All-Star point guard Deron Williams was one of the first players to sign a contract in Europe to make money during the lockout. Not only that, but he made the decision way back in July, which suggests he's some sort of lockout Tiresias. Or, you know, a guy who read the news.
Williams has been in Turkey playing for Besiktas for some time now. Not surprisingly, he is finding the experience to be very different from that of the NBA. He's blogging about the experience for ESPN.com. Here's a taste (via TBJ):
This is my first year playing international ball, so I'm still just trying to figure everything out with regard to my role. Obviously I've played in the Olympics with the same style of play, but that was still different because all of my teammates were American. They've actually been playing me at the two guard a lot here. Whatever I can do to help the team, I'm willing. I don't have any personal goals or stats I'm looking for over here; I just want to stay in shape, play basketball and have fun. As a team, we just want to win as many games as possible, win the Turkish League and now the Euro Challenge. I don't know how many of those games I'll have a chance to be a part of, but for every game I am here for, those are my goals.
I know that this situation is different for me than it is for everyone else here. When I leave to go back to the NBA, they're all still going to be here. So I'm not trying to come in here and prove anything. It's more about just trying to be part of a team over here, win some games and make my teammates better.
The locker room atmosphere has the same feel as the NBA. All of the guys get along and joke with each other. Pretty much every guy on the team speaks English. There are only one or two guys who don't speak great English, but even they know enough to get by. I'd say English is the "official" language on the team actually. Our coach Ergin Ataman speaks English most of the time, except for when he's yelling at one of the Turkish players. Then he tends to go into Turkish mode. I'm not really sure what he's saying, but if he's not yelling at me I guess it doesn't matter.
Apparently European Basketball is a place where one of the two or three best point guards in the NBA has to play off the ball. If that doesn't prove that there's an adjustment to be made, then I don't know what does.
In all honesty, Williams appears to be approaching his Turkish working vacation in exactly the right way. He knows he's returning to America when the lockout ends, so he's taking pains to play the role of guest and not disrupting any of Besiktas's permanent arrangements. He's trying to help the team win games, but he also knows his employment is largely a business arrangement. Why force his will onto the team when he won't wear the uniform for more than a season (at most)?
With the lockout dragging on, it's likely that more players will head overseas. If that's the case, they should follow Williams' example and respect the basketball culture they're encountering. Turkish basketball isn't going to change forever just because Deron Williams is in the country. Realizing as much is a sign of intelligence and worldliness.
- Deron Williams