Are More NBA Players Going To Follow Deron Williams To Europe?
New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams knows that he’s going to be playing basketball this fall. It might be with the Nets, it might not be. But regardless, he’s knows he’s going to be playing basketball somewhere later this year.
Yesterday, a report came out indicating Williams—who has just one year left on his contract with the New Jersey Nets—has agreed to join Turkish basketball team Besiktas at the end of the summer. The team, which also hosted former NBA star Allen Iverson last season, has agreed to allow Williams to join the team until the NBA works out its’ labor dispute and allows players to get back to work. He hasn’t signed a formal contract yet, but talks are reportedly ongoing between Williams and the team and it sounds like a real possibility that he will be joining Besiktas next season.
So, the question has to be asked: Will Williams be the only player headed overseas if the NBA lockout continues and part of the 2011-2012 NBA season is lost? The answer is no. In fact, there are a handful of foreign-born players who have already said that they’ll be playing back in Europe if the lockout persists for too long. However, Williams is one of the few American-born players who has committed to doing the same, and the fear—at least for NBA owners—is that Williams won’t be the last to do it.
Let’s be clear here before we jump to any wild conclusions. LeBron James isn’t suiting up for a foreign team in the fall. Neither is Kobe Bryant. And it’d be a long shot to see Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, or Dwyane Wade out there. The highest-paid NBA players have very little to gain by going to Europe and playing for a few months and everything to lose if they do it and end up getting hurt while they’re playing outside of the United States.
But the fact that Williams is doing it means that there will be other players who go overseas if the NBA lockout continues on. Williams, who is set to make a little over $16 million this year if the lockout ends, isn’t exactly a role player in the NBA. He’s a bonafide superstar who simply wants to continue playing the game of basketball, whether it means doing it on U.S. soil or going to Europe to do it. So he’s leading by example right now and showing other NBA players what they need to do if they want to continue playing basketball during the lockout.
He’s also doing something that’s even more important, too. He’s indirectly letting the NBA owners know that the players they’ve locked out don’t need them in order to be successful. Unlike NFL players, NBA players have other outlets around the world that can pay them to come and play ball. Of course, there are only so many slots available and not every NBA player will have a job waiting overseas, but there are plenty of foreign teams that would welcome NBA players with welcome arms. If nothing else, it gives them the chance to showcase an NBA player to their fans.
So, here’s what needs to be done: The lockout needs to end. Not six months from now. Not three months from now. But as soon as possible. NBA owners need to wake up and realize that the players they’re trying to bargain with aren’t at their mercy like they were back in the late 1990s. These players have a strong will to play and will go and play elsewhere if they have to in order to get the best deal possible back in the States. The owners need to take their demands more seriously and understand what they’re up against.
Right now, Deron Williams is taking a stand for all NBA players. He’s letting the owners know he’s not afraid to hold out and play basketball in Turkey for awhile while things get sorted out back home. He’s letting them know that he’s not exactly going to be hurting for money or playing opportunities during the lockout. He’s letting them know that, one way or another, he’s going to be playing basketball this fall.
Now, who else is ready to take a stand with him? Something tells us he won’t be alone for long.