GENEVA (FIBA/NBA) –The NBA announced on Thursday night that it will commence a lockout until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. This lockout has raised questions about the presence of international NBA players in 2011 FIBA competitions.
“The lockout is very bad news for the basketball fans in the US and around the world,” said FIBA Secretary General and IOC member, Patrick Baumann. “But it is obvious that a sustainable business model, fair to all parties, is needed, especially in these times of gloomy economic environment. This is not valid only in the US, but everywhere in the basketball world in order for our sport to continue its growth. We hope that the parties will find rapidly a solution, but above all we hope that the situation will not have a negative effect on the Olympic qualifiers this summer. We will do everything to support the players and our members in their desire to fulfill their Olympic dream.”
The lockout will not stop players from competing for their national teams as their contracts with their NBA teams are suspended and they are without salary with immediate effect. Players now have to take out insurance without NBA endorsement and with the help of their national federations to cover the risk of injury. National federations must also look for additional revenue to pay for these extra costs.
If there were no lockout, the NBA-FIBA agreement would regulate the availability of NBA players for their national teams. The agreement stipulates that NBA clubs have to release players for national team play as long as they are properly insured. The agreement is in place since 1990 and has worked very effectively. If a collective bargaining agreement were to be reached before the start of the respective FIBA competition, the NBA-FIBA agreement would become effective again immediately.
Many stars have recently expressed their desire to represent their country in the upcoming continental championships that qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.
France are among the national sides getting ready for the EuroBasket in Lithuania and they have several NBA players in their squad, including the likes of San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker and Chicago Bulls big man Joakim Noah.
French Basketball Federation (FFBB) President Jean-Pierre Siutat was at the EuroBasket Women in Lodz, Poland, on Thursday night and was asked by FIBA about the lockout.
"The only difference between a lockout and a no lockout situation is that we have to pay more insurance," he said.
"We are aware of the situation with the players, now we have to wait for them to say yes. We are currently trying to raise the necessary funds to cover the additional costs and are thus trying to find somebody who can help us in France - the government or some alternative sponsor. Considering that we have six players from the NBA, we're talking about a substantial amount of money."
Despite the hurdles of insurance, health condition and leverage of the club owners, in the past, international NBA players have shown great commitment to their national team. "Whether there is a lockout or not, I'll be with the French national team," Parker told French sports daily newspaper L'Equipe in a May interview.
Other players, such as EuroBasket 2009 gold medalist Rudy Fernandez of Spain, have also shown enthusiasm about being with their national teams. "I will play with Spain at EuroBasket," he said. "It's very important for us to qualify for the Olympics."
Puerto Rican superstar and freshly crowned NBA champion Jose Barea left no doubt about what his country colors mean to him either: "I want to play (for Puerto Rico).I am 100% sure that I will be in Argentina (at the Americas qualifier for London). In Dallas they know how important it is for me to play in the national team and how much it has benefited my career."
However, Barea’s situation is special. He is a so-called free agent, i.e. he is without contract with an NBA team as of the 2011/12 season. He might still seek insurance in order to protect a potential contract once the lockout is terminated and he can enter into contract negotiations.
The details about the qualification for the 2012 Olympics can be found here.