Deron Williams to play in Turkey, more to follow?

New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams prepares for the third quarter of their NBA basketball game against Toronto Raptors in London March 4, 2011. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Deron Williams is going to play for a team in Turkey during the NBA lockout, and has signed a one-year contract worth $5 million that has a clause that allows him to return to the NBA and the players work out a deal. He believes that more players will follow and that if the owners get their way, those players could very well stay in Europe.

But if the owners break the players and get the proposal they’re pushing for, Williams believes some stars could opt to play overseas long-term.

“If the proposal (the owners) have, if that’s what they’re sticking with and that’s what they want, then I think it would be hard for a lot of guys to come back to the NBA,” Williams said Friday in an interview at a private golf resort in San Diego.

Meanwhile, ESPN has rehired Stephen A. Smith (for some unknown reason) and he says that Williams’ move is selfish.

“It’s not good,” one player told me on Thursday, demanding anonymity before saying a word. “Williams’ move makes sense if you’re about getting that cash. Nobody can blame him for that. But when you’re talking about these negotiations, it’s suppose to be about unity.”

Exactly. A union — any union — is supposed to personify that. They’re supposed to exude togetherness as opposed to coming across as a filthy-rich scab looking to do nothing else aside from bloating his bank account.

For his part, Williams says he ran this deal by the union to avoid such a thing…

Williams said he spoke with the union before agreeing to play in Turkey to make sure he wasn’t damaging its cause. He said NBPA executive director Billy Hunter was in favor of the move.

I don’t get Smith’s reasoning here. If star players start fleeing for Europe, won’t that help the union’s cause? The owners would see very clearly that their star players have options and if they try to take a hard line, then those players will find work elsewhere. Smith’s column argues that the mid-level players are the ones who will hurt the most, but if an exodus of star players leads to a quicker agreement (and why wouldn’t it?) then won’t the mid-level players be happy? In other words, the entire union wins if the players as a whole are stronger, and by playing in Europe, the players are stronger.

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