Riots End Greek Basketball Finals Early

As if hearing that there was a fan stampede in South Africa on Sunday at a World Cup tuneup game wasn’t bad enough, the news got even worse in Greece on Sunday. Powerhouses Olympiakos and Panathinaikos were playing in the Greek basketball league finals but the action got disrupted by rowdy fans. The game was actually called with a minute left and Panathinaikos was given the title with a 76-69 win. In the video below, you can see some of the crazy fan behavior that resulted in the Panathinaikos players being escorted off the floor as flares were flying by. At the 3:00 mark, you can see a flare get tossed towards the Panathinaikos bench. Here’s the Greek basketball finals rioting video:

Sadly, what you saw in that video was only a fraction of the negative actions from the Olympiakos fans and apparently this is the second straight year this happened when the teams met in the playoffs. Here are more details from Rotoworld:

The Greek league finals were cut short on Sunday when agitated Olympiakos began rioting, throwing plastic bottles, arena seats which they had ripped out, and even a flare directed at players and coaching staff of rival Panathinaikos … The game even started 40 minutes late after more than 200 fans without tickets invaded the arena and clashed with riot police, who used tear gas. The abandonment, just 1:03 before the end, handed Panathinaikos its eighth consecutive Greek title and 12th in the last 13 seasons.

And I thought the Malice in the Palace was bad. We’re nothing compared to that.

Video Credit: YouTube user Georgepps6

That Greek Olympiakos Team Is Stacked with NBA Players

Childress Josh signs OlyThe good news about basketball’s growing popularity is that it’s created plenty of job opportunities for those who can’t make it in the NBA but don’t want to give up their dreams of playing professionally. The downside is they’re poaching some of our talent (though I’m not too worried) and the organizations with the deepest pockets can stack their teams.

That’s exactly what the Greek team Olympiakos has done. In addition to signing Josh Childress last year, Olympiakos has just signed both Linas Kleiza and Von Wafer. The team has also added former Washington State star Thomas Kelati from a Spanish team. Seems to me as if they’re going with the Orlando Magic approach considering all three player’s strength is outside shooting.

Even though Olympiakos is stacking their team they still didn’t win the Greek league last year from what I could tell, proving that the Yankee way doesn’t always guarantee championships much like in MLB. Weird thing is that these leagues still aren’t providing much leverage for players who are getting better offers. What would really complete the deal is if Allen Iverson or Stephon Marbury moves there because they can’t find a gig here, which is how it’s looking.

Iranian Center Now the Grizzlies’ Haddadi

Deadspin had the story recently that Iranian center Hamed Haddadi would not be able to play in the U.S. unless his club got a license to negotiate with one of our teams. Apparently someone’s jumped through those hoops, because the 23-year-old Iranian has signed to play for the Grizzlies:

Haddadi, 23, led all Olympians in rebounding and blocks during pool play. The 7-2, 254-pound center was a free agent. Several NBA teams were interested in him, but recent media reports in his native country quoted Haddadi saying that he would sign with the Grizzlies.

The Griz wouldn’t release terms of their agreement with Haddadi, but he signed a multiyear deal that is equivalent to that of a mid-first-round draft pick, according to sources.

Mid-first-round pick money? That’s not bad at all. They obviously expect him to produce along the lines of one of the Lopez twins if they’re paying him that type of money. Considering how well Haddadi played against Argentina in the Olympics — a team featuring a handful of NBA players — there’s no reason to think he couldn’t play in the league. And in case you were wondering, Haddadi will become the first Iranian to play in the NBA. What barriers aren’t they crossing these days? Basketball is truly becoming a global game.

Could Greek Team Offer LeBron $40 or $50 Million a Season?

Just as I had finished penning my “Euro Leagues will never threaten the NBA” post, I came across the Ian Thomsen story on SI saying a Greek team may take a run at LeBron when he becomes a free agent. My whole premise was along the same lines as why MLS won’t ever threaten the EPL and European soccer — it’s not popular enough in the country. Until basketball in Europe becomes as big of a business as the NBA is in the U.S., our top level talent won’t be leaving the States to play abroad. And I don’t think Europe or any other leagues could ever approach the type of popularity and revenue that the NBA generates.

