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Greek team faces civil lawsuit - Oct 13, 2009

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Greek basketball powerhouse Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus lured Josh Childress away from the NBA, attempted to make a play for Nate Robinson (175-G-84, college: Washington) during the summer and has been rumored to be planning a mega-million push for LeBron James (203-F-84) next summer. But according to a five-year-old civil lawsuit filed against them by agent Tom McLaughlin, the Athens-based franchise, which has shown no hesitation to throw cash at the game's best players, still owes money to past players who came over from the NBA.

And when Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus arrives in Cleveland tomorrow for its exhibition game against James and the Cavaliers, the plaintiffs plan to collect, even if it means confiscating everything from the team's travel funds, team uniforms and even the airplane that got them there.

'This isn't about just this one civil suit,' McLaughlin said. 'What we're trying to do is get NBA players who have played overseas who have had their contracts breached . . . This has been going on for 40 to 50 years, both men and women players, and nobody has done anything to stop it.'

Before tomorrow night's game, there is a deposition scheduled in U.S. District Court in Cleveland in which McLaughlin - identified as Best In Sports, Inc., in court documents obtained by Newsday - will look to collect the $409,048.11 he says is owed to him. McLaughlin went as far as to propose to the court that U.S. Marshals seize all of the team's assets, including cash, travelers' checks, equipment, uniforms, apparel, computers, electronic devices and the team's plane when it lands in Cleveland.

Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus hired the powerful international law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey to represent it in the proceedings. The case was filed in October 2004 in Massachusetts and was ignored by Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus until recently. The team in September attempted to have the suit thrown out on two arguments, which were dismissed by a Cleveland judge on Tuesday.

The Bronx-born McLaughlin played with Julius Erving, Al Skinner and Rick Pitino at UMass and went on to play professionally in Europe. He was an assistant coach under Digger Phelps at Notre Dame and later served as an attorney for Larry Bird, Joe Montana, Doug Flutie and New Kids on the Block and also represented several NBA players. Two in particular are Chris Morris and David Rivers, who continued their careers overseas and ran into contract issues with their respective teams.

In August 2004, McLaughlin obtained a default judgment against Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus in Massachusetts District Court for fees he did not receive when he claims Morris' contract was breached in 2001. But McLaughlin has not been able to get his money from Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus, at least not until the team came to U.S. soil, which it did this weekend for a two-game NBA exhibition tour.

On Friday, Olympiakos S.F.P. Pireus was in San Antonio, where it was defeated, 107-89, by the Spurs. Team owner Panagiotis Aggelopoulos was served there to appear for a deposition in Texas. Aggelopoulos, a billionaire who co-owns the team with his brother, did not own the team when Morris played.

McLaughlin, however, sees more of a principle in his dogged pursuit than merely the recovery of lost wages. It is not uncommon for American players to go overseas and not receive the full sum of the contracts signed with international teams. Childress, so far, has not experienced this issue with his three-year deal worth a reported $20 million.

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