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Scott Howard-Cooper

After a couple of years in Greece, Josh Childress has taken his talents to Phoenix.
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Fears of overseas clubs pillaging NBA unrealistic after all

Posted Jul 21 2010 11:03AM

The moment -- it wasn't long enough to be the trend some described at the time -- passed without nearly the attention as when it arrived.

Linas Kleiza came back. Josh Childress came back. Carlos Delfino and Nenad Krstic came back long ago. A center from Russia and a center from Serbia jumped this way. Even Mikhail Prokhorov jumped. Darko Milicic stayed. So the NBA has been saved.

Two summers ago, in a seeming wave, players going from North America to Europe prompted speculation that the best league in the world would soon have to fight to keep its stars.

Panic in the streets! David Stern must act to address the epidemic!

It didn't happen, as the summer of 2010 proved, and it was never going to happen. The players didn't hate the speculation, knowing it handed them an unexpected bargaining chip if nothing else. But nobody was ever going to leave the cocoon, no matter how many luxury apartments and drivers were provided as an enticement.

There was once an NBA player who didn't want to go to the Vancouver Grizzlies because he thought it was too close to Russia. And now, there was going to be a flood of guys bound for a foreign land? (Sorry, Canada. Still love ya.)

In actuality, the trend lasted a couple months in summer 2008, and has been somewhere between stalled and reversing ever since. Bostjan Nachbar is still missing, but order has been restored. All is well, at least in regards to the NBA being the place where players want to be.

Yes, a lot of players left, mostly around the same time, but the majority were international products or had previous experience overseas -- Gordan Giricek (to Turkey), Jorge Garbajosa, Delfino, Krstic and Nachbar (Russia), Juan Carlos-Navarro (Spain) and Primoz Brezec (Italy). A recent high school grad named Brandon Jennings signed a deal in Italy rather than spending his freshman year in college or a season in the NBA Development League while waiting to become eligible for the Draft, but he was an exception.

The departures who were either from the United States or built their game in North America were players like Childress, Kleiza (in 2009), Earl Boykins, Jannero Pargo and Carlos Arroyo. Yet somehow the NBA survived. The money flow from Europe foolishly predicted to last for years never happened.

All returned to the NBA, some after brief stays, most notably Childress with the Suns and Kleiza to the Raptors this summer. Krstic has been an important part of the Thunder development since about the middle of the 2008-09 season. Delfino was a starter in Milwaukee as the Bucks turned into one of the league's success stories.

The momentum has so dramatically swung back that one of the overseas owners who was supposed to throw such a fright into NBA owners became one of the NBA owners. Prokhorov of CSKA Moscow is now Prokhorov of the NJ Nets.

Prokhorov is here now and so is one of the top Russian players, new Knicks curiosity Timofey Mozgov, 24 years old and 7-foot-1. The Timberwolves are expected to make the arrival of 7-foot Serbian Nikola Pekovic, a second-round choice in 2008, official soon.

Star owners are coming.

Top prospects are coming.

That moment of a couple summers ago is officially over.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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