Marbury off Greek team's radar?
NEW YORK -- The flirtation between Stephon Marbury and the Greek club Olympiacos appeared to end Friday, with a new twist to the story blowing in from Moscow.
Olympiacos is pursuing former NBA guard Jannero Pargo, who was expected to secure his release from Dynamo Moscow before the end of the weekend, sources told ESPN.com. At least three NBA teams and two Euroleague teams were in the bidding for Pargo, whose value in Europe is actually higher than Marbury's because teams have already seen him play this season -- and because he can be signed to a contract before Euroleague final 16 rosters are due Monday and Tuesday.
The club's pursuit of Pargo was an indication that it had cooled to the idea of pursuing Marbury, at least until Pargo's new employer is determined.
Pargo signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with Dynamo last summer, but the club has struggled to make payroll and recently learned that it would not receive the subsidy it was expecting from the Russian military (Dynamo is also known as the Red Army team). Dynamo's financing problems also could impact the future of another of its big offseason signings, ex-Nets forward Bostjan Nachbar, who wants to return to the NBA.
Marbury had said he is open to the idea of joining the Greek League powerhouse, but if Olympiacos had gone after the exiled Knicks point guard, the next step would have been 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.
Also, it would take two business days for Marbury to clear NBA waivers, and he could not sign with any European team before then -- effectively rendering him ineligible for Euroleague final 16 play.
A source close to Olympiacos told ESPN.com that club officials met late into Thursday night in Athens to discuss the possible pursuit of Marbury, with questions being raised in that meeting regarding Marbury's character and whether he would be a poor locker room influence for a team currently sitting atop the Greek League standings at 14-1, one game ahead of 13-2 archrival Panathinaikos.
Olympiacos is looking for a player who can play both guard positions after recently losing Childress to a sports hernia injury (Childress told Slam Magazine that he will be out only 3-4 weeks, not the 6-8 weeks previously reported). With Olympiacos eager to fill its roster spot quickly, it was all the more curious that the club did not reach out to Marbury's representative Thursday after the Knicks provided the club with his contact information.
One Knicks insider speculated that the Greek club was already testing Marbury, seeing whether he would be proactive and reach out to the team.
"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."
Knicks president Donnie Walsh is holding out hope that Marbury's expiring contract can be turned into an asset through a trade prior to the NBA's Feb. 19 deadline, but Olympiacos is not willing to wait another four or five weeks.
Olympiacos plays an important Greek Cup semifinal -- a separate competition from the Greek League -- on Sunday and begins Euroleague Top 16 play on Thursday against AJ Milano. The Greek Cup final, in which the Olympiacos-Panionios winner plays the Panathinaikos-Maroussi winner, is Feb. 21.
As many as six foreigners can be on Olympiacos' Euroleague roster, but the team can use only two Americans during the 26-game Greek League regular season, which runs through April 29, and Olympiacos already has former Milwaukee Bucks guard Lynn Greer on its roster in addition to Childress.
The report in Thursday's New York Post, in which Marbury was quoted, cited anonymous Greek media reports saying Olympiacos was willing to spend as much as $15 million toward a Marbury acquisition. But a source told ESPN.com the actual amount Olympiacos owner Panagiotis Angelopoulos was willing to spend was a fraction of that amount. The team's payroll is already above $40 million -- a sign of how badly the Angelopoulos brothers want to end Olympiacos' decade-long slump in which it's been a second-class citizen behind Panathinaikos in the Greek basketball pecking order.
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 while Childress recovers and then get released from his contract.
Marbury has already offered to give back $1 million, and New York radio personality Mike Francesa 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 that no matter whom he plays for, he wants to make back in a new deal whatever he gives back in a buyout in order to "remain whole" and collect all of the $20.8 million he is under contract to receive from New York.
But Marbury also wants to resurrect his career, 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 team.
Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.
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