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Players take Greek offers

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

The Greek economy is in horrible shape. The eurozone has been on shaky ground for years. And, yes, the Greek League is barely surviving.

“Teams are compiling huge debts even as player salaries shrink,” Ken Maguire wrote in an SI.com report in April. “Desperate for relief, the league has asked players who are owed money to accept a 50 percent ‘haircut,’ just like Greece’s bondholders did. Ten of 13 clubs are several months late on payments, said the players’ union, describing the problems as ‘urgent.’ “

Despite all of the aforementioned problems, Greece remains a viable option for bj-league veterans because they know the following: There is practically zero stability in the bj-league as securing a second one-year contract is often nothing more than a fantasy.

Overall mismanagement and ineptitude are chief characteristics of the bj-league’s operations, though a handful of teams have stood out as models for the league office to emulate. Any number of players think twice about rolling the dice to return to the bj-league when they have other options to pursue.

That brings us to impact makers Gordon Klaiber, who helped orchestrate the Iwate Big Bulls’ strong turnaround in the second half of their inaugural seasons in the spring, and Kevin Palmer, whose overall brilliance for the Rizing Fukuoka was one of the league’s most exciting chapters in 2011-12. Both players have joined Greek teams for the upcoming season.

Klaiber, a Fairleigh Dickinson University product, will suit up for AS Apollon Patros in Greece’s A2 League. The forward averaged 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds in 32 games for the Big Bulls.

The versatile swingman Palmer, who attended Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, has joined KAO Dramas in the top flight A1 circuit. Reportedly, the Chiba Jets offered Palmer more than $100,000 to play this season.

The team’s shaky foundation — it’s defecting to the JBL in 2013 and has a new coach (Shinji Tomiyama) and several new players — couldn’t be a selling point, naysayers will point out.

Cousin’s challenge: How effective will big man Marcus Cousin, who played a handful of games for the Utah Jazz in 2011, be for the Kyoto Hannaryz?

That depends on how well he adjusts to bench boss Honoo Hamaguchi’s quirks and, at times, overbearing coaching style.

Or as one former Hannaryz player told The Japan Times on Wednesday, “He should obviously dominate, but it is all about how his personality will deal with Honoo. Will Honoo let him be himself, or will Honoo try to control every little detail?”

Around the league: The schedule for the 2012-13 season was officially released on Tuesday, and there’s only a few games on opening weekend, thus delaying the real launch of the league’s eighth campaign.

The Oct. 6 season-opening games are as follows: Niigata Albirex BB vs. Iwate Big Bulls, Hamamatsu Higashimikawa Phoenix vs. Sendai 89ers and Kyoto Hannaryz vs. reigning champion Ryukyu Golden Kings. The same six teams square off in their traditional second-day rematches on Oct. 7, and the Toyama Grouses also open their seventh season against the expansion Gunma Crane Thunders.

On the move: Veteran center Wayne Marshall, who attended Temple University before embarking on a pro career, has joined the Shinshu Brave Warriors. Marshall averaged 11.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks in 50 games for the Osaka Evessa in 2011-12, his second season with the Western Conference club. … Standout forward Rodney Webb, who has had past stints with Niigata, Toyama and Sendai, is back with the Albirex for the upcoming season. The 201-cm Webb has been out of the bj-league since 2009, collecting paychecks in the NBA Development League and Israel since then.

The Miyazaki Shining Suns have signed 211-cm center Donald Little (University of Cincinnati product), 203-cm forward Dominique Keller (Illinois), 199-cm forward Marshall Brown (Missouri) and 198-cm guard and noted dunk artist Larriques Cunningham (Lee University, an NAIA school).

Big issue: Developing a team with solid unity is an ever-growing challenge, especially when change is the constant.

“It is somewhat understandable not to give out too many long-term contracts,” a hoop insider told The Japan Times. “But it’s hard on the fan base as they have to get to know new players every year and its tough for coaches because it’s hard to develop chemistry.”

Did you know?: Basketball organizers in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, have set up a Facebook page and Twiter feed to publicize their desire to land a bj-league expansion team in 2014.