Some teams don't need international incidents - NBC Sports

Some teams don't need international incidents
Spurs, Bucks, Nuggets and others can't afford to have their players hurt playing overseas, but some teams wouldn't mind an unfortunate injury
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With Tim Duncan getting closer to the finish line, DeJuan Blair stands as a more significant presence in San Antonio than his numbers might indicate, NBCSports.com contributor Ira Winderman writes.
September 6, 2011, 6:09 pm

Whether it's League Pass or those overseas broadcasts delivered by NBA TV on weekends, basketball people tend to watch basketball when not working it.

That's what makes this fall somewhat unique. In some ways, coaches and executives could wind up with a front-row seat to seeing whether their own teams are headed for a fall.

First of all, we're not overstating the overseas migration. For all those who have spoken about biding their time overseas during the lockout, few have followed through on such commitments, particularly anyone in the league's top tier beyond Deron Williams.

As agent Happy Walters offered on his Twitter account, "For some players it makes sense to go overseas and play. Others (restricted free agents about to get paid, high-level free agents), it's silly and risky, insurance or not."

Still, there are enough valued complementary players who have committed overseas that could have their NBA bosses on the edge of their seats as they watch from half a world away.

Conversely, there are a few players potentially headed overseas where, as cold as it might sound, a player choosing to stay or invoke an insurance claim following an injury might not be the worst eventuality.

In the short term, the focus will be on Williams, because everything about the 2011-12 season (whenever it starts) in New Jersey centers on the All-Star point guard. Considering he is taking a balky right wrist to Turkey, there already are concerns.

But there will be enough high-stakes concern elsewhere around the globe, as well.

Currently gaining steam is the notion of Andrew Bogut returning to Australia to play out the lockout.

For as much as the Bucks and Scott Skiles believe they have achieved in jump-starting their offense with the acquisition of Stephen Jackson, Bogut remains Milwaukee's most unique element. And their most injury-plagued element. Insurance dollars might protect Bogut, but they won't do anything for Milwaukee otherwise coming up with an answer in the middle.

Figure on just as much concern in well-appointed executive living rooms in Portland and Denver.

With the Nuggets, Raymond Felton was passed on to the Blazers in the offseason to clear room for Ty Lawson as the point guard of the future. But this also is a season when there is the fallback position of Andre Miller. In other words, this, in many ways, is a make-or-break season for both Lawson and Denver when it comes to the franchise's direction at point guard.

Now the concern is not whether Lawson makes it in Lithuania, where he has signed to play during the lockout, but rather whether he breaks there. Otherwise, there might be some second-guessing with the Nuggets' approach taken with Felton.

Of lesser magnitude, but still significant to their full-time teams, are the curious cases of DeJuan Blair, who just signed to play out the lockout in Russia, and Leandro Barbosa, who will stay home in Brazil during the lockout.

With Tim Duncan getting closer to the finish line, Blair stands as a more significant presence in San Antonio than his numbers might indicate. What he does for the Spurs is buy time, allow San Antonio to continue the charade that Duncan is not a center. Lose Blair for any significant period because of what transpires in Russia and Tiago Splitter had better be everything as advertised.

Barbosa, by contrast, is not carrying the Raptors anywhere of significance this season. But after so much churn in Toronto, from T.J. Ford turning into Jermaine O'Neal who was flipped for Shawn Marion who begat Hedo Turkoglu who was rerouted for Barbosa, the Raptors desperately need to find something tangible from that process.

Then there is the flip side, the unspoken side, those whose decisions to at least consider an overseas option could represent a get-out-of-jail-free card for franchises otherwise stuck with unproductive contracts in a league whose salary-cap is unforgiving.

For example, if Corey Maggette embraces the adulation he has received in Greece by playing there during the lockout, there would be far worse outcomes than having an injury and insurance wipe the remaining two seasons, worth $21 million total, off Charlotte's books. Maggette was not acquired because of what Michael Jordan sought, he was added as cost of excising the similarly unpalatable contract (and attitude?) of Stephen Jackson.

Receiving similar adulation upon his overseas arrival, Jordan Farmer is a player whose loss would not stagger the Nets. Playing out the lockout in Israel, Farmer is due $8.3 million over the next two seasons from New Jersey. It was one thing to budget such funds when the middling Devin Harris was the starter. But with everything now based on Williams in New Jersey, it's not as if there will be significant minutes otherwise available at the point for the Nets.

Then there is one threatened overseas departure that will be delayed at least temporarily by Dancing with the Stars. But one has to wonder how crestfallen the Lakers truly would be to lose Ron Artest to any type of overseas infirmity.

Due nearly $22 million over the next three seasons, Artest holds a contract that now exceeds his actual contributions, with the Lakers again having to weigh the merits of instead starting Lamar Odom at small forward.

If there is an "amnesty" clause in the new collective-bargaining agreement, Artest's deal (along with that of Luke Walton) certainly would be one the Lakers would have to consider excising for cap or tax savings. One Artest misstep in England, if he eventually makes it over there, could take care of that issue for Jerry Buss.

The reality is NBA executives will be watching their players closely overseas amid the lockout, but it won't necessarily be with an eye on their statistics.

Instead, it figures to have a lot more to do with their players' health, and the impact on whatever new salary cap is conjured.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat .

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