Giricek becomes another NBA player to opt for Europe

Updated: August 21, 2008, 1:40 AM ET
By Henry Abbott | ESPN.com

Croatian guard Gordan Giricek, who has averaged nearly 10 points per game since joining the NBA in 2002, has become the latest player to leave the league for a bigger payday.

Gordan Giricek

Giricek

Giricek finished last season as a member of the Phoenix Suns. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-6 shooting guard signed a two-year contract -- with an option to return to the NBA next summer -- with Turkey's premier club, Fenerbahce.

"We looked around the NBA," his agent Marc Fleisher said. "Everybody was moving very slowly. And there were great opportunities for him to play overseas for a lot of money. Fenerbahce are Turkish champions and a EuroLeague team. It was a tough decision, and it came down to Fenerbache and Triumph, in Russia."

"Gordan had an offer from the San Antonio Spurs," Fleisher added, "but it was for much less."

Giricek was one of the NBA's top rookies for Memphis in 2002-03. He logged time for the Orlando Magic before settling for five years with the Utah Jazz. Giricek then played briefly for the 76ers before joining Phoenix in March 2008.

With an NBA career 3-point field goal percentage of 37 percent, Giricek has sometimes been pigeonholed as a shooter, but experts insist there is more to his game.

"He's an underrated defender," ESPN analyst David Thorpe said. "And he's very aggressive. He moves well. He's a good NBA player."

Fenerbahce is the latest on a long list of overseas teams that have raided NBA rosters in recent weeks. In nearly every case, agents report that NBA teams have been slow to make offers, while overseas teams have been enthusiastic.

"There is a new sense in Europe," Fleisher said, "that anyone is available. It used to be that they would only go after certain kinds of NBA players. They would make offers to unrestricted free agents or to players who were at the end of their careers. But now they sense that there is an opportunity, thanks to the way the collective bargaining agreement is set up, that they can go after and get NBA players. It's a whole new world."

Henry Abbott writes the TrueHoop blog for ESPN.com.

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