New Jersey Nets' Deron Williams (C) drib

Deron Williams will play in Turkey if lockout lingers

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UPDATE 10:58 AM: Maybe we were wrong. Apparently Nets star Deron Williams does plan to play in Turkey if the lockout lingers, Marc Stein of ESPN tweeteed:

Sources w/knowledge of Deron Williams’ plans confirm his intent to play for Besiktas in Turkey if lockout continues

Multiple sources now confirm the story. The key part here is “if lockout continues.” As we said in the main article, Williams is under contract to the New Jersey Nets, so the only way he could sign and play for Besiktas is if FIBA gives him a letter of clearance. FIBA has not officially said what they would do about this, hinting that if the season were lost they might grant them. But now it appears they may grant the letter if the contract has an out clause to return to the NBA once the lockout ends.

If FIBA tries to block Williams or any other player from going overseas, the NBA players union is expected to file a lawsuit to clear the way for the move. Obviously, this would be good leverage for the union in negotiations.

If Williams were injured playing in Europe, it could void his NBA deal, the team would not have to pay him. He has two years, $34 million left on his deal with the Nets (although he can opt out after next season and is expected to).

We should make it clear Beşiktaş is not one of the powerhouse, big money teams in Europe. In fact, Beşiktaş players went on strike at one point last season because players were not getting paid (except for Allen Iverson). This is not a team playing in the prestigious EuroLeague (where the best club teams from various nations face off). In fact, a top flight EuroLeague team would likely not take any player in without a full season commitment, end of the lockout or no.

But this appears to be a very real deal.

10:10 am: The latest “NBA player to Europe” report out there is one we simply do not believe. But it is out there.

A Turkish news outlet is reporting that Deron Williams is very close to an agreement to play for Beşiktaş Cola Turka — the same team that hired Allen Iverson last year. The report is he would join the club at the start of their season and will have an out clause to return to the NBA when the lockout ends, according to the report (which we saw thanks to the wonderful Ball in Europe blog). The report also says Zaza Pachulia would join the team.

Another Turkish journalist has the Besiktas coach saying they have talked to Williams.

I wouldn’t be shocked if Beşiktaş made that offer. I would be shocked if Williams signed it.

There remains the pesky little problem of Williams being under contract to the New Jersey Nets. For Williams to play overseas while under contract, FIBA would need to grant him a Letter of Clearance. That body has hinted that if the entire NBA season were cancelled it might grant such a letter to players (under the theory that their contracts are not valid if they are not being paid). But the league would not cancel the season until next January at best.

Also, Williams is potentially a free agent on the cusp of his biggest payday next summer (from the Nets or another team). You think he’ll risk that playing in Europe during the lockout? He’s also rehabbing from wrist injuries that hampered him at the end of last season, again is he likely to risk re-injury to play in Istanbul?

I don’t buy it. But in the interest of news we’re passing it along.

Sixers to retire Moses Malone’s number next season

Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone

Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.

There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?

LeBron James with two-handed halfcourt bounce pass for assist (VIDEO)

LeBron James
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Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:

Kobe gets great introduction, loud ovation in Philadelphia

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Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game —  but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.

In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.

Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.

That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.

Rumor: Nets testing trade waters for Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic, Otto Porter Jr.
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If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.

First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.

Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.

Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.

Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.