This is a massive repudiation of everything that Atlanta Spirit has done to run the Hawks since buying the team. It's one thing to lose Josh Childress to a better NBA team that outbid them. That would be one thing. To lose him to a Greek team is simply unforgivable. The fact that Childress would rather play with this collection of players (hey, it's Lynn Greer! From Temple!) instead of an NBA team is a searing indictment.
What makes the deal even worse from my perspective as a Hawks fan is that Childress didn't really get a huge deal. The Hawks were offering $5.5M per year and he signed for $6.6M per year. (One major caveat: there may be perks that amplify the Olympiakos offer. Lower taxes would be one possibility. If you've ever been to Greece and know how that economy operates, you can probably figure out some other possibilities. One little nugget I learned about Greece while reading The Ball is Round: A Global History of Football: by one estimate, 5% of Greece's GDP is devoted to betting on football.) This isn't a Samuel Eto'o situation where Childress was offered a massive raise to join an inferior league. Rather, Childress apparently: (1) took stock on where the Hawks are and where they're going; (2) figured out that the Hawks were likely to match any offers made by other teams; and (3) decided that he would rather play in Greece than play for the Hawks. In the NBA.
[Update: a helpful commenter pointed out that Childress's $20M is post-tax income, so his contract represents a major increase over what the Hawks offered. My caveat turned out to be right, and that's before we get to the "sketchy Greek economy" factor.]
And here's the real kicker: Childress is a smart guy. If some dolt with more hops than sense decided that he didn't like the direction of the team, then that would be one thing. This, in contrast, is a Stanford-educated athlete taking in a situation for four years and making the judgment that he wants no part of the Hawks. That said, Childress also seems like the kind of guy who would enjoy living in another country, which makes him unique. If I could smear with a broad brush for a moment, most American professional athletes lack the cosmopolitan sense to move to another country (if they have domestic options), especially another country where English is not the primary language. Childress is not that sort of guy, which is to his credit.
I feel like a total fool for having defended Atlanta Spirit to any extent. Their approach to Childress could not have been any more penny wise and pound foolish. I'm all for playing hardball, but when they got wind that Childress was considering this move, they should have stepped in and done what it took to keep him. Now, they have damaged the team's reputation and its ability to sell tickets, presumably because they wouldn't up the ante by a million or so per year. The alternative explanation is that they tried to up the offer and Childress said no, which is an even bigger indictment. I also wonder whether their cheap-ass decision to keep Mike Woodson played a role. Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia were the most out-spoken in their feelings about Woodson, but Childress very well may have been harboring similar feelings, only Childress was professional enough to keep those opinions to himself.
If you can't tell from the direction of this post, I always liked Childress as a player and I like him a little more this morning. He's a good defender, he moves well without the ball, he finishes at the basket, and his ugly shot is fairly effective. The Hawks were a better team with him on the floor because he did all the little things to win games. If he were white, he would have gotten all of the David Eckstein adjectives. This morning, I can add two more compliments. I like a player who has the guts to call his poorly run employer's bluff. I like an American who is willing to take the chance to live somewhere else.
In sum, this blog has been heading in the direction of being solely focused on college football and European footie. Childress's move and the underlying dysfunctions that it highlights in the ownership group running two of the four local pro sports collectives demonstrates exactly why my attention has gone in the direction that it has.