Josh Childress made headlines last summer when he left the NBA to sign a three-year, $20 million contract with Greek powerhouse Olympiacos.
Becoming the highest-paid player in the world outside of the NBA raised the profile of the 25-year-old Childress, who spent his first four professional seasons playing mostly off the bench as a solid contributor for the Atlanta Hawks.
"Early on, I was followed really closely by the media," Childress said of his experience in Greece, where Olympiacos also pays for his housing, car and other expenses. "It was a bit overwhelming. I didn't really know how to handle the scrutiny because I hadn't had to deal with it on that level.
"Now I am fine, though."
The same goes for Childress' health. After spending the last month back in the United States rehabilitating from sports hernia surgery, Childress was preparing to return to the court as early as this week. He is averaging 15.6 points and 25 minutes for first-place Olympiacos in the Greek League and 10.7 points and 26 minutes against stiffer competition in the Euroleague.
In an e-mail interview, Childress spoke with SI.com about his on- and off-court transition to Greece and whether he plans to exercise an opt-out clause in his contract after the season and return to the NBA (where he would be a Hawks restricted free agent).
SI.com: How is the style of play different than that in the NBA? What would surprise American basketball fans about basketball in Europe?
Childress: The style of play is a bit slower here than it is in the NBA. The game in Europe is surprisingly a lot more physical than people think. They [the referees] don't call much in the paint at all.
SI.com: Is it skilled toughness or just general rough play to get more skilled players off their games?
Childress: It's a little bit of both. However, teams try to play mind games. They intentionally try to get players frustrated. I know guys on my team have done it and I have had it done to me.
SI.com: How has playing in Greece changed or developed your game?
Childress: It's helped me slow my game down a little bit. I am learning to think the game more, analyze situations. Just analyzing the defense better on pick-and-rolls and when I get into the paint.
SI.com: Is there a difference in the level of coaching you've noticed from what you had in the States?
Childress: The level of coaching is comparable. It just depends on the coach's style and system just like anywhere else. My coach is a defensive-minded type, which isn't much different than Coach [Mike] Woodson in Atlanta.
SI.com: Could you explain the difference in your schedule on game days and game weeks compared with the NBA?
Childress: NBA game weeks depend on the week. Sometimes you might have four games, sometimes two, and you're always on a plane. Game days consist of a shootaround in the morning and then getting to the gym one-and-a-half to two hours before the game. Greek week consists of one Euroleague game and one Greek league game. Game days are different because once we go in for shootaround, we are with the team the rest of the day. Olympiacos has a huge complex/training facility near the arena. We have a team meal there and then go up to our rooms and rest or we can play video games, pool, lift, swim or whatever guys want to do until game time.
SI.com: Do your current coaches and teammates all speak English? If not, how do you communicate with those who don't?
Childress: Pretty much everyone in the organization speaks English. A large number of people who work for the team either went to undergrad or grad school in the U.S., so they speak fine. For those who don't, someone will translate for us. Our entire team is pretty tight and we have bonded pretty easily considering there were 12 new additions this season.
SI.com: How are the accommodations different? Smaller gyms? Hotels better or worse?
Childress: Some gyms hold 20,000 people and some probably hold 1,000. They are both packed with crazy fans. The hotels aren't better or worse. They are just different. I would like the hotels here more if they had larger beds, though. The beds are like twin size!
SI.com: How has it been building a social life in a place you've never lived with people you don't know?
Childress: It's been interesting. On one hand, I play for the biggest team in Greece and I am fairly recognizable. So the social possibilities are endless. On the other hand, because of this, there is no privacy. If I go to a club one night, the next morning I might see a picture in the paper of me walking out of there!
SI.com: What has been the hardest part about living abroad? What has been the best part?
Childress: The hardest part is being away from my family and friends. I love spending time with them, and being away obviously limits that. The best part has been being able to experience new cultures and traveling around Europe.
SI.com: Do you have any second thoughts about making the move to Greece?
Childress: I have no second thoughts. I made sure I handled all of that before I signed. I am happy with my decision.
SI.com: What things will you weigh in trying to decide whether to come back to the NBA?
Childress: I will just try to make an educated decision and do what's best for me. It's difficult to say what that will be now, but this summer I will have a better idea.
SI.com: Have you considered whether you'd want to return to the Hawks if you decide to come back to the NBA?
Childress: I haven't thought about it yet. It will be something that I have to weigh this summer. Obviously, they have my rights, so they will have the power to make the decision if I did come back.
SI.com: Have you heard from NBA players who are interested in leaving the league to play overseas? What advice do you have for them?
Childress: I haven't heard from any NBA players who are interested in coming over. The owners of my team have mentioned the names of a few big-name guys whose agents have contacted them. I'm not allowed to say [which players], so I guess we will all just have to wait till the summer!