BERLIN --- During four seasons with the Hawks , Josh Childress never had an army of translators on standby to convey his words to a multi-national media throng. There were never riot police on alert in case fireworks or missiles were shot from one side of Philips Arena to the other. Only for the occasional road trip to Toronto did he have to make sure his passport was safely packed with his toothbrush.
But it has been a different world for Childress since he passed up on a new contract with the Hawks in favor of a fresh challenge with Greek club Olympiakos. The three-year $20 million deal he signed last summer was a lavish gamble by billionaire ownership to restore the Olympiakos' luster and pursue its first European championship in 12 years.
Here, however, a player's worth is measured in victories rather than by box score. And so far, the hefty sum spent to lure the California native away from the NBA appears well spent, even if it might not be enough to keep Childress away from the NBA --- and possibly the Hawks --- longer than one season.
On Friday night here, a capacity crowd of 15,000 fans gathered to watch the semifinals of the Euroleague playoffs. The first game pitted CSKA Moscow against Barcelona, but the main event was the second game, pitting Olympiakos and their fierce Greek rivals, Panathinaikos.
Think NBA, but with hooligans. A massive security operation was put in place to prevent any outbreak of soccer-style rumbling between the "Reds" and the "Greens" in the arena.
"It's two of the top teams in Europe," Childress said beforehand. "It's a clash of the titans."
His prediction was true, but the outcome disappointed Childress, who scored 11 points but saw his last-second shot bounce off the rim as "Pana" secured a thrilling 84-82 victory, setting up a final with CSKA, an 82-78 winner against its Spanish opponent.
With the Greek Championship finals still ahead, the 6-foot-8 swingman could return home for the summer with a couple trophies among the souvenirs he has acquired on his travels. His Basketball IQ, he believes, has risen in the process.
"I've just seen a different approach to the game, a different mindset," he said. "I've enjoyed it. It has been a great learning experience. Coach [Panagiotis] Giannakis has a lot of knowledge and I'm trying to soak it all in."
Ultimately, Childress said, this move was never solely about Basketball.
"It's been very cool to travel to different countries, see different cultures and see how people live," he said. "I'd say Berlin is one of the nicest places I've been in. We're staying in a nice hotel and it's a nice modern city. But you appreciate the older cities as well."
Spain, Israel, Poland and now Germany have provided some new stamps in his passport. And with his evident enthusiasm for this lifestyle-in-exile, Childress admits he will have a massive offseason dilemma --- to continue his Greek odyssey or exercise his opt-out clause and return to the NBA and the Hawks , who still hold his rights.
Childress' contract includes an out-clause that allows him to return to the United States after the Euro season ends. The Hawks will not comment on the possibility of his return, but the club will have to deal with five free agents on the current roster over the coming offseason.
Childress said he is not ruling out a return to Atlanta.
"It's up in the air," he said. "As of now, I plan on staying [here]. But obviously, I'm going to test the market and see what the NBA holds me for me. I have a three-year contract here, but obviously I'm going to do what's best for me. But at the same time, I'll look to make a sound decision.
"I don't think that it's a financial decision. It will come down to personal reasons and how I feel."