From a basketball standpoint, the signing of Deron Williams is the biggest acquisition for a European team ever. This is the same team that nabbed Allen Iverson last season when no one wanted him, but Williams serves to be more than just a big name. He will make a difference in this team’s play, and if (God forbid) the entire NBA season is cancelled, he will play the entire season for Beşiktaş.
This has the possibility to change the entire landscape of the lockout, as previously, the owners never believed that European teams would have the means to sign quality players. The players have been threatening, but it’s a whole different animal to pack up your family and move to a new continent.
Now, however, the Player’s Association has a key weapon to use, and if Beşiktaş can find the money to shell out for Kobe Bryant, they’ve taken the league’s main draw, and that’s a crushing blow. I’ve never been one to compare Kobe and Michael Jordan, but he is basketball’s most successful player since Jordan. Imagine how the ’98 lockout would have ended if Jordan had gone overseas instead of retiring. Things would’ve been completely different.
Now, I don’t see Kobe leaving the USA anytime in the near future. Williams’ salary is less than half of the league’s average, much less than what he could earn in the States, and if Kobe retired right now, he’d be set for life. As in, Magic Johnson set for life. While he’s going to lose some money by staying, he can utilize the time off to let his weary bones rest.
And a 6th ring doesn’t count if it’s a Euroleague ring.
The players won’t want to make minuscule salaries (when European teams have a nasty habit of not paying), so any player of note who opts to go to Europe is only there temporarily. But during their time there they will risk injury and will be running up their basketball odometer, and that is what frightens owners. If a player is injured overseas, their NBA team could nullify the rest of their contract; this is still a highly undesirable outcome for the team.
It is a substantial threat, though, that players won’t be as hurt by financial constraints as once thought.