Overseas Reality Check

The plethora of NBA stars considering taking their talents overseas to locals such as Turkey, Russia and Asia should the lockout slice into the 2011-12 regular season might want to reach out to fellow superstar Diana Taurasi for some been-there, done-that advice.
Taurasi, probably the best female basketball player on the planet, played for Turkish club Fenerbahce last winter (before a screwed-up positive drug test, of which she was quickly absolved, cut the season short). She previously played five years in Russia, and has signed to return to Turkey following the current WNBA season.
Her message to the Derons, Dwights, Kobes et al who are pondering playing on other shores? “It’s a culture shock, a different world,” she told me this week. “If you’re used to doing things one way, living a certain lifestyle and jumping on and off charters, you’ll be in for a shock. Sometimes you’ll take a three-hour flight then a three-hour bus ride to some of the smaller cities not because the teams are cheap but because it’s he only way to get there… You cannot [join an overseas team] and say, ‘This is how we do at, say, UConn or in the NBA.’ They don’t care.”
Some players will likely negotiate better-than-typical accomodations, but they’ll still be nothing like the Ritz or other five-star venues teams and the league typical use when traveling-domestic or especially internationally.
And if they think they’ll only have to sweat through one practice a day, as is done here, forget it. “There’s standard two-hour morning and afternoon practices. And that’s for women’s basketball, men’s basketball, volleyball, handball, whatever.. It’s just the European way of doing things, and there’s no [collective-bargaining agreement] to help.”
Earlier this month, Josh Childress of the Phoenix Suns, who played two seasons in Greece said his experience was no day on the beaches of Mykonos. “No, I wouldn’t,’ he told ESPN’s Rich Bucher when asked if he’d play overseas should games be cut by the lockout. “And I don’t know why guys would. I understand that guys really want to play. But you sometimes have to look at what you have and treat this as a business. The only way I could see it making sense is if you’re a player from a particular country going back. But for an American player with a good-sized guaranteed deal here, I can’t see why you’d do it.”
Taurasi says the difficulties and differences for Americans aren’t limited to life off the court. The former WNBA MVP and four-time scoring leader also led the Turkish league in scoring (24.6 points per game) but says the way the game is played overseas is different and requires outsiders to adjust. “They have a different mindset,” Taurasi said. “All their philosophies about offensive and defensive basketball are completely different. They have their own style of play, more team-oriented. The coaching style is different; they don’t want you to average 30. They want you to fit into their rotation and scheme. You have to adjust.”
Now, Taurasi wasn’t being discouraging, just offering a bounce-pass of advice. “First, really educate yourself about where you’re going to play. See what kind of resources they’ll have for you–like a translator, people who can help you off court. Check to see if there’s an American coach and a trainer that can work out with you separately.
“Most of all, keep an open mind and enjoy it.”
And yet: “They’re paying you the big bucks, so you just do what they say.”

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