Josh Childress is going back to Greece.
The former Hawks swingman said he is returning to Olympiakos for the 2009-10 season and will not opt out of his contract and return to the NBA.
“I still have some unfinished business to tend to,” Childress said by phone early Tuesday morning. “I definitely have unfinished business in Greece.”
Childress had a Wednesday deadline to notify Olympiakos of his intentions to either come back for a second season overseas or return to the NBA.
A restricted free agent this summer, Childress said his representatives spent the past two weeks in discussions with the Hawks and several other teams about potential sign-and-trade deals that would have allowed him to return to the NBA this season, but could never get the Hawks to sign off on any of the proposed deals.
“At the end of the day it’s a business,” Childress said. “I was in basically the same situation last summer. Again, it’s a business and you have to treat it as such.”
Childress, 26, left for Greece last summer in a groundbreaking move for a restricted free agent of his stature. He signed a three-year, $20 million deal with Olympiakos, a deal that included an opt-out clause at the end of each season that would allow him to return to the NBA.
The sixth pick in the 2004 NBA draft, Childress spent his first four seasons with the Hawks. He averaged 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds 285 career games with the Hawks, including 67 games as a starter. He finished sixth in the voting for the NBA’s sixth-man award in his final season with the Hawks two years ago, the franchise’s first playoff season in decade.
The Hawks own his NBA rights and will continue to do so, provided they extend him a qualifying offer again next summer. His status as a restricted free agent allows the Hawks to match any offers made to him by other NBA teams.
Milwaukee and Charlotte made strong plays for Childress. He made a visit to Milwaukee the first week of the free agent negotiating period. But in the end, none of the deals worked out.
“When I left Greece to come back [here to the U.S.], I had it in my head that was going back to Greece no mater what,” Childress said. “Then when I got home and had my feet on the ground for a couple of days, I really wanted to explore my options and see what was out there. It was 50-50 from there.”
Now that he knows he’s going back to Greece, Childress said he can finish what he started. A sports hernia injury sidelined him for a long stretch of Olympiakos’ season. Still, he returned in time to help his team to a spot in the Euroleague Final Four and a spot in the Greek League championship series.
“My team did well, but there’s no question, I didn’t have the year I wanted to have,” Childress said. “And with that being said, I have some serious work left to do in Athens. That was part of my decision to go back, as well.”
It helped, he said, that Olympiakos made it clear that they wanted him back for another year.
“They let me know as soon as the season was over that they waned me back,” he said. “With me not having the best year I could have, it says a lot about the commitment they made to me that they didn’t hesitate to let me know that. It shows me they have a lot of respect for their players.”