By Nick Gibson of EuroleagueAdventures.com
Tony Parker hired himself for minimum wage, Andrei Kirilenko pointed a gun at Viktor Khryapa and Kobe Bryant got a step closer to Virtus Bologna, even though it may be only temporarily.
Three players—three All-Stars—that have played their entire (American) pro careers in one uniform are ready to wear new colors in exchange for money while the lockout sorts itself out.
It’s been a busy week.
But busy means great for European basketball, right? Not absolutely. While the continent would never pass up an injection of raw talent, the side effects aren’t all good. At least not for all involved parties.
Let me show you what I mean, deal by deal.
Kobe Bryant to Virtus Bologna (deal not yet official)
For Kobe: B+
To anyone who thinks Kobe’s motives are anything but Kobe-driven, I’d urge you to reconsider. It’s to put pressure on the owners. You think Stern & Co. needed Kobe to bounce before accepting this lockout was real? Kobe is going to Virtus Bologna for Kobe. Once this work stoppage wraps up, he will return the victor. Three million for 10 games, an offer than now reportedly morphed into megabucks for one exhibition game. More money than Deron Williams will make in Turkey for a fraction of the court time. Meanwhile, Bologna is trying to shift games into larger venues to accommodate the masses and avoid public humiliation (Hey bro, you see that Kobe highlight on SportsCenter last night? Seen bigger gyms in my rec league.) Plus, he gets to dust off his Italian and enjoy culinary treasures on a daily basis.
It all sounds lovely, but Laker fans would hate to see Kobe’s body tick its best remaining tocks in Italy. Glory lives forever. Joints do not.
For Virtus Bologna: D+
During Bryant’s proposed stay in Bologna, their games will be must-watch — especially if the lockout forces the postponement of the NBA season. Their box scores will spew fresh conversation topics and their highlights will get hit harder than Jose Juan Barea.
Then 10 games becomes nine games until nine games is no games. And then what? I doubt Bologna can survive on exposure alone.
Even if they go undefeated with Bryant at the helm, they’re left with 20 games to play on their own. I’m sure Chris Douglas-Roberts will be more than happy to inhale the shot attempts Kobe will leave behind, but renewing that chemistry sans-Kobe won’t be easy.
Terrell McIntyre is a past champion with Siena, Petteri Kopponen (Finland) and Viktor Sanikidze (Georgia) are coming off of terrific EuroBaskets and guys like Jared Homan and Duouglas-Roberts are more than willing to get some shots up on the rim. The way I see it, Coach Allesandro Finelli’s ball club is a couple of top-tier guys away from being legitimate title contenders in Italy. A couple of top-tier guys, huh? Wonder how much that would run you these days…
Oh, about three million bucks.
For Lega Basket: B-
With Greece on the ropes financially, there’s a job opening for Elite European Domestic League alongside Spain’s ACB. Turkey has stealthily crept into the conversation, as has Russia, while Italy has slowly tumbled over the past couple seasons. With Siena, Milano and Cantu already in the Euroleague, some unexpected magic from a fourth group would seriously bolster the league’s credentials.
But if the lockout ends and Kobe walks, the league could be left with headaches and scheduling issues.
Andrei Kirilenko to CSKA Moscow
For Andrei: A-
Kobe is the bully who steals everyone else’s shots in the cafeteria and Tony Parker needs the rock to feel effective. Andrei is a wild horse. Wild horses graze. Stacked rotation or not, he’ll manage.
And he’s donating all of his CSKA paychecks to charity, so it’s tough to give him anything less than an A-.
For CSKA Moscow: B+
Trajan Langdon and JR Holden retired, and an era effectively came to a close. Even with Ramunas Siskauskas still banging the drum at 33 years old, things will be different around the Russian capital. Considering their nightmarish 2011 Euroleague season, that might not be such a bad thing. Winners of two EL titles in the past six years, CSKA didn’t even make it through to the Top 16. They bounced back to pick up their customary Russian crown and then got to work: 2010 Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic, Boston Celtic big man Nenad Krstic, former DePaul standout Sammy Mejia, welcome aboard. They also retained Siskauskas, versatile big man Andrey Vorontsevich and last year’s leading scorer, Jamont Gordon.
And that was all before they reeled in the big fish. With the season starting in just under two weeks, we’ll see if overcompensating leads to overcrowding in the rotation. Given the selfless philosophy behind Euroball, I wouldn’t count on it.
For BEKO PBL: A
Unless they were hoping for some parity in Russia, the PBL should be tearing out its hair with excitement. A nation’s most iconic club reunites with its most beloved baller.
Tony Parker to Asvel Villeurbanne
For Tony: B
You think Mark Cuban ever wishes he could swap his tight-fitting vintage tee for a stitched Mavs jersey, sub himself in and drop 20 on the Heat? I’m willing to bet it’s crossed his mind.
As part owner of Asvel Villeurbanne, Tony Parker doesn’t have to daydream. He gets to actively influence his investment with his runner instead of his checkbook.
But if Tony knew he’d eventually take this leap, he should’ve landed by September 29; that’s when the Euroleague qualification round tipped off. Asvel was one of 16 teams fighting for the last two spots in the world’s best actively operational league, and after winning their first match, they fell to Turkish side Galatasaray two wins shy of an EL berth. It would have been tough for Galatasaray—or anyone—to oust a Parker-led Asvel group in a single elimination format.
But things could be worse. You could have been eliminated from the Eurocup qualifiers (Deron Williams and Besiktas) or held out of multinational competition entirely (Kobe Bryant and Bologna).
For Asvel Villeurbanne: A-
Tony Parker is the best player that’s ever played for Asvel. Probably the best that ever will. Yet he’s probably making less per month than the guy outside the arena selling crepes and Nutella out of a cart. Whereas Kobe will be caged within Italian borders, Asvel gets to use the Eurocup as their own little show-and-tell if the lockout allows (Eurocup season begins in mid-November). Aside from his street vendor’s salary, he just landed himself a permanent spot in France’s good graces by bringing home a EuroBasket silver medal and, thus, an Olympic berth for London 2012. Individually, only Macedonia’s Bo McCalebb dazzled more consistently.
As far as team make-up goes, Tony should have plenty to work with. Twenty-two-year-old Edwin Jackson should soak up all the wisdom Parker has to offer if he wants to take the reins of the French national team once Parker hangs ‘em up. Jackson is an athletic combo guard who’s expected to lead a deadly French backcourt in years to come, stocked with Nando de Colo, Rodrigue Beaubois and fellow NBA prospect Andrew Albicy. Asvel employs Hilton Armstrong, the baby-faced Kim Tillie and Virginia Commonwealth star Jamie Skeen in the paint, with ex-UCLA Bruin Dijon Thompson packing most of the punch from the wing. Asvel would compete for a French League title with or without their part owner at the point; with him, they’re the favorites.
For Ligue Nationale de Basket: A+
When the LNB watched Parker invest his money in their product, they had to have been thrilled. They might have even imagined a day when, once he closes the book on an illustrious NBA career, Parker would wear Asvel green as he limped off into the sunset. But not like this. Not with knees still full of cartilage and lungs full of second and third winds. Instead of his money, Tony’s investing even scarcer resources into the LNB: talent and time, freshly picked from the prime of his career. The cost to the LNB? A few signatures from the league office. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Nick Gibson covers Euroleague and other European basketball developments for SheridanHoops.com. His columns will appear each Friday. Click here to follow him on Twitter.