02 November 2011
It never fails.
I’ve been doing this whole writing thing and covering the NBA and sports in general for the last eight years. But regardless if it was my time in New York with the Knicks and across the Hudson River with the New Jersey Nets, or back doing interviews around the Rose Garden in Portland, and even that one time I had the chance to interview everyone’s favorite boxer Butterbean, 10 times out of 10 I will click off my voice recorder and walk away from the interview saying some version of the following.
“Man, I forgot to ask him about…”
I’m the type of writer where I never write down questions before talking with a player. Just don’t. Guess I take the approach that I don’t write down questions when I talk to my family or friends, or even complete strangers. I have ideas of what I want to include in my story and yes I’m in the gathering information and news business, but I’m not the type of guy to put pen to paper before interviews.
But had I been, there’s one question I would have asked Kyle Visser when we talked last Saturday night after the game in Ludwigsburg, Germany for a Grand Rapids Press feature running today.
Knowing Visser showcased his skills for more than half of the teams in the NBA from Orlando to Oakland when he failed to get selected out of Wake Forest, and knowing his desire to still make it in the league, I wonder if he feels lost in the mix playing overseas.
Is there such a thing as being this far from home and feeling forgotten?
I ask because for as much talent and growth the Beko BBL shows, there are some who cover basketball in Europe that fail to mention the caliber of play behind the pro leagues in Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Russia and France. And somewhere near the back Germany falls into the discussion – but only when the conversation falls to Bamberg or Berlin it seems.
I imagine it takes patience and perseverance for a player like Visser to cling to that hoops dream of making it to the NBA, or back to the NBA and sticking and making a roster out of camp. In fact I know it does.
The good news: playing ball in Germany is a pretty sweet gig these days.
“It’s not like some leagues in Italy or Spain where Americans are placed under the microscope,” Visser told me when asked about the pressures of being an import player in Germany.
“This might be the first time going into a season where I was happy to be playing overseas with a contract.”
I can’t remember where I read it, but there was an article referencing that players overseas have been worried that locked out NBA players are coming to take their jobs. I don’t believe that is the case, but it’s certain that those – at least as far as Germany goes – who have been associated with the NBA in the past (with a team or in camp or saw some D-League run) are keeping close tabs on the latest going on between the league and players’ union.
Ask PJ Tucker (Bamberg, Toronto Raptors), Kyle Weaver (Berlin, Oklahoma City Thunder), or Bobby Brown (Oldenburg, Sacramento Kings) if they follow the lockout news, and you’ll get three yes men to go along with an overflowing hope of making it back to the NBA. It should be added that Tucker, Weaver, and Brown are among the league leaders in a number of categories. They are making noise. But is anyone back home listening?
They should be. The one guy not trying to get back to the Association is Casey Jacobsen - he of the Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Hornets, and Memphis Grizzlies fame.That was then. Now the guy is an icon in Bamberg after helping Brose Baskets win back-to-back BBL titles and now compete in the Euroleague. He inked a 4-year deal (which is unheard of in this league) and could run for mayor of the city and win in a landslide if he chose to do so.
Pause and ask if they are all glad to be overseas and are thankful for making the jump when they did, and you’ll surely get heads nodding, “heck yeah”. Maybe it wasn’t their choice. Even still, it easily made for a more relaxing summer knowing your contract was taken care of and guys knew where and when they would be punching the clock.
Visser falls into that camp.
“I would be one of those guys for sure that would have come over (to Europe during the NBA lockout). You have to make money and this is my life and career. I am keeping tabs on it (negotiations),” said Visser.
“It’s an interesting time and I read every day about it and it just seems there is no clear path right now to getting it resolved.”
Back in the States and all the way over in Germany, that is the one question no one is forgetting to ask about the NBA: will they ever get this thing resolved?
Why we wait for the answer, guys playing overseas go about their business playing the game they love while certainly feeling for their NBA brethren back in the States who wait for another round of meetings and “How U” punchline tweets.
I also wonder if this whole shady round of collective bargaining and bickering over big bank will turn some guys off to even wanting to jump back to the NBA where the “B” always stands for business.
Maybe playing overseas really is the hoops safe haven after all – the unique chance to see the world, a steady check and cheaper cost of living, and of course the chance to play the game you love.
What more can you ask for?
I better write that one down.