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Deron Williams to Turkey? Is this the first of a mass exodus from the NBA?

The news that New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams could be set to join Turkey’s Besiktas came as a bit of a shock. Here’s a player, one of the best point guards in the NBA, who is jumping shores and leaving the NBA because of the lockout. Is Deron an exception, or are we set to see more All-Stars depart for Europe in the next few months?

The reports are that Williams is set to sign a 1-year, $5 million deal with Besiktas, that has an opt-out clause in it, where Deron can go back to the NBA when the lockout ends, whenever that may be. Williams will join Allen Iverson in Turkey, and possibly Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia, according to reports.

The reason that Williams, and other NBA players, could depart for Europe is because of the lockout. The owners and the players union are locked into discussions and have failed to agree on anything so far.

To sum it up, the owners want the players to accept a 33% pay cut (at least) and want the salary cap to come down, with the prospect of a hard cap coming to the NBA, as they are fed up with losing money. The players meanwhile, want it to stay like it is, as they get around 67% of the total revenue, and don’t want to take a massive pay cut.

Until they agree, it means no games, no practice, no trades, no one gets paid and no contact is allowed to be made between players and staff. Because of this, several players have expressed a desire to play in Europe for the next year, or at least until the lockout ends. The likes of Nenad Kristic have already moved (Kristic left the Boston Celtics to join Russian side CSKA Moscow), and I can see the fringe players – the ones without the multi-million dollar guaranteed contracts and the sponsorship deals – being the ones to bite and move to Europe.

It’s hard to predict how many NBA players will leave and go to Europe, without knowing how long the lockout will last. If it’s a year and a full season is missed, players may play elsewhere, but the Euroleague is not set up financially to encorporate NBA superstars and their huge wages. Deron Williams for $5 million is one thing, but European teams can’t afford to pay huge sums of money it would take to get the Kobe’s, Lebron’s, Dirk’s and Wade’s to go over, unless they play for next to nothing for a few months.

What do you think – could several NBA players follow Deron Williams’ lead?

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“Fall from Grace” – Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest little men to ever play in the NBA, and a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But there is no doubt that the 11 time All Star and four time scoring champion’s decline has been meteoric.

Iverson’s decline began in his disastrous stint in Detroit with the Pistons, where he was criticised for refusing to come off the bench, and his arrival saw the team slide from Eastern Conference contenders to first-round whipping-boys, as Lebron James and Cleveland made short work of the Pistons. It wasn’t all Iverson’s fault, but it didn’t help his situation in free agency last summer, when no one wanted anything to do with the 34 year old guard.

Eventually Memphis stepped in, but we all know how pear-shaped that union went. Three games, constant moaning by Iverson about having to come off the bench and a leave of absence for personal issues, saw Iverson waived by Memphis.

In December, Iverson re-signed with the Sixers, and I believed he could help the team push for the playoffs. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, as the Sixers stink this season, and have currently lost five straight, after the loss to the Knicks last night. Iverson was released by the Sixers this month, only playing in 25 games for the team, after a series of personal issues and the extended absence from the team, that Iverson had to have to look after his ill daughter.

These personal issues have derailed Iverson’s career and look to threaten his post-basketball well being. ESPN reported last week that Iverson is suffering from gambling and alcohol issues, has been banned from numerous casinos in Detroit and Atlantic City, and will “either drink himself into oblivion or gamble his life away”.

Add to this the impending divorce from his wife and the situation with his daughter, it seems that Iverson’s mind is not on basketball at the moment. But what will happen in the summer? Iverson is a shadow of his former self, there is no doubt about that. But he can still put up points, averaging 13.9 points and 4.1 assists this season for the Sixers.

But the excessive baggage, the non-existent defense and the refusal to come off the bench will cost Iverson dear. No team wanted him before this latest debacle, so it is hard to see who will take a chance on him this summer. He was playing for peanuts in Philadelphia anyway this season ($650,000), so he is great value for money. But it is hard to see who will gamble on the All-Star guard, especially if he refuses to play a reserve role. I hate to say it, but I think Allen Iverson’s career in the NBA is over.

Breaking News: NBA All-Star reserves leaked

The All-Star reserves are not set to be announced until tonight, but Yahoo! sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski and Mark J. Spears have revealed who will be making the trip to Dallas for the ASG in February. According to them, the West and East reserves are:

East
Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
Derrick Rose (Bulls)
Paul Pierce (Celtics)
Chris Bosh (Raptors)
Gerald Wallace (Bobcats)
Joe Johnson (Hawks)
Al Horford (Hawks)

West
Deron Williams (Jazz)
Chris Paul (Hornets)
Pau Gasol (Lakers)
Kevin Durant (Thunder)
Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks)
Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)
Brandon Roy (Blazers)

If you remember when the ASG ballots where announced a few months ago, I made my predictions on who would make this year’s All-Star team. I didn’t bank on Allen Iverson securing a starting spot on the East, mainly because of the trouble Iverson had in Memphis and the fact that A.I isn’t exactly putting up All-Star numbers (14.2 ppg, 4.4 apg). A.I’s place as a starter has recieved intense criticsm from the media, but the All Star game is for the fans and if the fans want to see Iverson play then you can’t complain. Obviously no one could have forseen the circumstances in Washingon with Gilbert Arenas (who today was banned for the season along with Javaris Crittendon after both were indicted on felony charges). Shaq’s production in Cleveland (11.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) is what let him down, and Danny Granger’s affection towards the treatment table are what excluded them from places on the East’s roster.

