Thursday, July 7, 2011
Updated: July 8, 3:33 PM ET
Agent: Deron Williams eyes Turkey
By Marc Stein
New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams is planning to play in Turkey in the fall if the NBA lockout has not yet been settled.
Williams' newly hired agent, Jeff Schwartz, on Thursday confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher a report from the Turkey-based sports outlet NTV Spor that the All-Star point guard has struck an agreement in principle to play for Besiktas, which is the club that briefly employeed Allen Iverson last season.
Williams' deal will be for one year and $5 million, sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman told the New York Times that the team also has an agreement with Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia.
Ataman told the newpaper Besiktas isn't done chasing NBA players.
"If there's a possibility, we'll talk with Kobe (Bryant) if he'd like to play in Europe with Deron and with other guys to play we can talk with him," Ataman said. "If Kobe would like to play with us, we will also contact his agent and maybe with him."
Roger Mason Jr., a vice president with the players' union, told Newsday late Thursday that Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire have inquired about the rules and insurance information regarding playing overseas.
"I've talked to a lot of the star players, Chris Paul, Amare, Melo, I think that those guys are open-minded to everything," Mason told Newsday.
Ataman told the New York Times that Williams' deal would become official in the next 24 hours and that the club's president, Seref Yalcin, would join Williams for a news conference in the United States next week. Besiktas officials held a similar news conference in New York when they signed Iverson last October.
Sources say Williams would not be required to report to the Turkish club before the end of August or early September and that his deal with them would include an immediate out that allows him to return to the NBA as soon as the work stoppage ends.
Williams has two years left on his contract with the Nets but is widely expected to opt out the final season, valued at nearly $18 million, to become a free agent in the summer of 2012.
Players under contract like Williams would typically need a letter of clearance from FIBA -- the sport's world governing body -- to play anywhere else. But the NBA Players Association has privately maintained for months that it intends to legally challenge any attempt by the NBA or FIBA to block a player such as Williams from playing elsewhere while the NBA has imposed a work stoppage.
"If they try to stop him," one source said of Williams, "the union will fight it."
The bigger risk for Williams is injury-related, especially after he was plagued by a wrist injury throughout the second half of last season after the Nets acquired him from Utah on Feb. 24. The injury required surgery on Williams' right wrist after the season.
The guaranteed NBA money Williams is owed by the Nets -- nearly $34 million if Williams does not opt out of the $17.8 million he's owed in 2012-13 -- would not be protected in the event of injury overseas. That means either Williams or Besiktas will have to make insurance arrangements that protect him against long-term injury.
"Deron will be a bigger signing than Iverson," Ataman told NTV Spor reporter Ismail Senol.
"We're also very close to getting Zaza Pachulia," Ataman said.
Although Pachulia represents Georgia internationally, he also has a Turkish passport that enables Besiktas to sign him without expending a foreign roster slot.
Iverson signed a two-year, $4 million contract with Besiktas last season that was terminated after he suffered a calf injury.
Schwartz has placed players with Besiktas before, having also represented former University of Connecticut point guard Khalid El-Amin, who has spent the majority of his career playing overseas, including several successful seasons with the Istanbul-based club.
A flood of defections to Europe would presumably put pressure on the NBA and its owners to relax some of their demands at the bargaining table after months of negotiations with little progress, but it remains to be seen how many established players actually follow Williams' lead.
NBA commissioner David Stern has said in recent months that the league would not try to stand in the way of NBA players going overseas during a lockout.
There remains considerable skepticism, though, among NBA executives and even among some agents and within the union, that there are enough teams overseas with the financial resources to tempt stars like Williams, as well as the willingness to let players walk away from an overseas contract on a moment's notice as Besiktas has pledged to do.
Senior writer Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com.