With this coming NBA season still a question mark, several low-tier free agents are exploring options beyond the NBA. For most of them, that means playing Europe. While most of these foreign teams don't have the cash to sign a high-end player for one year, they can give contracts to some of the league's lesser-known players.
One of those guys is Sonny Weems, a journeyman swingman for three seasons with the Nuggets and Raptors. Now, he's heading for scenic Lithuania. From Dave Feschuk of the Toronto Star:
There's a strong possibility that Weems, one of a handful of U.S.-based pro hoopsters conjuring profitable career choices in the midst of an NBA lockout, will spend the coming season playing in Europe. Sources say Weems is expected to sign a one-year deal to play with Lithuania's BC Zalgiris in the coming days.
While Weems will have to make do without NBA-style luxuries such charter air travel and five-star hotels — European teams mostly fly commercial and sleep in the four-star accommodations provided by the host team — the signing will have its perks. He will receive the Euro-standard benefit of the use of a gratis apartment and automobile. And though the team and Weems are still putting the finishing touches on the deal, sources say it's expected Weems will be paid an after-tax net salary approaching 1 million euros, or about $1.4 million (U.S.). That's a relatively rich deal for a player who earned a pre-tax salary of about $854,389 (U.S.) in Toronto this past season.
I, for one, will miss Weems, although not necessarily for anything he's done on the court. Instead, he has occupied one of the more bizarre roles of any player in recent memory: that of a designated passing teammate at the dunk contest. In his first two years, Weems played the part twice, first for J.R. Smith in 2009 and then for DeMar DeRozan in 2010. And while DeRozan may have passed up Weems for Amir Johnson this season, it stands to reason that he's one of the coolest people in the league. Because there is literally no other reason that should be passing to people in a dunk contest.
At its best, the NBA is more than a set of good players and bad players -- it's a league of characters, some of whom are well-known for their on-court prowess and others who bring other things to the table. Weems has the potential to be a solid wing defender off the bench, but, for now, he's in the latter group. By all accounts, he's likely to return to the league at some point. Even so, given his odd spot in recent league history, I'll be sad to see him go.