Ben Gordon and the Mystery of the Moscow Contract Offer
You’ve probably heard all about Ben Gordon’s bad relations with the Chicago Bulls, in terms of his contract status. Gordon’s felt jerked around about his contract since initial extension talks began over a year ago and felt jerked around on the court for longer (the Bulls seemed to delight in elevating to starting guard and then yanking him by the chain back to sixth man). Jerked around enough that he recently declared he was done with the Bulls. They could arrange for a sign and trade or maybe he’d just go to Europe, but he wasn’t going to sign their qualifying offer and he wasn’t going to play for them.
What you may not have heard about is Gordon’s contract offer from Russia. It hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage from “traditional” news outlets… and it might not even be real. Yes, this is a strange story and most of it isn’t in English.
The story starts on September 2nd on the Greek website Contra.gr (translated version here – it’s a little rough). The short version is that Russian powerhouse CSKA Moscow was to have offered Gordon a $5.5 million dollar contract (presumed to be $5.5 million after taxes, which makes it more than the qualifying offer Gordon might have to sign). The general idea being that Gordon skips the country for a year and returns when more teams have space available under the salary cap, so even if the Bulls took the steps to retain his restricted free agent status, he might have options. The story indicated that Gordon would be saying yes or no to CSKA on the 3rd. And so, the online basketball world let out a collective “huh?”
September 3rd came and went with no comments from the Gordon camp. The Daily Herald (serving the Chicago suburbs) had Gordon declining to comment and Gordon’s agent, Raymond Brothers, not returning their phone call.
On September 4th , the Russian site, sovsport.ru, ran a piece (translated version here) where CSKA Moscow general director (general manager?) Andrei Vatutin denies he’d had any negotiations with the Gordon camp and the initial story is explained as a rumor started by Gordon’s agent to up Gordon’s value back home.
So we have four options.
The Russian’s lying and they were / are talking to Gordon.
The agent’s lying and trying to stir up some interest in Gordon.
The whole thing was a media-generated hoax that worked for a while.
Reinsdorf did it to discredit Gordon.
Which one is it? We don’t really know, although you’d think CSKA Moscow would have the least reason to lie about it. I also find it very convenient that CSKA would be a fictional destination after an August 27 piece on the ESPN website talked them up as having the largest player budget in Europe.
I’d like to dismiss the Reinsdorf theory as lunatic fringe, but we never did figure out who leaked Eddy Curry’s medical records when he was in negotiations and that link does have Skiles seeming to finger the front office with media-smearing during negotiations. File Reinsdorf as within the realm of possibilities, but not particularly likely. In my mind, the agent and a good old fashion hoax (do they still call those “Vecsey trade rumors?”) are the most likely options.
In the meantime, the whole stand-off between the Bulls and Ben Gordon takes on a funnier shade of pathetic. Not ha-ha funny, but more “so much for dignity” funny. It also make you wonder if Gordon has given any thought to switching agents, if it really was his agent planting a false rumor. That would smack of desperation and desperation doesn’t help at the negotiating table