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NBAPA rep: Go ahead and play overseas --- fine by me

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

NEW YORK -- When it comes to playing overseas during the NBA lockout, Billy Hunter has a simple message for the league's players: Enjoy your trip, we'll call you when it's time to come home.

In a memo sent to players on Tuesday night and obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, the union leader said the NBA Players' Association supports all players "who are taking steps to continue to earn a living, stay in peak competitive shape, and play the game that we love while the unfortunate league-imposed lockout is in place."

"This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement," Hunter wrote. "It is important for the owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances.

"If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them."

Talks between the NBA and the union broke down June 30, and the owners decided to impose the league's first lockout since the 1998-99 season was shortened to 50 games. Both sides say there are significant differences between their proposals, raising the possibility that all or part of next season could be canceled.

The chasm between the league and union has led some players to consider other options.

New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams is working on a deal with Turkish team Besiktas, and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Amare Stoudemire of the New York Knicks have mentioned the possibility of playing overseas if the NBA lockout drags on.

Any signed player who decides to go overseas would need an opt-out clause in his foreign contract so he could return to the NBA if the lockout was lifted during the season. Then there's the potentially tricky clearance from FIBA, basketball's governing body.

But the union doesn't think there should be any problems.

"We do not believe that FIBA or the NBA will stand in the way of any players pursuing international opportunities, whether you are under contract or a free agent," Hunter wrote in the memo, which also was sent to agents. "You and your agent should secure appropriate protection to guard against any injury or unforeseen circumstances."

FIBA has said it is working on a statement to be sent to its membership and clubs to clarify the legal situation.

The New York Times was the first to report on the union memo.