So who are notable snubs from this year’s teams? Mo Williams, Danny Granger, Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Ray Allen and David West do not return after making last year’s team, although none of them actually deserved a place on this year’s roster. Gerald Wallace’s impressive form for the Bobcats guarantees him a place, as does Zach Randolph, who is working wonders in Memphis this year, averaging 21 points and over 11 boards a game. Z-Bo has always been a 20-10 guy, but has managed to actually help the Grizzlies instead of hindering them this season.

I thought Chauncey Billups should have had a place on the West. Averaging 19 points and 6 assists this season, he is deserving of a spot and is as, if not more, important than ‘Melo for the Nuggets. But Billups omission does give a well-deserved place to Deron Williams, who makes his first All- Star appearance in what has been a couple of years overdue.

David Lee is another player who should be in Dallas. Averaging 19 points and 11 rebounds, Lee is excelling for a woeful Knicks team and should have been picked over Al Horford as the reserve center. The Hawks are doing well, and Horford is one for the future, along with Nets’ center Brook Lopez, but Lee is deserving of a spot on the East team.

Breaking News: Allen Iverson is retiring

Originally, I was going to be writing a piece about the Atlanta Hawks, and how they were surprising everyone by sitting atop of the Eastern Conference. Then it happened. Allen Iverson has announced that he is retiring from the NBA after 13 seasons. I have mentioned A.I in a number of previous posts, and I am a big fan of the 6′ guard, all the way back to his days in Philadelphia. I just think it’s a shame it had to end this way, with Iverson essentially ostracised from the league, unable to find a club after walking out on Memphis over a week ago.
Iverson has released this statement today:
TO ALL OF MY FANS:
I would like to announce my plans to retire from the National Basketball Association. I always thought that when I left the game, it would be because I couldn’t help my team the way that I was accustomed to. However, that is not the case.
I still have tremendous love for the game, the desire to play, and a whole lot left in my tank. I feel strongly that I can still compete at the highest level.
Stepping away from the game will allow me to spend quality time with my wife and kids. This is a reward that far exceeds anything that I’ve ever achieved on the basketball court. I have prayed for this day and I see it as my greatest gift.
I want to thank the people of Reebok International Ltd., for always allowing me to be me and for supporting me my whole career through all the ups and downs. I have enjoyed 13 wonderful seasons in the NBA, and I am grateful.
I want to first acknowledge my fans everywhere, who have been with me throughout my entire career. Without you, there would be no me. You should all know that I appreciate your support from the bottom of my heart. Thank you!
To Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley and Larry Bird, you guys gave me the vision to play the game that will be forever in my heart.
To my Mom, who encouraged and inspired me to play every day, and to all of my family and friends who stood by me from the beginning. Thank you!
To my high school coach, Michael Bailey, Coach John Thompson at Georgetown University, Coach Larry Brown and to all of my other coaches, teammates, administrators, owners and staff who’ve been a part of my career, Thank you as well!
I’d like to give a special thanks to the people of Memphis. I never played a home game for your beloved Grizzlies, but I want you to know how much I appreciate the opportunity given me by a great owner in Michael Heisley, and the support of the city. I wish the Memphis Grizzlies’ organization all of the success that the game has to offer.
And finally, to the city of Philadelphia: I have wonderful memories of my days in a Sixers’ uniform. To Philly fans, thank you. Your voice will always be music to my ears.
God Bless all of you,
ALLEN IVERSON
After clearing waivers with Memphis last week, Iverson was rumoured to be signing with the New York Knicks. However, even with a dismal showing so far this season, the Knicks were reluctant to sign A.I, even at the veteran’s minumum. Since his disastrous spell in Detroit last season, irreprebable damage has been done to Iverson’s reputation: which was underlined by a lack of interest in Iverson this summer. And then add the mess that was Iverson’s short-lived stint in Memphis: 3 games, 3 losses, constant moaning about coming off the bench, and then Iverson leaving the team for “personal reasons” and never returning.
That’s the reason why teams don’t want A.I. His attitude. It’s not about his talent, he still has what it takes to make a difference for a team. It’s a complete unwillingness to come off the bench. That is why contending teams like the Lakers, Cavs and the Magic want nothing to do with the former MVP and four-time scoring champ – who could play a part coming off the bench and win a ring. Even teams like the Nets and the Knicks, who could undoubtedly use some of Iverson’s scoring talent, would not take the risk after the Memphis debacle. Even Philadelphia, where Iverson had the best years of his career and a team that has no point guard and is struggling for results, don’t want him back.
Whatever you may think of Iverson, this is a sad end to a glittering career. A sure-fire Hall of Famer and perhaps the best little man in the league, arguably the toughest and best pound-for pound player ever deserves better. Maybe he will do a Michael Jordan and return this or next season, and accept a smaller role on a contending team so that he can end his career the right way. Whatever happens, this is a sad day for basketball…
UPDATE: Allen Iverson is returning to Philadelphia. A.I has signed a one year, non-guaranteed deal with the 76ers for the veteran’s minimum. The Sixers have signed their former franchise player as cover for the injured Lou Williams, who is out for up to 8 weeks with a broken jaw.