Olympiacos owner willing to pursue more NBA free agents

ATHENS, Greece -- The owners of Euroleague team Olympiacos, which shook up the NBA by signing Atlanta Hawks sixth man Josh Childress, say they're just getting started signing NBA players.

Panayiotis Angelopoulos, a billionaire who owns Olympiacos with his brother George, said he wants to make his team the best in the world outside the NBA, according to The New York Times.

"Next season I will open up a small office for free agents in New York, and I will take petitions," Angelopoulos said.

Childress stunned many NBA observers when he signed a guaranteed three-year deal worth $20 million after taxes with Olympiacos, rather than re-sign with the Hawks. Olympiacos is paying Childress' Greek taxes, the 10 percent agent's fee and his housing and expenses, increasing the team's cost to $30 million, according to the report.

According to The Times, Angelopoulos said he had in the past three years negotiated with NBA players including Chris Webber, Michael Finley, James Posey, Anthony Parker, Charlie Bell, Ricky Davis, Jannero Pargo and Maurice Evans.

Olympiacos, with a $70 million operating budget and the backing of the Angelopoulos brothers' billions, could be a serious player in the free-agent market. The family owns shipping and steel companies and Angelopoulos said he has done multimillion-dollar business deals, according to the report.

In the past, U.S. agents have been leery of dealing with European teams, noting a history of contracts not being honored and the lack of a players' union.

"There is a large percentage of contracts in Europe that don't get honored," said Mark Bartelstein, who has about 50 clients playing in Europe, according to The Times. "Teams will give you reasons, claim injuries or tell you the player didn't brush his teeth properly."

The Childress signing got NBA observers talking about Europe -- and wondering whether a major star would ever sign in Europe. While only a few European teams have the money to even consider pursuing a megastar like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, Angelopoulos expects the day will come when U.S. star players go overseas, according to The Times.

"I think we'll see a day when a superstar player comes to Europe, but to Olympiacos, not to another team," he said, according to The Times. "That is my answer. Maybe it will be very soon. Maybe then you realize what I'm telling you is serious."