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08
Sep

David Pick- Teil 38

I think it's time to address the elephant in the room. We are approaching September and the world of hoops is still suffering a great deal from COVID-19.

Not to ignore or look a blind eye to how the world at large is suffering from COVID-19, but from our selfish viewpoint of avid “hoops confumors”, most leagues around the world aren’t even able to start training camp and those in some form of preseason and admitting players in to self-quarantine. Heck, the Chinese have banned American imports from signing in the CBA and are exploring deals for American players with European passports ONLY - to justify signing players coming from European regions.

It's clear that decision makers that oversee the Euroleague/EuroCup and the FIBA competitions are trying to portray a normal picture of reality as if everything is going to be OK and the 2020-2021 season will be carried out as planned. But I honestly don't see that happening.

FIBA’s annual home-and-away qualification games format has been cancelled to avoid quarantine due to the regulations in different countries for inbound international arrivals. Thus, FIBA will look to declare a designated location to host the qualification tournament, similar to the Champions League finale in Athens.

But are we just going to tip-toe around the fact that The 27-year-old Nigerian-American center Michael Ojo died during practice in Serbia after suffering a heart attack while being diagnosed positive to COVID-19?! I am not a doctor, so I won’t say that Ojo’s tragic death had something to do with COVID-19. I’m just speaking the facts as they were told.

Ojo was not under contract with Red Star Belgrade, but remained in Serbia for training. He returned to the court amid being positive to COVID and his return proved to be too soon and intense, according to reports out of Serbia and social media, causing Ojo to collapse, leaving his family in particular and the basketball world at large - lost for words with a heavy heart.

I recently watched the FIBA BCL and BCLQ draws as I have multiple clients in each competition, but that’s currently all fictional. I believe it’s impossible to plan toward the future without living in the present moment - and that’s where our focus should be: The 2019-20 FIBA BCL finale in Greece. It was recently relocated to Greece from Israel due to the spike of COVID cases in the Holy Land.

I shared here before that my client Desi Washington requested to return home to the US and leave Hapoel Holon during the Corona League because two of his teammates and the Assistant Coach were sentenced to house arrest after coming in contact with a COVID-positive individual.

Since that time, the Assistant Coach of Hapoel Eilat was also tested positive for COVID and the news was announced to the team while they were two-hours into their bus ride up north on game day. The bus had to make a u-turn back to Eilat, the entire team was sent to 14 days isolation, and the lower seeded playoffs games for teams seeded 8-12 were cancelled by the league.

It’s not pleasant, it isn't fun either, but luckily Eilat were only a few hours from home. What happens if a member of EA7 Milano gets a text message or email that he’s tested positive to the virus amid flying half way over the ocean to a Euroleague game - what do they do? Throw him overboard? Turn the plane around in midair? It’s too risky. I don’t see it happening. And it appears that I'm not the only one.

Mike James had a creative suggestion to mimic the NBA bubble’s for the Euroleague. But it comes with significant obstacles such as interference with the domestic competitions. It’s borderline impossible to pull CSKA Moscow out of the VTB League, or Maccabi Tel Aviv - despite it’s endless threats to leave - out of the Winner League competition, or Real Madrid and Barcelona from the ACB.

I can imagine how many clubs would flex at such an idea because at the end of the day the NBA is the only basketball competition in the US. Heck, there isn’t even a G-League season at this time.

ratiopharm ulm’s budget has been trimmed down by 40%, s.Oliver Wuerzburg is down to paying players in the $40,000-$50,000 range. Budgets in Israel have fallen significantly; teams in Greece and Italy have folded, and the Turkish market is growingly unstable.

Maccabi Rishon gave Darryl Monroe the opportunity to cut his salary from $160,000 to $100,000 to remain on board. James Feldeine and Bar Timor declined a reduced salary and left Hapoel Jerusalem. Guy Pnini and Yogev Ohayon took cuts from $130,000 to $100,000 to stick with Hapoel Holon. Shlomi Harush was offered to stick around for $60,000 and swallow a $30,000 salary cut, but declined and remains a free agent at this time.

I’m actually really surprised that Turkish clubs Afyon and Besiktas continue to sign imports. Afyon owes $25,000 to Tyrus McGee, $50,000 to Jacob Pullen, $60,000 to Randy Culperpper,$15,000 to Frank Elegar. Besiktas as well, are behind payments for years. I’ve taken them to BAT for over $105,000 - unpaid salaries to Joe Alexander plus agent fees. Besiktas recruited only rookies this offseason, fitting for a club to pursue gullible kids out of college that don’t know any better. They’ll receive their first 1-2-3 installments and watch that well dry out ASAP.

Everyone is hopeful for a 2020-2021 season, however. Poland will be the pioneer country to kick off the official season on August 27, but it isn’t going to be easy. Stelmet Zielona Gora already had a scrimmage game cancelled due to a COVID-positive member on the rival team. In addition, three Polish clubs were recently sent to quarantine.

The Italian A1 league won’t start before October, but the SuperCup tournament will test COVID waters and take place (with fans?) this month with the preliminary rounds. Italy was one of the biggest plagued countries, resulting in many deaths and casualties. My client Austin Daye arrived in Venice and was tested positive to COVID, causing him to miss the beginning of training camp. The situation seems even worse in Spain, where no less than 13 positive COVID cases were announced; five at Fuenlabrada, three in Gran Canaria, two in Baskonia Vitoria and one with Unicaja Malaga. CSKA Moscow has begun training camp without … guess who … HEAD COACH DIMITRIS ITOUDIS, who was tested positive for COVID.

Most countries have made peace with the reality of sports without fans before 2021. Season tickets sales complete a big portion of the clubs budgets and make things harder for them to stay alive or build competitive rosters. The Champions League finale at the OAKA Arena in Athens is reportedly set to hold around 9,000 spectators - a monstrous amount of people in doors during the COVID era, but the results should serve as an indicator for many leagues and sports, including soccer, for the near future.

Most countries have pushed back the beginning of the season, but everyone still fears the 2nd or 3rd wave and spike in COVID cases due to the soon approaching winter, and the diseases and viruses that come with it. Belgium aims to begin on November 7th, Turkey soon on September 26, Leb GOLD in Spanish ACB have no clearance to begin before January 2021.

Hopefully that all changes for the better sooner than later. I recently read Jawad Williams' blog that he posts on his Twitter account. He wrote about his experience in Japan as COVID started to take over Asia. He described walking the streets of Tokyo wearing a mask and drawing a lot of attention and faces from the locals. It isn’t easy to be a giant African-American in Asia to begin with because of the genetic differences in color and height. Add to that the fact that he was wearing a mask in times when it wasn’t really clear what was going on, makes things all the more uncomfortable.

Long story short, though I suggest you read Williams’ blogs because they’re really enlightening, at one point he got tired of all the faces and said: I’m not wearing this mask because of ME. I’m wearing it because of YOU.

Stay healthy, wear a mask - don’t do it for other people, follow the rules to protect your loved ones - DO IT YOURSELF.




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