going overseas sounds tempting for players who hope to add leverage to their bargaining position with the owners, NBA TV analyst Steve Smith thinks that leverage has its limits.

“I think it gives a few individual players some leverage but not the players union as a whole,” said Smith, who played in the NBA from 1991 through 2005. “But the main concern these players have to think about is going over there and getting hurt. Even if they don’t have a major injury, they could still develop a minor nagging injury that hurts them when then come back to their NBA teams.”

New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams seemed to kick off the overseas movement by signing a one-year deal for a reported $5 million to play with Besiktas in the Turkish Basketball League, but few other superstars are making that same move, despite saying that they are considering the option.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade has said he’ll play somewhere next year, and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard said he’s considering it as well. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant also was being courted by Besiktas but expressed more interest in playing in China until FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) effectively ended this option for contracted NBA players.

According to FIBA and the CBA, only players who are free agents can play in China and must commit to play an entire season. They will not get opt-out clauses to return to the NBA if and when the lockout ends.

“I’m not sure why China is taking this stand,” Smith said. “If they could get a Kobe Bryant for even 10 or 15 games, why wouldn’t they want that? When we went through our lockout in 1998, we didn’t have this overseas option, but as it gets closer to the season, a lot of guys might think about it.”

But like a game of musical chairs, there are limited spots available with overseas teams. Most teams have two spots available for foreign players, and Smith believes that free agents, or players who are on the cusp of making an NBA team and not the stars, are the players most likely to seek out the overseas jobs.

After an NBA season that saw record-breaking numbers in attendance, merchandise sales and television ratings, Smith said it would be a mistake to lose that momentum.

“No one knows how long this lockout is going to go, but both sides need to get back to the negotiating table,” Smith said. “They can’t settle anything if they aren’t talking.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide