They were pledge masters hazing the first class in a new, global fraternity of ballers. Each alley oop… each monster rejection… each 50 point drubbing was another smack from the paddle. And after each whack, their pledges smiled and said “thank you sir, may I have another?” The 1992 Dream Team dished out every form of basketball abuse… and the pledges smiled and told everyone “no… I wanted to do this.”
The pledges have been full-fledged members of the fraternity for a while now (see: our lack of gold medals). But the only threat they have posed to us so far is a frustrating ability to perplex our guys with trapezoid lanes, lack of offensive goaltending, and soccer futbol-esque intensity and teamwork. However, this summer is different. The summer of 2008 might be the summer we realized that the Dream Team set into motion a chain of events that ultimately will ruin the NBA.
I’ll admit, there’s a little bit of hyperbole infused in this argument. However, this summer could bring us not one, but two players choosing to go for the money overseas, rather than wait for it here at home. Brandon Jennings has chosen Europe over a one-and-done stint at Arizona. And now Josh Childress is considering a 3 year, $20 million offer from Greece’s Olympiakos. Childress doesn’t even have to take the deal. The damage is done.
The Dream Team is heralded as a sort of “Johnny Appleseed” of pro hoops. What they did in Barcelona was plant the seed for NBA-level basketball around the world. They have been applauded for it… and rightly so. We now have guys like Dirk Nowitzki and Tony Parker because of what those guys did. But bringing them high-quality basketball also brought them fans who yearn for high quality basketball. As those teams got better, their fan bases grew bigger. And in some countries, like Greece, basketball is now as popular as soccer. With that level of fanaticism about their teams, comes fanatic-level spending. And with that, comes the ability to offer someone like Childress $20 million.
Olympiakos is not alone. There are a few teams in Greece that have rabid fan bases. And then there are teams in Italy, Germany, Spain and France. Throw in the fact that right now, $20 million US is really somewhere in the $12-$13 million range because of the devalued dollar… and we’re facing the perfect storm for Euro teams looking to cherry pick our mid-level talent.
There are exciting players right now fighting over $4 or $5 million chunks of some team’s MLE. Guys like J.R. Smith have a ton of talent… but could be missing out on any real money for any number of reasons (mostly because almost everyone is over the cap). Why should Smith sit around and wait for an offer that he doesn’t like when he can get twice is much to play half as many games in a country that will treat him like a God… AND… give him an out so he could come back to the NBA in a year or two? And who’s to say that when (insert mid-level player name here) gets to Greece, or Italy, or Spain that he won’t fall in love with spending off days at some of the most pristine spots on earth? Isn’t that why guys like to play in places like LA and Miami?
The Dream Team’s effect is more than just Dirk contending for MVP’s or guys named Gallinari, Milicic and Bargnani being grabbed in the lottery. It’s now about them taking OUR players. The NBA’s days as the premier league in the world may be numbered… and we’d have the original Dream Team, made up of some of the best the NBA has ever had to offer, to thank for it.
Celtics 247 has found a rumor that the C’s are trying to acquire Trevor Ariza. Jess Camerato thinks Devean George might be a Celtic. One thing is for sure, Matt Barnes won’t be. He’s going to the Suns. And Gerald Green continues to dominate summer basketball.