What if this handful of players plied its trade elsewhere? Is Europe the players’ trump card?
Here’s a possible situation:
These players (or at least many of them) play out the remainder of their contracts and enter free agency in 2011, just as the current agreement expires. They are joined by other players whose deals end that year, like Anthony, Kevin Durant and even Tim Duncan. They present a united front to the league: “If there’s a lockout, we’re heading overseas.”
Think that will get the league’s attention?
Remember, these aren’t rank-and-file players we’re talking about here, like Josh Childress (who left the N.B.A. for Europe in 2008). These are the guys who fill the seats and sell the shoes. Would the threat of a defection of this magnitude – even for one season – be sufficient to dissuade the owners from initiating a lockout?