In the US, the NBA's owners and players remain worlds apart in their demands over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the old one set to expire on June 30. Without a new one, the league will stop playing games for an undetermined period of time, and both sides are currently anticipating a work stoppage that could be substantial.
But in another part of the world, there's eager anticipation - as well as fevered competition - brewing with that possibility.
In an article in the German newspaper BILD (www.bild.de), Dirk Nowitzki shared his thinking on what he might do in the event the NBA is not playing in 2011-12, saying, "Rather than do nothing at all for a year, I would come to Germany [to play]." His closest advisor, Holger Geschwinder, elaborated further on their approach: "We would be negligent if we weren't analyzing our choices."
According to the article, those choices center around three teams with ties to Dirk: Bamberg (which is near Dirk's hometown of Wurzburg), Alba Berlin (which has the biggest arena, best tradition, and whose coach is a close friend of Dirk), and Bayern (which has two players who are close to Dirk, and whose coach is the coach of the German national team).
This isn't solely about Dirk, of course. The Dallas Mavericks employ other international players, such as Rodrigue Beaubois and Ian Mahinmi. If the NBA shut down, would they want to play in France and hone their skills? Would the Mavs' American players head to Europe or China or who knows where just to pick up some extra money? And how about players on other NBA teams?
But before we plan on seeing Dirk or anyone else playing overseas next year, there are a few issues that may get in the way.
It's clear that those players who are free agents for next season can play anywhere they wish. But Dirk is under exclusive contract with the Mavs through the 2013-14 season, which makes his options a bit fuzzier. It's already been arbitrated during a previous NBA work stoppage that the owners are not required to pay players in the event of a strike or lockout, so if he isn't being paid, presumably Dirk can suit up for someone else ...but can he sign a contract, since his first obligation would be to immediately report to the Mavs when play resumed? The NBA and FIBA (the international governing body for basketball) have cooperative agreements in place that prevent players from getting approval to play on any other international team when they have an NBA contract, so could that present an obstacle as well?
But the biggest issue for Dirk - as well as for any other NBA player contemplating playing elsewhere on a temporary basis - is this: what would happen to an NBA contract in the event of injury while playing elsewhere without NBA permission? Players play in international competitions like the Olympics and World Championships with the permission of the NBA, knowing that this entitles them to full NBA pay on their contract if injured. But if this protection didn't exist? For example, what would the Mavs do if Roddy B went to France without proper medical supervision and carelessly got hurt?
For the NBA and its players, big decisions lie ahead. And for three teams in Germany, those decisions may have an impact as well.