Turkish clubs bid farewell to NBA stars
ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Departure of Deron Williams, who has avaraged 21.3 points and 6.5 assists for Beşiktaş Milangaz, will be a huge blow to the Istanbul club while other names will also head back to the US. AP photo
Turkish basketball clubs are looking to restructure their squads following the announcement of an end to the NBA lockout that will deprive them of some of their best players.
NBA owners and players reached a tentative deal Nov. 26 to end a lockout that had thrown the whole basketball season into jeopardy and are planning to begin a shortened schedule on Dec. 25.
Players and fans all around the world reacted with excitement to the news but Turkish clubs, which hoped to have the NBA stars until the end of the season, were bitter.
The hardest-hit Beko Basketball League club will be Beşiktaş Milangaz, which will lose star point guards Deron Williams, Turkish center Semih Erden and forward Lamar Odom, who was expected to join the squad next week.
Other NBA players to head back to the United States include Zaza Pachulia of Galatasaray Medical Park, Fenerbahçe Ülker’s Thabo Sefolosha and Mehmet Okur of Türk Telekom.
Efes Pilsen will keep Sasha Vujacic, whose contract ends at the end of the season, but Ersan İlyasova’s situation is not yet clear.
Williams bid farewell to Turkey through a message he posted on the Twitter. “Guess I’ll be going home soon,” he wrote. “My time in Istanbul with Beşiktaş was amazing, thanks for everything.”
Beşiktaş Milangaz coach Ergin Ataman admitted that the team would lose a lot with the departures. “Actually, we were expecting such a thing to happen no later than January,” Ataman told Doğan news agency. “Deron will be with us for another 10-15 days, and we will strengthen our squad with European players, but it is impossible to find a player like Deron in Europe.”
Williams averaged 21.8 points, 6.5 assists and 3 rebounds for Beşiktaş Milangaz but his biggest contributions could not be measured in statistics, Ataman said.
“European basketball had a thrill during the NBA lockout,” said Ataman. “A star player like Deron wore the Beşiktaş jersey; many children came to love basketball thanks to him. Now, everything will be back the way it used to be.”
Anadolu Efes General Manager Engin Özerhun told the agency that the club would do its best to keep İlyasova in the squad.
“We were not warm to the idea of signing NBA players during the lockout, but we had to bring in Ersan after Kerem Gönlüm’s long-time injury,” said Özerhun, adding that İlyasova was looking to dissolve his contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. “We will wait for the result of the talks. Of course, we would love to keep Ersan in our team. He will be a huge loss if he leaves, we do not have an available slot for a foreign player and there is no Turkish player [capable of] replacing Ersan.”
Galatasaray Medical Park coach Oktay Mahmuti said he believed his club did not need an immediate signing. “Zaza [Pachulia] joined us later in the season and we sent Sertaç [Şanlı] on loan to Tofaş after his arrival,” he said. “We will have Sertaç back from loan and he will fill in Zaza’s void.”
The end of the NBA lockout affects European basketball in two ways, according to Mahmuti. “It was important for NBA players to play for European clubs as a PR effort, the interest in the leagues had grown,” he said. “But it was not good for the consistency of the squads, everybody knew that. NBA players would sooner or later return to the U.S., creating uncertainty for the rest of the players.”
Türk Telekom coach Timuçin Meriç said Okur contributed a lot to the club during his short spell in Ankara. “It also helped Mehmet, who missed many games in the last two seasons due to injuries,” said Meriç. “He is in good form right now and will be heading back to the NBA ready to play.”