The Hawks are fighting for playoff position. The Lakers play at Philips Arena tomorrow night. And today we concern ourselves with … the Euroleague?
Why, yes. It might have escaped your notice that Olympiacos — sometimes spelled “Olympiakos” — of Greece has reached the quarterfinals of the European basketball playoffs and is leading Asseco Prokom of Poland 2-0 in its best-of-five series. (Game 3 is tonight in Gdynia, Poland.) This is noteworthy because Josh Childress, once a Hawk, has scored 13 and 11 points for Olympiacos in Games 1 and 2.
Even if you don’t follow basketball outside the U.S., you know Childress. He was the sixth player drafted in June 2004 — Josh Smith was the 17th — and he serve the Hawks well for four seasons. Then, rather than re-sign here or jump to another NBA team as a free agent, he left the country. He signed with Olympiacos for $20 million over three seasons — this is the second — but has the option of terminating his contract after each season should he choose to return to the NBA.
As noted by Jeff Zillgitt and J. Michael Falgoust in USA Today, Childress is again considering his options. “I’d be leaning toward finishing my contract [with Olympiacos],” he said. Should he decide otherwise, he’d still have to go through the Hawks.
From Zillgitt and Falgoust: “Childress can opt out of his contract with Olympiacos after this season but would be a restricted free agent with Atlanta. Or he can sign a qualifying offer from the Hawks for one year and become a free agent in 2011 or sign a longer deal with the Hawks if they offer one. Childress also can sign an offer sheet with another team, but Atlanta can match it.”
In sum, Childress’ status with the Hawks hasn’t changed since July 2008. The Hawks didn’t make a big run at him last summer — they were in the process of re-upping Mike Bibby, Marvin Williams and Zaza Pachulia — and have a more pressing issue ahead. Joe Johnson, as you might have read, is due to become a free agent on July 1, 2010, and the course of the franchise could well turn on what he does.
If Johnson leaves, a one-year qualifying offer to Childress might become a fairly cheap stopgap option. (I don’t know that Rick Sund would offer more than that because Sund, who didn’t draft Childress, has never seemed as high on him as was Billy Knight, who did.)
Understand: Childress is not Joe Johnson. Childress was a good NBA sixth man who seems to have settled at Olympiacos. As Nick Gibson writes for Slam Online: “After a rookie year of ups and downs, Childress has bumped his EL scoring from 8.8 to 14.7 on 63 percent shooting and just might earn a spot on the All-Euroleague team.” But he’s not the Olympiacos star: That would be Linas Kleiza, the Lithuanian who left the Denver Nuggets last summer to become a Grecian earner.
File Childress’ name away. He might again be a non-story, Hawks-wise, this summer. But if Johnson departs, J-Chill might become a local factor.