Josh Childress: From European Trend-Setter to Wizards Training Camp Longshot
Josh Childress was taken sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawk in the 2004 NBA Draft, right after the Wizards selected Devin Harris and then traded him to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal for Antawn Jamison. Current Wizard Emeka Okafor was taken second overall by Charlotte in 2004. Now, Childress finds himself a teammate of Okafor’s in Washington, perhaps just temporary, and his NBA career finds itself on the outside looking in with nary a window cracked for air.
Childress made the NBA’s All-Rookie second team as a 2005 class freshman. By the completion of this fourth season with the Atlanta Hawks, for some intents and purposes, he was a top 50 NBA player. Childress’ career-high 17.8 PER in 2007-08 ranked 45th in the NBA that season (amongst players who played in at least 65 games), tied with Jason Terry and Hedo Turkoglu. Childress’ 57.1 percent shooting from the field was good enough for sixth-best in the league. Also, showing a well-rounded capability to hit 3-pointers on occasion and to sink his free throws, Childress’ 2007-08 Effective Field Goal Percentage (.590) ranked eighth in the NBA and this True Shooting Percentage (.647) ranked second.
That 2008 summer was important for Childress and his Hawks. Atlanta, behind Joe Johnson in his sixth NBA season, Josh Smith in his third, Mike Bibby in his ninth, and Al Horford in his first, had just made the playoffs for the first time since 1999, pushing the Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round. Childress, nearing the end of his rookie contract, was a restricted free agent who was receiving interest from other NBA teams such as Phoenix, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland. Atlanta was said to be hopeful in retaining their 2004 draft pick and, according to reports, offered Childress a contract in the range of five years and $33-to-$36 million. But, according to the player, they didn’t show enough of a sense of urgency, and Childress was left wanting to be elsewhere.
He chose to spurn the NBA and sign a three-year, $20 million contract with Euroleague club Olympiacos Piraues in Greece, making the 25-year-old, at the time, the highest paid basketball player in the world not in the NBA. Being the second American to bolt for riches in Europe that summer, after Brandon Jennings, who went to play in Italy instead of attending the University of Arizona, Childress, in addition to his contract amount, was to receive housing, a Volvo, a personal chef, and his taxes paid by his Greek club—a much better deal than the NBA was offering, on paper. The Hawks, unable to match the offer by a foreign club like they would have been able to do had Childress signed an offer sheet with another NBA team, were left merely retaining his rights should he ever return stateside.
Five years later, Childress essentially finds himself an NBA outsider, signed to a training camp contract with a traditionally woeful Washington Wizards team that technically doesn’t have any roster spots for him. When he left to play in Greece, Childress was considered a trend-setter. But reality soon set in, the economy in Greece crashed, and Childress discovered that from travel by bus, to the lacking of simple amenities, to occasional non-payment of salary at the whim of some European owners, there was just no professional basketball place like home.
By the summer of 2010, Lon Babby, at the time the president of basketball operations in Phoenix and once-upon-a-time one of the agents who helped facilitate Childress’ initial migration to Greece, was anxious to give the once-promising NBAer lots of money. The Suns traded a 2012 second-round pick and a trade exception to the Hawks for the rights to Childress and then signed him to a five-year, $33.5 million deal. By the summer of 2011, Childress was telling ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher that, no, he “wouldn’t” take the European route again (even though recently at Wizards media day he said he would not go back on his decision). By the summer of 2012, the Suns were amnestying Childress, his PER and contributing statistics otherwise approaching nowhere near even his rookie numbers as a Hawk. He was signed by the Brooklyn Nets in September 2012, but, by means of a resurgent Jerry Stackhouse, was waived in December after 14 games and 100 total minutes.
Now, he’s a vagabond in Washington, simply mystery card, perhaps, up Ernie Grunfeld’s sleeve. Having just turned 30 years old this past June, can Childress resurrect an NBA career? There’s a strong chance that he could be a find like Martell Webster was last summer. Not so much in the long distance shooting department (Childress has a somewhat decent career average of .329 from deep, but only at the rate of 1.0 attempts per 36 minutes; Webster has averaged .384 on 5.2 attempts per 36 minutes over his career), but as a solid defender and a very efficient scorer who can help Washington’s transition game. There’s also a strong chance that Childress will soon fade away like other veteran chances Washington has taken over the past handful of seasons, similar to Yi Jianlian, Jannero Pargo, or Earl Boykins, leaving Wizards fans to debate the merits of Chris Singleton or hoping that the sometimes spacey Trevor Ariza plays within himself during an upcoming contract year.
Childress’ chances appear to be extremely slim. The Wizards would either need to waive someone like Garrett Temple (highly unlikely because of Temple’s role), find reason to part ways with Singleton like they once did with Dominic McGuire (also highly unlikely, even with Singleton’s injury), or trade two players for one (somewhat possible, especially if Childress impresses on the court and the Wizards find a move to improve themselves otherwise).
On media day last Friday, Truth About It.net caught up with Childress as he discussed why he pegged the Wizards as his best opportunity, his basketball journey from Greece to Phoenix to Brooklyn to D.C., why Tyson Chandler is an example of guys sometimes not fitting a system in the NBA, and what he hopes to show the Wizards during training camp. Watch below.