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NBA AM: Is International The Better Option?

Is it smarter for a player to sign internationally if he can’t land in the NBA? Maybe, but international ball can be unkind.

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The International Conundrum:  There was a time when big man Derrick Caracter was considered the next big thing. He was on the cover of magazines at 13 years old. He was labeled the next big thing by media outlets and pundits who do that sort of thing far too early.

If there was a wrong crowd to run with he ran with them. If there was a wrong guy to listen to he listened to him.

As Caracter prepared to play last night in Orlando, he had one single goal in mind: Log more than eight minutes. See, Caracter signed a short-term contract with Flamengo Basketball of the Novo Basquete Brasil. It’s not a terrible deal financially, but he signed the deal because Flamengo was playing three exhibition games against NBA teams.

However, as a lot of players learn about the international game, well thought out plans often fail. As much as Caracter wanted to use his time in Brazil to help his team win, he really wanted to showcase himself for NBA teams and maybe land a better opportunity.

Something similar is playing out in Turkey with Sixers draft pick Dario Saric. Concerned he might not be ready for life in the NBA and the demands of the game, Saric opted to sign a multi-year deal with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League.

The problem for Saric is that he was supposed to use this time to further his game in advance of coming to the NBA in the next two years, possibly as early as next year.

Efes has played one regular season game and Saric logged no minutes. Not exactly what he was expecting, and according Saric’s father, not at all what he’s willing to do.

Efes opens Eurlogeaue play against Unics Kazan today, so there is a chance for a better story for Saric, however his camp is talking about a buyout now, after just one game. They’re trying to get Saric to the 76ers this season. Fortunately for Saric, the 76ers have the means to help if it comes down to it.

For Carcater it’s a very different story. He doesn’t have a team willing to bankroll a buyout. He doesn’t have a NBA team pinning their future on him. He’s like many guys that are not on NBA teams today, chasing the dream that he can play and help a NBA team.

He and his agent constructed his agreement with Flamengo so he’d have option after the exhibition tour through the US, and that short term agreement may have soured the coaching staff on the big man.

He played well last season in the NBA’s D-League, so that is appealing from a playing stand point. He could stay close to home and have a chance for NBA teams to see him on a daily basis and maybe shake some of the labels he’s collected over the last couple of years trying to break into the NBA.

There are offers from international teams. Those offers include substantially more money than Caracter can earn in the D-League, but it means being away from his family. Its means running the risk of not being paid what is agreed. Carcater is still chasing money owed to him from other International stops, so the security of the D-League is appealing.

The problem with Caracter’s situation is he can earn the most money going aboard However, as Saric’s situation shows just because a team signs you does not mean they will play you and that happens all too often; players that don’t play sometimes don’t get paid.

Caracter logged eight minutes in the Flamengo game against Phoenix. He logged eight more against the Magic last night. The Memphis Grizzlies play host to Flamengo on Friday, so Carcater may get one more chance to showcase himself. If it’s eight more minutes, he’ll have to weigh the choice a lot of guys getting cut from NBA rosters over the next few weeks will make: Stay in the D-League and hope to be noticed or roll the dice that an international team offering bigger dollars will pan out?

Watching Saric’s situation play out in Turkey is a cautionary tale. If he can’t find minutes after signing a multi-million Euro deal, where does that leave Caracter?

While both are in radically different situations as players, the problem is the same. International may offer more money, but if it only comes with eight minutes a game, is it really worth it?

That’s the conundrum.

Fewer Games Uhh?:  The NBA is going to test out an idea. The idea arrived from a meeting recently between the NBA coaches and the NBA in which it was suggested that maybe the NBA game would be better if it were ever so slightly shorter.

Shorter is better. No question. When you play 82 regular season games, every minute matters on a number of fronts. Television partners want games to fit inside two hours. Working fans would like to be home before midnight on game day. Teams pay a large number of employees an hourly wage, so shorter is cheaper. There are all kinds of reasons to make the game shorter.

So with that in mind the NBA is going to try out a 44-minute game. It will be one game, used as a test to look at how shortening the game impacts things. The two teams – Brooklyn and Boston – agreed to be the Guinea pigs and they’ll play the game this Sunday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Now before we get too far down the road on this, it’s a test. There are no plans to install this into the NBA and while the league could have looked at this in the D-League, doing so in the exhibition has garnered a lot of attention, which is something the league surely wanted to analyze.

Would fans care if the game were four minutes shorter? In the social media world, it’s easy to find out.

Would four less minutes make the product less fluid, watchable and exciting? These are all things we’ll find out on Sunday.

Now the by-product of this experiment is that every player in the league and almost all of the coaches have been asked by media to comment about shortening NBA games.

The overwhelming response wasn’t so much about the length of games, as much as it was about the number of games being played.

Stars like Cleveland’s LeBron James said he’d rather see a 66-game schedule like the league played after the lockout in 2011. Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said much of the same. Fewer games would be good.

Fewer games sounds good. Fewer games would mean less back-to-backs, travel and wear and tear. Those all sound like good things, things players would care about as their careers are short. We talk about the mileage players accumulate over the span of a multi-year career all the time.

LeBron has logged 39,993 minutes between the regular season and the postseason in his 11 seasons. Nowitzki has logged 48,1847 minutes in his 16 NBA seasons; so, clearly less games matter when you accumulate those kinds of minutes.

The problem that both are overlooking as some of the highest earners monetarily in the game is that less games played equals less money.

The NBA just inked a new $24.4 billion broadcasting deal. That deal didn’t include less games for broadcast, it included more.

While players are not paid on a per-game basis, when you break down their salaries that way players like LeBron who will earn $20.644 million this season, make about $251,000 per game.

NBA’s Highest Paid Players Per Game

Name  Per Game
Kobe Bryant  $286,585.37
Amar’e Stoudemire  $285,499.85
Joe Johnson  $282,692.56
Carmelo Anthony  $273,882.94
Dwight Howard  $261,417.94
LeBron James  $251,760.98
Chris Bosh  $251,760.98
Chris Paul  $244,738.57
Deron Williams  $240,908.11
Rudy Gay  $235,577.15
Kevin Durant  $231,653.95
Derrick Rose  $230,035.07
Blake Griffin  $215,544.06
Zach Randolph  $201,219.51

You can find the top 50 Highest Paid NBA Players here.

It’s easy to say let’s cut off 16 games from the season, but is LeBron prepared to sacrifice $4 million from his salary for rest? I am pretty sure his support for the second idea would be radically lower than his support for the first.

It’s easy to say less games. The problem is less games means less tickets sold. Less events staged, so less advertising. Less games to be sold to television and radio, so there would be less there too.

Shorter on the other hand is not less. At least not in the sense of selling tickets, selling games to television and radio and as events to brand marketers and sponsors.

The average preseason NBA game played yesterday took two hours and 14 minutes, that’s a ratio of 2.79 minutes per 1 minute of game play. Reducing a game by four game minutes on average would reduce the actual time of a game from 2:14 minutes on average to two hours and roughly 2 minutes, a 12-minute per game savings. Doesn’t sound like a lot until you factor in all the games played in a season and then it becomes a big number.

So, if shortening the game doesn’t impact the number of games, how games are monetized and the flow of the game is unchanged, is this a bad thing? That’s what the NBA is going to look at on Sunday.

Shorter isn’t less games. It’s just shorter. If players want fewer that’s a pipedream the owners are likely unwilling to consider simply because it means less money and we all know no one is signing up for less money.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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