The NBA lockout is only in its infancy, but plenty of players have already either committed to playing in Europe next season -- or at least alluded to the possibility -- if the owners and players are unable to come to an amenable agreement.
The allure of Europe for locked out ballplayers certainly makes sense. In all reality, it seems that only a crazy person would pass up being paid to play the game they love while traveling around another country, the entire time being treated like a king as the local team treats their new NBA player with love.
Unfortunately, sometimes Europe it isn't always as cushy as it sounds. Players of Deron Williams ilk will undoubtedly be fine, of course, but the DaJuan Summers's and Sonny Weems's of the world -- NBA players not quite as established in their professions despite being able to put 'NBA' on their résumé -- could be in for a rude awakening when they reach their European destinations.
This isn't groundbreaking news, obviously, but it's difficult for the average Joe (in this instance, yours truly) to imagine a former NBA player not being treated like royalty across the ocean blue. For those like myself, then, Lance Allred has decided to release his second book -- this one available in E-book format for a measly 99 cents -- in the nick of time to catch everyone up on the possible perils of pond crossing.
Allred, best-known for being the first deaf NBA player when he was called up from the NBA D-League to the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers, published his first book (Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA) in 2009 as he chronicled his life up to his NBA debut. His stories tugged at the strings of many a-reader's heart.
Unfortunately, Allred's new book, Basketball Gods: The Transformation of the Enlightened Jock, doesn't bring with it the same Hollywood ending. Instead, the former NBAer tells readers exactly what it's like to end up unwanted -- often due to miscommunications and misrepresentations -- as a basketball player around the world.
In Italy, for instance, Allred signed a solid $160,000 tax-free contract with a team in Napoli for what was supposed to be the duration of the 2009-10 season. That destination was doomed from the outset, however, as Allred describes while recounting his arrival to his new team below.
I dragged my bag up to my room, which ended up being nothing more than a 10x10 foot unit, with a broken TV, thus by default making the ripped poster of the Mona Lisa my only source of entertainment. I sat down on my bed. I dropped my head.
This was not what I had been expecting. Here I was in Italy, in some run down hotel, when I should be in the NBA.
Napoli eventually went bankrupt and Allred was never paid for his time there despite having to endure so much. He had what is probably best described as a mental breakdown, judging from his chilling recollections of the end of his times in the Italian city.
One would hope that would be an isolated incident, especially for a former NBA player, but Allred suffered similar fates in his next three European stops as well. Allred moved from Napoli to Pesaro, another team in Italy's top division, but only as a two-month injury replacement before he was sent packing back to the D-League for the remainder of the season at the end of his two-month contract.
Following a less than stellar season in Europe, Allred spent a few weeks in Australia (competing in a week-long tournament for $8,500), and then a little while playing pick-up ball near his offseason home at the University of Montana. He eventually received a contract from Ukraine that would require him to report on July 27, over two months before the season actually began.
Allred's time with the club didn't actually last into the season, however, this time due to a sub-par training facility.
On the third day I was there, it was a very humid day. I slipped on a wet spot in practice while running yet more suicides. I tweaked my knee. Nothing major but enough for discomfort. Coach yelled at me in anger, "What did I say about being injured. I told you to not let it happen!"
Ah, the joys of NBA players in Europe, yes? Allred was released the following day because, as he tells it in the book, the team expected him to weigh the 270 pounds listed on his Eurobasket profile as opposed to the opposed to the 250 pounds at which he'd reported for duty. The two sides eventually agreed on a buyout of his contract, but not until Allred spent three weeks in town waiting for his only paycheck from the team.
This past season, Allred spent training camp with the Indiana Pacers before giving Europe yet another opportunity to prove itself, this time with Maroussi in Greece. Allred played three games for the Greek team in three weeks before booking himself a flight home after once again not being paid.
For those not able to keep track, Allred has had bad experiences with four separate European teams over the course of the past two years. This despite the 6-foot-10 big man -- whose playing abilities are best described as good at everything, great at nothing -- having a talented agent (John Greig also represents Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, among others, including a host of European veterans), a CV that includes his being on an NBA postseason roster, numerous Summer League and training camp invites and a consistently solid D-League career to boot.
To sum everything up, Allred's path has shown that the lesser NBA players are in for a rude awakening if they think heading to Europe next season will be filled with exorbitant contracts, luxury hotels and coaches willing to allow them to do whatever they want on a whim.
Of course, Allred didn't spend the entire book talking about the rigors of overseas life. He also runs the gamut on everything from LeBron and Ben Wallace making fun of his D-League socks to dealing with book publishers to buying houses to boarding the wrong international flight due to his hearing impairment and accidentally putting regular gasoline in a diesel car.
And, for just 99 cents, what better things are available during the doldrums of the current lockout?