Fickle Fernandez Shows That NBA Should Protect Its Players

Show me the Euros.

The question back in July was “do I stay or do I go?” for the Mavericks’ then recently acquired Rudy Fernandez.  Well, seems as though the Spaniard has finally decided.

Back on July 5, Fernandez announced that he would not be signing a contract overseas and instead opted to wait out for the lockout, possibly earn a considerably lesser amount of money in the US and have a chance to help the Dallas Mavericks defend their national title.

Well, seems as though someone has changed his mind.

A day after his Spanish team defeated team France for their second European championship title in a row, Fernandez has announced that he will be signing a contract with Spain’s Real Madrid in a move that goes completely against what he stated over a month and a half ago.

The deal was reported late last week by CBSSports.com but was just confirmed today.

The contract allows Fernandez to play for the Mavericks for the duration of his contract, which ends after the 2011-12 season.  He would then jump on plane and return to Spain where his professional career began with DKV Joventut under a contract set to end in 2014.  However, there is an NBA opt-out clause that allows him to end his current contract in Dallas, which is something he has said he wanted to do.

Essentially, this is a long-term, big-money deal for the former Portland Trailblazer.  Real Madrid’s original offer was a six-year deal for about $4.4 million per year.  He would earn around $26 million over six years, a deal that would dwarf the $2 million he is set to earn next season with a qualifying offer of $3.2 million.

As the world turns for Rudy, it’s hard to judge what he will do next but it does bring up an issue that has yet to be addressed.  Currently, the NBA players and teams are not allowed to communicate at all during this strike.  Free agency has been essentially nonexistent, summer league has been cancelled and if labor talks don’t make headway soon, training camps will be called off as well.  However, international play has continued with several NBA players taking part in order to stay in shape.  Additionally, several independent leagues have popped up this offseason for players to take part in street-ball tournaments.

However, several players from Deron Williams to Fernandez have made the bold decision to take their talents overseas.  So while NBA franchises cannot talk with their players, why are these foreign teams allowed to make deals with players currently under NBA contracts?  Essentially, they are stealing athletes from the NBA to compete in what everyone can frankly consider lesser leagues.  Yes, these athletes can make more money in foreign markets that don’t adhere to salary caps but does winning a championship in Europe even hold a candle to hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in a US city?

No, it doesn’t.

The NBA needs to create a provision that would protect its most valuable asset: its players.  This “rule” would freeze all contracts in the NBA thus forbidding any players under NBA contracts to contact their NBA team or foreign teams if another lockout ensued.  Despite the fact that they are on strike, they are still under contracts here in the United States that should be respected.  These foreign teams are turning these tournaments into tryouts while NBA owners have to stay at home.  It leaves their franchise players vulnerable to making essentially the poor decision of signing overseas contracts.

This is further proven by Fernandez whose deal wasn’t even confirmed by Real Madrid until a day after the Euro Championship.  Was it a tournament or merely a scouting camp?  Under current NBA rules, we would say the latter.

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