Sources: Next move is Marbury's
NEW YORK -- The flirtation between Stephon Marbury and the Greek club Olympiacos remained just that Thursday, the courtship between the two moving along slowly as each side apparently waited for the other to make the next phone call.
Olympiacos has already reached out to the New York Knicks, who are waiting to hear from Marbury's representatives whether he is serious about joining the Greek league powerhouse.
If Marbury is -- and if Olympiacos is serious about going after the exiled Knicks point guard -- the next step would be for the three sides to come to a financial agreement that would settle several issues:
• The terms of Marbury's buyout
• The terms of Marbury's Olympiacos contract
• The terms of any compensation the Knicks might seek in order to release Marbury from his contract
A source close to Olympiacos told ESPN.com that club officials met late into Thursday night in Athens to discuss their pursuit of Marbury. Questions were raised regarding Marbury's character and whether he would be a poor locker room influence on a team sitting atop the Greek League standings at 14-1, one game ahead of 13-2 rival Panathiniakos.
Olympiacos is looking for a player who can play both guard positions after recently losing former NBA player Josh Childress to a sports hernia injury. Childress told Slam Magazine's Lang Whitaker he will be out 3-4 weeks.
Olympiacos was also said to be eager to fill the roster spot within a week to 10 days, which made it somewhat more curious that the club did not reach out to Marbury's representatives Thursday after the Knicks provided them with his contact information.
One Knicks insider speculated that the Greek club was already testing Marbury, seeing whether he would be proactive in reaching out.
"I will listen to what they have to say," Marbury told the New York Post in an e-mail. Marbury did not return a message left on his cell phone by ESPN.com. "I will never close the door that has not been opened."
One major factor could be the different levels of urgency time wise between the Knicks and Olympiacos.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh is holding out hope that Marbury's expiring contract can be turned into an asset through a deal prior to the Feb. 19 trade deadline, but Olympiacos is not willing to wait four or five weeks.
Olympiacos plays an important Greek Cup semifinal this Sunday (a separate competition from the Greek League), and begins Euroleague Final 16 play on Jan. 29 against AJ Milano. The Greek Cup final, in which the Olympiacos-Panionios winner plays the winner of Panathiniakos-Maroussi winner, is set for Feb. 21.
The 26-game Greek League regular season runs through April 29 -- long after the NBA playoffs will have begun, but an NBA spokesman said the league would not permit any language in a buyout agreement with the Knicks that would preclude Marbury from returning to the NBA if, for instance, he were to spend just 2-3 weeks with Olympiacos and then get released from his contract.
The report in Thursday's New York Post in which Marbury was quoted also cited anonymous Greek media reports saying Olympiacos was willing to spend as much as $15 million to acquire Marbury.
But a source told ESPN.com the actual amount Olympiacos owner Panagiotis Angelopoulos was willing to spend was a fraction of that amount.
Marbury has already offered to give back $1 million, and New York radio personality Mike Francesca of WFAN said Knicks owner James Dolan indicated in a conversation that he'd let Marbury go if the offer rose to $2 million. Marbury has indicated no matter who he plays for, he hopes for a new deal in which he will make back whatever he gives back in a buyout. He wants to "remain whole" and collect the $20.8 million he owed under contract from New York this season.
But Marbury also wants to resurrect his career and return to the court, and the Knicks hold leverage over him in that regard because they can stand in his way -- especially if the buyout stalemate persists and the Olympiacos option does not come to fruition -- by refusing to release him in time to clear waivers by March 1, the deadline for him to be eligible for the playoffs with another NBA team.
As it is, even if Marbury reached a buyout with the Knicks, it would take an additional 48 hours for him to clear waivers, after which he could obtain the letter of clearance he would need from the NBA to sign with Olympiacos or any other European team.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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