Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are you F***ing Kidding me?

Olympiakos? Really?

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.


phats said...

the ajc updated their story.

That's because Childress is no longer a Hawk. He said he agreed to terms Wednesday morning on a three-year contract with Olympiakos of Greece that is worth far more than $20 million initially reported.

Jeff said...

One thing you failed to mention is that this may be the beginnings of a mini-trend. Several European players who spent the last few years in the NBA went back to Europe largely on the strength of the Euro/weakness of the dollar. They get paid more in real terms and don't have to pay taxes. It looks like Childress used his Stanford smarts to do the math.

Plus this is really the only leverage a restricted free agent has so good for Childress for using it.

peacedog said...

I can buy Childress being unhappy with the direction of the franchise (and have already seen one person surmise the re-hiring of Woodson was a bad thing). I've never liked the spirit and see no reason to start.

But I'm not convinced this is a smart move on Childress' part. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

One thing you must always remember regarding ASG: Stupid never slumps.

Matt said...

I think I just read that the Hawks offered Childress a larger offer first, and when he didn't take it immediately, they lowered their offer. He may have decided a long time ago that he didn't want to play for this franchise, and when they couldn't pull off a sign-and-trade he decided to make for greener pastures. But like you said, can you blame him?

Raleigh Urbain said...

Ball In Europe reports this is largest ever Euroleague contract. Remember those contracts are for an after tax amount. While Childress may have to pay some US taxes, he can take a deduction for the full amount of foreign taxes paidcub. So, in reality, this is close to double what the Hawks offered.

Anonymous said...

even if Olympiakos is picking up the tab for Greek taxes, wouldn't the amount that they kick in for said taxes be considered income to the IRS? therefore, he would still have some US income tax liability, right?

Johnson said...

Another pissed off Hawks fan:

Personally, I'd really like to know if this was a result of Sund the new GM dropping the ball or ownership once again failing to turn on the faucet.

Kevin said...

Is it too much of a stretch to think that maybe the money didn't have a whole lot to do with it? Maybe the Stanford-educated guy just wanted to go kick it in Greece, soak up the life lessons along with the sun, escape some of the pressures of playing the NBA and just enjoy life. The fact that he's getting paid more, too, is just gravy.

Maybe it's not as big of an indictment of the Hawks as it is a reflection of Childress' personality. I can't say I wouldn't do the same, even if the franchise I was leaving was more efficiently-run organization than the Hawks. Then again, I have never been in a position to turn down millions of dollars (I know, his deal is worth more, I'm just saying in my hypothetical scenario...)

peacedog said...

Money had everything to do with it if the contract is after taxes. It's double what the Hawks were offering. I do think it's also probably a Woodson Hangover. Everything else is a distance third, but we'll never know for sure.

Also, given that this is after-taxes money, the Hawks didn't make a mistake in letting Childress go. Sund is right, Childress' value has to be assessed within the structure of the NBA's rules. The equivalent contract in the NBA is probably 8-10M a year, and Childress isn't worth that much.

Now, the Woodson "non firing" was a mistake, but we all knew that was going to happen.

jjwalker said...

Agree with Peacedog--if somebody wants to pay your 6th man (the NBA equivalent of) $10-12M a year, what are you going to do? I like Childress, but I think it would have been a huge mistake to overpay him by that much.

Man, once this news hit I was scared shitless the Lakers were going to lose Sasha Vujacic; I can't believe he signed for just $15M/3 years, you'd think he'd be coveted in Europe.

That's where I think the trend is going to continue, with foreign-born players. Like Michael & others have said, Childress isn't exactly your average NBA player in terms of his ability to live in a foreign country and his openness to the idea. I'm not that worried about a bunch of American born players jumping to the Euro leagues.

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