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Deron Williams will play in Turkey if lockout lingers

Jul 7, 2011, 10:58 AM EDT

New Jersey Nets' Deron Williams (C) drib AP

UPDATE 10:58 AM: Maybe we were wrong. Apparently Nets star Deron Williams does plan to play in Turkey if the lockout lingers, Marc Stein of ESPN tweeteed:

Sources w/knowledge of Deron Williams’ plans confirm his intent to play for Besiktas in Turkey if lockout continues

Multiple sources now confirm the story. The key part here is “if lockout continues.” As we said in the main article, Williams is under contract to the New Jersey Nets, so the only way he could sign and play for Besiktas is if FIBA gives him a letter of clearance. FIBA has not officially said what they would do about this, hinting that if the season were lost they might grant them. But now it appears they may grant the letter if the contract has an out clause to return to the NBA once the lockout ends.

If FIBA tries to block Williams or any other player from going overseas, the NBA players union is expected to file a lawsuit to clear the way for the move. Obviously, this would be good leverage for the union in negotiations.

If Williams were injured playing in Europe, it could void his NBA deal, the team would not have to pay him. He has two years, $34 million left on his deal with the Nets (although he can opt out after next season and is expected to).

We should make it clear Beşiktaş is not one of the powerhouse, big money teams in Europe. In fact, Beşiktaş players went on strike at one point last season because players were not getting paid (except for Allen Iverson). This is not a team playing in the prestigious EuroLeague (where the best club teams from various nations face off). In fact, a top flight EuroLeague team would likely not take any player in without a full season commitment, end of the lockout or no.

But this appears to be a very real deal.

10:10 am: The latest “NBA player to Europe” report out there is one we simply do not believe. But it is out there.

A Turkish news outlet is reporting that Deron Williams is very close to an agreement to play for Beşiktaş Cola Turka — the same team that hired Allen Iverson last year. The report is he would join the club at the start of their season and will have an out clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends, according to the report (which we saw thanks to the wonderful Ball in Europe blog). The report also says Zaza Pachulia would join the team.

Another Turkish journalist has the Besiktas coach saying they have talked to Williams.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Beşiktaş made that offer. I would be shocked if Williams signed it.

There remains the pesky little problem of Williams being under contract to the New Jersey Nets. For Williams to play overseas while under contract, FIBA would need to grant him a Letter of Clearance. That body has hinted that if the entire NBA season were cancelled it might grant such a letter to players (under the theory that their contracts are not valid if they are not being paid). But the league would not cancel the season until next January at best.

Also, Williams is potentially a free agent on the cusp of his biggest payday next summer (from the Nets or another team). You think he’ll risk that playing in Europe during the lockout? He’s also rehabbing from wrist injuries that hampered him at the end of last season, again is he likely to risk re-injury to play in Istanbul?

I don’t buy it. But in the interest of news we’re passing it along.

  1. jjstrokes - Jul 7, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Putting the pressure back on the Owners… D-Will knows the game.

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