When word began to spread Thursday that Nets star Deron Williams has an agreement to play next season in Turkey, one prominent NBA agent called foul.
"I don't think he's going overseas," said the agent, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the lockout. "I'll believe that deal when I see it."
The Turkish television station NTV Spor reported Thursday that Williams has agreed to join the Turkish team Besiktas, the same team former All-Star Allen Iverson played briefly for last season. The report was confirmed by other media outlets, including The New York Times, which quoted Besiktas coach Ergin Ataman as saying "we confirm" the agreement. According to Ataman, Williams is expected to report to Besiktas on Sept. 1 to prepare for the season, which begins Sept. 27.
If true, Williams would be the highest-profile NBA star in his prime to sign a contract to play overseas. And with NBA players locked out for what many believe will be a long labor fight -- perhaps wiping out the entire 2011-12 season -- Williams going to Turkey could open the floodgates for NBA stars turning their backs on the NBA owners who have nullified their contracts with a lockout.
"The guys I work with in Turkey say there's no chance this is happening," the agent said.
Williams, due to become a free agent in 2012, would stand to make $70 million to $80 million on his next NBA contract -- depending on what the new collective bargaining rules will allow.
"He's going to risk that to make a few million dollars?" the agent said. "What if he gets hurt?"
The most Besiktas is believed to be capable of paying Williams is $7 million to $8 million, sources said. No financial terms of his apparent deal with the Turkish team have been divulged, and Williams' new agent, Jeff Schwartz, did not respond to a request for comment.
Various agents currently are discussing deals with European teams, but they're mostly for undrafted free agents or journeymen looking to stay sharp and make money during the lockout -- not superstars in their prime. In exchange for a few million Bucks and a free flight to Istanbul, Williams would not only be risking his next NBA contract, but the rest of his current one -- for which he is owed $34 million over the next two seasons, with a player option for 2012-13.
No offense to Besiktas, but European teams have a history of not living up to contractual obligations, leaving players who signed there fighting to get money that was owed to them. Of course, a publicity stunt to drum up fan interest and sign a few sponsors is free of charge.
In speaking with the Times, Ataman made a point of saying he plans to contact "other guys," such as, you know, Kobe Bryant.
The sound coming from my agent friend on the other end of the phone conversation at that point? Laughter.