Even on a superb young team like the Portland Trail Blazers, you have to wonder how long talented Spanish youngsters Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Rodriguez will stick around if they don't get the money and playing time when teams from the homeland inevitably come knocking on their doors.
Mostly, though, the problems are strictly financial. There are tight restrictions for young players under the salary cap rules and the enormous salaries of the superstars (between $15-20 million) make up a huge chunk of each team's salary cap. Those big deals also push teams closer to the luxury tax, which means owners have to match dollar-for-dollar for any contract that goes above the $71 million threshold.
Moreover, this has manifested in other ways. Just ask Marcus Camby, who has led the league in blocks the past three seasons for the defensively challenged Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets gift-wrapped him and his salary to the Los Angeles Clippers for a conditional second-round pick. It was a stunning giveaway, not only because Camby is so talented, but he's also a leader on the team that has had more than its share of personality problems.
Even worse was what the Phoenix Suns did with Kurt Thomas last summer. How badly did they want to get rid of his $8 million contract? They traded Thomas and two first-round draft choices to the team formerly known as the Seattle Sonics for the $8 million trade exception. The Sonics later turned him over to San Antonio for another first-round pick.
Both teams were on the cusp of luxury tax. Translation: Taxation without trophy representation equals wholesale changes.
All you have to do is consider how badly the maximum contracts of five years ago have hamstrung teams. Just look at the Nuggets with Allen Iverson, the Knicks with Stephon Marbury and the Heat with Shawn Marion all three are at or near $20 million. How the Washington Wizards could justify the $116 million they gave to Gilbert Arenas, who is coming off surgery on his left knee twice in six months, is beyond me. And that comes after guaranteeing $50 million to an aging and battered Antawn Jamison.
Soon enough perhaps it's already here these real problems with shrinking revenue will change the financial face of the NBA. And that's just one more reason why Stern will make the move to put expansion teams across the pond. Not only will it put more money into the overall pot from broadcast rights and increased apparel sales, but you can be sure there will be a hefty expansion fee to pay for the right to share the NBA moniker.
So before you get all bent out of shape about who, where, when and why players are changing countries so fast your head is spinning, understand that this is just the beginning. The only way to stop the bleeding is to join forces. That way, the money will ultimately touch everyone's hands, and the unavoidable revenue sharing will come in many denominations.
In the meantime, this summer will continue to have surprises, only to be outdone by next summer and the summer that follows that. And it'll continue that way until the NBA begins international expansion. The commitment has to come soon.