Anyway, the basis for Thomsen’s piece is that the owners of the Greek team Olympiakos — for whom Josh Childress has already agreed to play — want to win at any cost. That’s why they signed Childress, who likely won’t generate enough revenue to cover his contract. So when LeBron James does become a free agent, Olympiakos could step in and offer him an uncapped salary that could approach $40 or $50 million a season if they wanted to. It’s not like the league here where the max deal would be around $20 million. I’m still skeptical for several reasons.

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Europe Will Never Threaten the NBA

I know the word “never” sounds pretty absolute, but I’m extremely confident that the European game won’t threaten the health of the NBA. Sure Brandon Jennings electing to play pro ball in Italy instead of going to college at Arizona was a major turning point, and Josh Childress jumping to a Greek team was a momentous move, but European Leagues will never truly challenge the NBA. The major factor that’s allowed several players to make the move across the Atlantic this off-season is the devalued dollar compared to the Euro. Now what used to be a three-year $10 million offer in Europe has become a $15 million offer because of the exchange rate. Suddenly that 3:2 ratio is looking pretty darn appealing.

Thing is though, basketball has to absolutely explode in popularity to soccer-like levels in order for the salaries to ever become competitive with what the NBA can offer its top players. You think they could ever put together contract offers like what Gilbert just signed for with Washington? Think they could scrap together a max deal for 75 million euros? Sure they can steal Josh Childress in Greece for the equivalent of $20 million (and pay for his Greek taxes), but they can’t steal our top-level talent — not until basketball seriously starts booming in Europe. And heck, if a team wants a player that badly in the NBA, they’ll just ramp up their offer. Just ask the Lakers and Sasha Vujacic who agreed on a thee-year $15 million deal, quashing rumors that he might go play Euro ball. So guys might jump shit here-and-there, but fear not, even the exchange rate can’t overtake the popularity and dollars we can pay our prime talent over here.

David Stern Is Considering NBA Franchises in Europe

Let’s see, the NHL hit up Europe, the NFL went to London and wants to go to Germany, baseball’s venturing to China, and now the NBA is considering franchises in Europe. Per Ian Thomsen at SI (to whom Stern likely dropped the test balloon):

Commissioner David Stern is considering new plans to create five full-fledged NBA franchises in Europe over the next decade … The current idea would be to create five new teams in major markets to form a “European” division within the NBA. The teams would play the full 82-game schedule and compete for the NBA championship. But the proposal is new and many factors will influence the eventual outcome, the league source said.

Well, we all know who would volunteer to play point guard for one of those European franchises. I’m actually starting to come around slightly on this idea. I know it’s not Europe, but basketball and the NBA seemed to be popular in Australia, and is no doubt on the rise in Asia. Maybe the NBA could grow enough in Europe (though it would never be a top sport in terms of popularity). Or baybe that’s just because I’m looking forward to getting an assignment to cover the team in Amsterdam. Just imagine: in 15 years, the NBA will be like Star Wars with an Asian division, South American division, European division, and the American divisions. Then the team that wins it all would be able to legitimately call itself the World Champion. I like the sound of that.

Stephon Marbury Wants to Play in Italy

We’re already well aware of how insane Steph can be at times. We also know how cool he can be with his cheap Starbury shoes. But the latest exclamation by Marbury is way out there. It might just take the cake. He told the New York Post that he wants to play in Italy when his contract with the Knicks is up. Specifically, Steph elaborated in a blog post that he wants to “spread the Starbury Movement.” Can I get an amen to that?

During the Olympics, David Stern told us about how big basketball was becoming around the world. He was right. Now I want to make it even bigger for the United States.

For my 14th pro season, I want to go when I can still go hard and give the people what they want. I’m looking at how David Beckham is getting love for coming here. He’s 32. I’ll be 32 at the end of my Knicks’ contract. Imagine if someone told him not to follow his heart to play soccer in the U.S.

I want to do the same thing for basketball and spread the Starbury Movement so people all around the world can benefit. I want to make things affordable for everybody.

Just what the rest of the world needs — more Stephon Marbury. I do like what he says however, that he’s taking advice from Jim Brown in going off on his own note. If anyone knows about leaving at the right time, it’s certainly Brown. Hey, if Steph wants to go out there and live his dream, more power to him.