Deron Williams swears it’s not about the money.
"It's ridiculous," he told ESPN's Chris Broussard. "We've known this lockout's coming. I have plenty of money saved for the lockout purpose. Now, I don't even need to touch that money. I can invest that money. I can go grow that money. It's not something that's money-driven."
Then why, Deron? Why?
Why this move, potentially bailing on collective bargaining talks between his players owners? It's not doing anyone any favors.
That starts with Williams or any player considering the jump. He should be looking out for, as Katt Williams would put it, his "star player." Sounds cold, but shrewdness is how these games behind the games are played.
But this doesn't do that.
I get ensuring that your game doesn't stale. I get that basketball, however, mutant and foreign and untranslatable, is better than no basketball.
And I get the selling points of the European game. For all they're not, Turkish (Williams' landing pad), Spanish and other leagues are meccas for sound fundamentals. Maybe a half-season would pair finesse with Williams' physicality.
Do you agree with Deron Williams' decision to play basketball abroad in lieu of the NBA lockout?
But this is a sorry, lusterless excuse for an opportunity.
Case in point: a burned-out Allen Iverson, who in 2010 played for the very team courting Williams, Besiktas. There's more filler in European basketball than in imitation Boar's Head.
If it wasn't, this past NBA draft—as international as Epcot—wouldn't have gone down as the weakest in recent memory.
There's not enough talent to challenge Williams or any top NBA player, let alone justify undercutting labor talks.
The foremost flaw with the plan is how it compromises collective bargaining, so far a contentious and progress-less endeavor. True: you'd figure as much, given how the early months of the NFL's stoppage played out.
But it's later months were more telling.
Like, for instance, the importance of urgency. I'm beyond blue in the face, I've said it so much. People respond to incentives. People are driven by ultimatums.
That's what deadlines did for the NFL, and could for the NBA.
Do you think a player exodus to Europe compromises players and owners coming to terms on a labor deal?
But an out like playing in Europe softens consequences, the skittishness that fuels constructive talk at the bargaining table. Mitigating that anxiety is actually counterproductive.
You hope it's just a league-wide bluff. If only Williams goes, that leak in the armor would be just a trickle.
(Would make you second-guess that whole union "unity" thing, though. Kind of turning your back on your peers.)
No meaningful talks. No narrowing of gaps. No CBA.
Hard to tell why Williams is going, but whatever the motive, the plan has a caveat: by hedging against a lockout, Williams actually perpetuates it, and negates any benefit.
You figure Williams wants basketball or culture or a vacation. Whatever it is, it would take time for coaching or life lessons or memories to stick, and be worthwhile.
But he's said the goal is playing NBA ball in 2011, something he'd have to be here for. You'd assume then, that the more NBA—the more here time—the better.
So why leave at all?
That brings us back to the money, something Williams calls a non-factor.
It might not be everything, but it matters. We're not naive.
And neither is Williams, well-aware that no basketball means no salary, something a Turk paying his bills compensates for.
Thing is, by feeding this lockout and encouraging players to follow, he'll lose money long-term. Between how consumers would receive the selfishness and how the sport would lose popularity in the case of a mass exodus, Williams and players like him would sacrifice both salary and endorsement revenues when basketball resumes.
Williams will reportedly earn $200,000 a month if he goes. Best-case scenario for the lockout is three months, when he'd come back and fulfill his contract.
Since when is $600,000 worth foregone millions, between playing and pitch-manning?
Business aside, there is a human element to the decision. I get that.
Does anybody believe his family, a wife and four kids, are really enamored by Turkey? Great architecture, so I've read. Sweet people, I'm told.
But language and cultural barriers higher than the 40-foot wave in Point Break. Neither Williams, Patrick Swayze, nor anybody else rides those.
Brandon Jennings didn't/couldn't/wouldn't recommend trying, after a 2009 stint abroad between high school and declaring for the 2009 NBA Draft. He told us as much.
“I don’t see too many kids doing it,” he warned in a 2009 email to the New York Times, his mouthpiece to caution players looking for an "experience." “It’s tough man, I’ll tell you that. It can break you.”
Other perks: a team-sponsored apartment and … personal safety?!
If the Turkish idea of sweetening the deal is assigning someone to keep me from getting shot, pick-pocketed or kidnapped for human trafficking, I'll take my coffee black. (And American.)
And if I'm Williams, I'm taking a good, long minute to mull over any deal. Nothing's set yet, not until Besiktas sends some suits to iron out particulars, expected within the next week.
Nothing should be. Not without a helluva good reason.
Insofar as we know, Williams hasn't yet.