Franklin Regional, UPJ grad Novak back to play in The Tournament
Offseason free agency can be a stressful time for overseas basketball leagues and players, too.
The next big deal could happen at any time.
Dollar signs float through the air.
Players can't put their cell phones down for fear they might miss that career-lengthening call or text from agents.
“There are just a couple less zeros on the big contracts (compared to the NBA),” said Nick Novak, the former Franklin Regional and Pitt-Johnstown star who is hoping for a new deal, possibly within the Spanish LEB Oro league. He just completed his fourth pro season, his first with Union Financiera Baloncesto Oviedo.
The former high-scoring guard also played in leagues in Germany, Portugal and Romania.
In the meantime, it's restless, daily training for Novak at the Scoring Factory in Pittsburgh and FSQ Training in Level Green as a lead-up to his second year in “The Basketball Tournament.”
The 72-team, single-elimination tournament presents its champion $2 million.
Novak, 27, will once again play for Team Sideline Cancer, headquartered in Bradenton, Fla. A number of former college and NBA players will play in the event, which has sites around the country.
“I don't think people grasp how competitive this thing is,” Novak said. “There are so many good guys here and overseas playing. It's like taking all the best pro-ams and putting them all in the same summer league. It's the NCAA Tournament on steroids.”
A former all-star who admits to having to change, almost tone down, his game to fit the style in Spain, Novak averaged 6.6 points, 1.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season for Union Financiera Baloncesto Oviedo.
Another Pittsburgh area player will join Novak with Sideline Cancer, Dustin Sleva, a standout at Montour and an All-American at Shippensburg.
Fan voting determined the field of teams for The Tournament. Sideline Cancer will play in the Brooklyn Regional July 21-22 against Gael Nation, made up of alumni from Iona.
Each regional sends four teams to the “Sweet 16,” set for July 28-29 in Atlanta.
The semifinals and final will be Aug. 2-3 in Baltimore. Games will be shown by ESPN.
Last year, Sideline Cancer went 1-1, opening with a victory over the Pitt alumni “Zoo Crew” team that included Ashton Gibbs, Chevon Troutman, Tyrell Biggs, Julius Page and John DeGroat.
Novak has a better sense of what to expect this time.
“You have to change your identity more,” he said. “You have to win so you have to do what it takes to win each game.”
Sideline Cancer is playing for The Greg and Cathy Griffith Family Foundation out of Hollidaysburg. A portion of any winnings will go to the foundation.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BillBeckner.