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Celtics Draft Pick E’Twaun Moore to Play in Italy?

E'Twaun Moore (AP Photo)

UPDATE (7/28) – Moore reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Benetton Treviso in Italy.

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It is looking increasingly likely that the NBA will not play a game in 2011. The players know this, and that’s why they have looked into playing overseas. Deron Williams was the first, but dozens are likely to follow. While the stars have received the majority of the attention, for Celtics fans the fact that E’Twaun Moore is likely going to sign with Cimberio Varese in Italy sheds light on how far-reaching this practice will be.

During the last NBA lockout in 1999, the European leagues were not developed enough to be a legitimate alternative. The NBA was the only option, which stripped the players of their leverage. Today, the leagues in Europe are a viable option.

Basketball in Europe

The Spanish ACB is now considered the world’s second most competitive basketball institution, ahead of NCAA Division 1 and just behind the NBA. More than that, there is money to be had. Williams is going to receive at least $200,000 for every month he plays. While it is unlikely that any European contract will exceed that, many role players would be more than happy to receive a tenth of that. Some players do need the money, and it is an opportunity to stay sharp against almost-NBA caliber competition.

E’Twaun Moore’s apparent decision to play in Italy is indicative of how deep this trend goes and how much uncertainty there is. He is not under contract, and is not even allowed to communicate with Celtics personnel. Moore’s situation is far from a unique one. As a second round pick, he will not have a guaranteed contract. Many free agents are similarly in limbo. Get paid to play elsewhere and risk injury or stay home, don’t make money and risk the stagnation of your skills? While it is the stars who will gain more notoriety for playing elsewhere, it is the fringe players who have more to win and lose.

It is unclear whether going to Italy will mean that Moore will miss the NBA season. There’s also the possibility that he will get injured. Even if neither is the case, he was not going to be much of a contributor this season. This will not be a big blow to the Celtics. However, it could be a blow to the overall quality of play in the NBA. If there is an exodus of middling players to Europe, they won’t all come back as soon as the lockout is lifted. This will weaken the overall depth of the league, taxing better players with more minutes and generally lead to worse play.

The NBA’s Future

The NBA is in a bad position, and that will not be resolved any time soon. The league’s finances are a mess and serious time needs to be put in to right the situation. However, the potential for players to be in Europe shows how far-reaching the league’s problems go. Even when the lockout does end, the NBA won’t get all of its players back, and the ones that do come back won’t be playing as well as they usually do. The league probably won’t be back to normal both financially and competitively until the beginning of the 2012-2013 season.

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