- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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After a decade in the NBA, unrestricted free agent Earl Boykins has joined the growing legion of veteran role players unable to resist the lure of European riches.
Boykins' Cleveland-based agent, Mark Termini, announced Tuesday that Boykins has signed a one-year contract with Italy's Virtus Bologna. The deal, according to Termini, is worth more than $3.5 million for the 2008-09 season, which would make the 5-foot-5 guard Italy's highest-paid player.
Since free agency began July 1, Boykins is the ninth player who worked in the NBA last season to bypass the tight free-agent market for role players at home and head overseas. Yet he's just the third -- following Josh Childress and Carlos Arroyo -- who played almost exclusively in the NBA before considering interest from abroad.
Childress spurned a five-year offer worth an estimated $33 million from the Atlanta Hawks to sign a three-year deal worth at least $20 million from Greek power Olympiacos. With the Orlando Magic signing Anthony Johnson as Jameer Nelson's new backup, Arroyo on Monday chose to sign a three-year deal with Israeli giants Maccabi Tel-Aviv that will pay him $2.5 million net per season, with Maccabi covering Arroyo's taxes.
Childress and Arroyo both have an escape provision in their contracts which enables them to return to the NBA after each of the next two seasons if they choose.
All of the other players to sign with European clubs in recent weeks -- Serbia's Nenad Krstic, Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro and Jorge Garbajosa, Argentina's Carlos Delfino and Slovenia's Bostjan Nachbar and Primoz Brezec -- played for top-level teams in Europe before coming to the NBA.
Boykins had a breakout season offensively in 2006-07, averaging nearly 15 points per game for Denver and Milwaukee. But an equally limited free-agent market for rotation players in the summer of 2007 -- after he opted out of the final year of his contract, worth $3 million, with the Bucks -- prompted Boykins, 32, to wait until late January before signing with the Charlotte Bobcats.
Boykins wound up playing in 36 games for the Bobcats, but he averaged just 5.1 points and shot below 40 percent from the floor (.355) for the first time since establishing himself as a full-time NBA player with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2001-02.
According to Termini and co-agent Andy Bountogianis, Boykins' deal includes income from Bologna's sponsorship and marketing arms, which is not an option for NBA players because of salary-cap restrictions.
Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.
2dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann