<
>

Ron Artest and overseas play: It's complicated

Over the weekend, Ron Artest-- yes, he's still Ron Artest-- made news, declaring plans to play over in England, where he says he'll be finishing a movie (Merchant/Ivory, I suppose). This after being linked to a Finnish team a couple weeks before.

But as ESPNLA.com's Dave McMenamin reports, Artest's agent, David Bauman, says everyone just needs to slow down. First of all, Artest's movie isn't a done deal, yet. More importantly, it's not that Artest isn't considering overseas options -- he is -- but his landing spot, should he land, won't be near the Queen Mum or Finland, but in one of the more established leagues across the pond. The goal, Bauman says, would be to place Artest in the best basketball situation available, with the combination of salary and high level competition needed to make the trip worthwhile.

We're still waiting to see if FIBA, the governing body of international basketball, will clear locked out NBA players currently under contract to play in Europe, though the player's union reportedly expects approval. But even if FIBA obliges, Bauman notes other important complicating factors for Artest and others looking for overseas deals:

"...Even if FIBA welcomes players such as Artest to compete in its leagues while the NBA lockout is in place, Bauman remained skeptical that the 12-year veteran would be able to clear two other road blocks that could stand in his way: finding insurance to cover the money owed to him by the Lakers that he would be putting on the line by risking injury in another league and securing a contract with a foreign team that includes an opt-out clause that would allow Artest to return to the NBA as soon as the labor dispute is resolved.

"God forbid any of these guys get hurt," Bauman said. "Can I get $22 million insurance for Ron? I don't think so..."

The issue of the opt-out is important. Bauman believes no high end, self-respecting European squad will pursue players who could bail on them as soon as the lockout ends. To me, though, insurance is the most interesting complicating factor. For all the NBA's labor issues, questions of how players jumping overseas impacts the union, approval of international federations, and whether or not there's enough money in Europe to draw the league's biggest stars to begin with, the biggest problem could be cost-effective coverage.

Deron Williams said he's investigated the insurance question, and is set. Can the same be said for other guys around the league? Particularly those with big money left on their contracts, or lengthy injury histories?