Foreign service not over for some NBA players

The lockout is over and the NBA season has started, but many veterans are still playing overseas because they had no opt-out clause inserted if the NBA got going.

The New Jersey Nets will have to make do without Sasha Vujacic, as he did not have an opt-out clause in his contract with the Turkish league club that would allow him to return should the NBA lockout end.
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The NBA returned on December 25, but many of its players did not.

During the lockout, which threatened to wipe out the season, more than 80 players with NBA experience signed to play overseas, and as the season tipped off, 23 remained in places all over the globe.

The players who failed - or were simply unable - to get an opt-out clause in their overseas contract continue to play in China, Turkey, Italy and elsewhere. The decision to guarantee some income during an NBA lockout is now costing several of these players dearly.

And some NBA clubs, as well.

The Denver Nuggets felt they had a rising team, but they must make do without Wilson Chandler, JR Smith and Kenyon Martin, all under contract to teams in China.

That trio represented 46.2 points to Denver per game last season.

"We're hopeful that some of those guys are going to be in a Nuggets uniform sometime this season," said George Karl, the Nuggets coach. "It's a business right now. Got to respect that."

These players gambled on their future by signing with clubs outside the NBA. Had the season been cancelled, they, or their advisers, would have been hailed as visionaries. Now they must wait until the season is over in their new leagues before they can hope to return.

The Chinese Basketball Association season finishes on February 15, which is about the mid-point of this condensed NBA season.

Sasha Vujacic, who played on two championship teams for the Los Angeles Lakers and averaged 11.4 points per game last season for the New Jersey Nets, is still playing in Turkey.

The Turkish Basketball League does not end until April.

Vujacic, like several NBA players, may have been a bit premature in his evaluation of the contract talks between players and the league when he signed to play for Anadolu Efes in Istanbul.

Wrote Vujacic on his website when he signed: "With the uncertainty of the NBA lockout, I couldn't imagine myself not competing and taking a break from basketball, which is what I do and live for. I hope the NBA and [players] reach an agreement soon and I also hope that I will have the chance to play in the NBA again."

Efes, however, has an option on Vujacic for a second season.

Others still stranded overseas include the Phoenix guard Aaron Brooks, the Nets centre Dan Gadzuric and the Portland guard Patrick Mills in China; the Toronto guard Sonny Weems in Lithuania; the Golden State guard Acie Law in Serbia; the Bucks guard Chris Roberts-Douglas in Italy; and the Nets guard Jordan Farmar in Israel.