NBA lockout won’t keep Parker from playing

By Jeff McDonald

Spurs point guard Tony Parker has made his lockout fallback plan official.

Should the NBA’s ongoing labor standoff postpone the start of the regular season, Parker has signed to play with ASVEL Villeurbanne, the French League team of which he is part owner.

Parker announced the decision, which had been telegraphed for weeks, Wednesday morning on his Twitter account.

In Parker the player, Parker the general manager got quite a steal. The three-time All-Star, slated to earn $12.5 million in the NBA this season, will play for $1,995 per month in France.

“I’ll be playing nearly for free,” Parker told the French daily L’Equipe. “If I play the entire season, we’ll go for the title.”

Whether the 29-year-old Parker actually appears in an ASVEL uniform at all largely will be determined at the collective bargaining table, where NBA owners and its players union face a Monday deadline to settle their dispute before regular-season games must be canceled or delayed.

If a new CBA is reached in time to save the start of the season, Parker will be obligated to remain in San Antonio for Spurs training camp.

Speaking at his basketball clinic in San Antonio over the weekend, Parker said he wanted to inform ASVEL of his intentions as swiftly as possible, with his decision based on the progress of the NBA labor negotiations.

“I don’t want the French team to play the beginning of the season, and then I come,” said Parker, who last month led France’s national team to the country’s first Olympic berth in 12 years. “That would not be fair to them.”

As the MVP of the 2007 NBA Finals, Parker is the most prominent NBA player to agree to a lockout deal abroad since July, when Deron Williams, New Jersey’s All-Star point guard, signed to play with the Turkish team Besiktas.

He’s the third player under contract with the Spurs to secure a lockout deal abroad, joining center DeJuan Blair (Russia) and guard Danny Green (Slovenia). Spurs guard Manu Ginobili has a similar offer to play in Italy, but has yet to agree to it.

In accordance with the NBA’s agreement with FIBA, the sport’s international governing body, Parker’s deal with ASVEL contains an out clause that would return him to the Spurs once the lockout ends.

As a member of the ASVEL ownership group, Parker — who carries an official title as the club’s vice president of basketball operations — will be responsible for insuring his own NBA contract against injury while playing abroad.

With the status of NBA negotiations in the eye of the beholder — creeping closer either to resolution or Armageddon — it is unclear when Parker would return to France.

Bargaining talks broke down Tuesday in New York with no deal in place, resulting in the scuttling of the remainder of the preseason schedule.

ASVEL — based in Villeurbanne, a city of about 140,000 in southeast France — opens its season Oct. 14. If NBA players still are locked out at that time, Parker expects to be in uniform.

Late last week, Parker left little doubt as to which option he preferred.

“I’d rather start (Spurs camp) right now,” he said.

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