Pitino: NBA Players Will Flood Europe During Lockout

Louisville coach Rick Pitino said he expects NBA players to flood Europe during an extended NBA lockout.

“I do think there are a lot of guys in the NBA who have made a lot of money, but have not invested wisely,” Pitino said Wednesday by phone. “So if they think the lockout’s long, they’re going to try to get Greece, Italy and Spain as quickly as they can.”

Pitino said he advised Louisville junior power forward Terrence Jennings, a borderline second-round NBA Draft pick, to take the first European deal he is offered.

“I gave him all the information and said to him, ‘You’re probably, if you have good workouts, going to get drafted in the second round,’” Pitino said. “That being said, you must understand that the first deal that comes across from Europe, you need to take because a lot of these pro guys are very good and they’re going to need money and they’re going to have to go to Europe because of the lockout.”

The current collective bargaining agreement expires June 30, and if the two sides cannot agree on a new deal the NBA could be headed for an extended lockout.

Pitino cited a Toronto Star story from within the past few years that said 65 percent of first-round NBA Draft picks within the past 15 years are currently bankrupt.

“There aren’t a lot of guys in the NBA that have invested wisely and saved their money,” Pitino said.

That, in turn, will make competition overseas tougher for guys like the 6-foot-10 Jennings.

“The competition for Europe and Asia is going to be very keen with this lockout,” Pitino said, adding he told Jennings: “Don’t hold out. There’s no summer league. Samardo [Samuels] got very lucky last year because LeBron broke up the Cleveland Cavaliers. So you’ve got to take what’s available.”

Kobe Bryant said in February that he would consider playing in Italy during an extended NBA lockout.

“I mean, I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” said Bryant, who grew up in Italy while his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played there.

Would he be locked into playing in Italy?

“I’m not locked into anywhere,” he said. “I’m locked out. I don’t know, you just gotta play it by ear. Obviously, you know how much I love Italy. I mean, I grew up there.”

Still, Pitino said he doubts that players like Bryant would be forced to play overseas as much as the average NBA player who hasn’t saved his money.

“I don’t see that because they have enough money,” he said.

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