New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams is planning to take his talents to Turkey this fall if the NBA has not yet been settled, according to sources with knowledge of Williams' thinking.
Sources on Thursday confirmed the story first reported by the Turkey-based sports outlet NTV Spor that Williams has struck an agreement in principal to play for Besiktas, the team that also signed Allen Iverson to a two-year, $4 million deal in October of last year.
Besiktas, which is based in Istanbul, is seeking to make another splash after a failed Allen Iverson experiment.
But if they can sign D-Will, they'll be creating less of a splash and more of a tsunami. Williams, 27, would be the biggest NBA name to jump ship to Europe, with Iverson clearly well past his prime.
"We are in talks with Williams. He is a bigger star than Iverson and would be the best player in Europe. We are close to an agreement," Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman told Turkish TV. "We’re also very close to get Zaza Pachulia,” Ataman said. Williams would reportedly rake in a smooth $200,000 per month for his services.
Even if Williams signs the contract, he would have to wait for approval from FIBA, according to Turkish reporter Ismail Senol. Williams would have to obtain a letter of clearance from FIBA since he’s still under contract with the Nets. That also may be contingent on the Nets giving their approval to the deal, which could be a roadblock given New Jersey’s attempt to sign Williams to a multi-year contract extension. Williams is under contract to the Nets for two more seasons, though he has the right to opt out of the final season in 2012.
During the lockout, however, he is considered to not be under contract and is free to sign anywhere he wants. He is said to have an immediate out clause to leave Turkey and return to the Nets if the lockout is settled and the NBA season resumes.
The lockout is in its seventh day, with both sides far apart on major economic issues regarding how the $4.2 billion in revenues will be divided between owners and players. No talks are currently scheduled, and the NBA lockout could prove to be much worse and last far longer than the NFL's.
If Williams signs overseas, he would be the biggest star to make such a move, perhaps fueling a potential new trend for NBA players eager for playing time and a paycheck while the league and Players Union haggle over a new collective bargaining agreement.
The Turkish basketball season begins in mid-October. Williams, who was traded to the Nets from the Jazz in February, underwent surgery in April to repair strained ligaments in his shooting wrist. He has already resumed basketball activities, and was training in California with other Nets under contract last month.
Now, some of you may feel differently, but as an NBA fan, I honestly love this move by Williams.
Now there's real pressure on Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and implied pressure on every owner with valued stars, to get the NBA season started on time. There's nothing like watching the future of your franchise take the floor night in and night out in an inferior overseas league.
If Williams gets injured in Turkey, it's bad for Williams, but it's dreadful for the Nets, who are hoping to use Williams to lure fans to a new arena in Brooklyn a year from now, not to mention a big free agent like Dwight Howard. Without Williams, the Nets' roster is pretty pitiful, and Prokhorov's investment in basketball endures a major setback.
The Nets cannot afford to play hardball. Before they can make Williams the golden goose of the next phase of their existence, they need to woo him into signing a contract extension. This means that they'll likely have to sign off on Williams' trip overseas in order to keep relations friendly between the two parties.
More than a few NBA players have expressed an interest in playing overseas next year, but there won't be roster spots and cash for all of them at the end of August. The time to get the good deals is now, and Williams has a good plan B in place to make a preemptive strike to further line his pockets while he's 'unemployed'.
Well, D-Will, I'd just like to give you props. If the lockout persists for an extended period of time as many expect it will, you're likely headed to hoop it up in Istanbul, Turkey - where the women are as beautiful as the money you'll be earning is good.
It looks like you have all your bases covered.
Well played, Mr. Williams. Well played.