It isn't often that I fault players for going to Europe for a big payday instead of playing a few months in the NBA Development League because I understand that with professional basketball players, just like myself and the Wu Tang Clan, cash rules everything around us.
Still, the decision for recent NBA training camp cuts Oliver Lafayette and J.R. Giddens to forego a few months in the D-League while staying relevant with NBA talent evaluators and instead chasing more lucrative European paychecks (Lafayette with Partizan Belgrade and Giddens with Asseco Prokom) has yours truly questioning their decision making process.
Both Giddens and Lafayette ended last season on NBA rosters (Giddens with the New York Knicks, Lafayette with the Boston Celtics) and both were invited to training camps this season (Giddens with the Sacramento Kings, Lafayette sticking with the Celtics) meaning that they were right on the cusp of being a full-time NBA player.
Luckily good ol' Jeff Potter, President of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, feels the same way I feel when it comes to these decisions as he put up a blog post Wednesday about Lafayette's decision.
With that said, I truly believe he jumped to Europe too soon. He has been in the NBA mix for about 5 months, and he would have been entering this season at the top of the call up list. The Euroleague is great, but it does not compare to the NBA, and Oliver is a NBA player. I understand the lure of the money being offered, but I hate to see him give up on the NBA so soon. Unfortunately, his NBA prospects are gone for this year, because once you are out of sight in Europe, you are out of mind.
Seemingly, if the two players had decided to stick around in the D-League where both have developed substantially, at least until 10-day contracts became available in early January, they would have been on the tips of the tongues of those in NBA front offices and more than likely would have been a part of the first wave of call-ups for the upcoming D-League season.
Instead, they'll be receiving solid paychecks and, in Lafayette's case, playing in front of world famous fans. Do I blame them? Not at all. Do I think they could have played in the NBA this season had they hung out in the D-League for a few months and continued to improve where people will pay more attention? Certainly.