With the unexpected announcement recently that two-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets is set to sign a contract to play with the Turkish team Besiktas if the NBA lockout causes the league to miss games next season,Utah Jazz Management can rest a bit easier and know that it has made a good decision.
Just before the trade deadline last season, the Utah Jazz surprised their team, their fans and the NBA when they made a move to trade Williams to the New Jersey Nets for Devin Harris and an unproven rookie in Derrick Favors. In return, the Jazz also got the third pick in this year’s draft that turned out to be Enes Kanter, who is from Turkey.
At the time, Jazz CEO Greg Miller explained the rationale behind to move as being a “gut feeling” the Jazz would not be able to sign Williams for the long term. He added:
If you look at what happened with Phoenix, Toronto, and Cleveland…they all lost their marquee player and had very little if anything to show for it. This trade allows us to be competitive now and beyond the 2012 season.
This explanation did very little to ease the pain of a fanbase that had just lost its best player.
The only silver lining was that Utah fans would have hope that in a few years the trade would turn out to be positive for the Jazz depending on the performances of the players they got in return.
With the NBA lockout only about a week old, Williams seems to have taken the first chance available to get out of New Jersey and possibly confirm Miller’s feelings.
While his $5 million contract with the Turkish team seems like a great move to make some money and still be able to return to the NBA if the lockout ends, it does come with a risk.
In case of injury, the New Jersey Nets may not honor the guaranteed approximately $34 million contract owed to Williams when the lockout is over.
And Williams is coming off a season where he missed multiple games due to a wrist injury.
Proponents of this move are hopeful that other NBA players will follow and it will put pressure on the owners to negotiate out of the lockout sooner. This may happen, but it will take several star players going overseas to accomplish this, and it will not be Williams alone that forces it.
While the league waits to see if this happens, the Utah Jazz have to be pleased they have no part of this. They would like nothing more than to lay low during the lockout and not become front-page news the way the Nets now have.
If Williams is willing to leave the league for a European team this soon into the lockout—and seems willing to spurn a big-market team with a very rich owner and the ability to bring in another All-Star free agent—how much of a chance is there he would have re-signed a contract in small-market Utah to be a part of a rebuilding team?
Perhaps this is something the Utah Jazz knew at the trade deadline. Maybe the “gut feeling” Miller had at that time was actually more than he shared with the rest of us.
After a great start to the season last year, and high hopes the Jazz would be contenders in the Western Conference, everything started going south for the team. The Jazz experienced just about everything negative a team can face.
They battled adversity in the form of injuries, unexplained losses and had to deal with the abrupt retirement of Hall of Fame head coach Jerry Sloan.
While it was never actually confirmed, rumor has it Williams was instrumental in pushing Sloan out. He endured criticism and accusations that he was to blame.
Like everyone, he seemed surprised and confused with the trade. It is not common a team trades its best player in this manner. The Jazz must have known more about the situation than they let on.
For New Jersey, the move seemed like a brilliant one—albeit maybe it was partly just a reaction. After courting Carmelo Anthony and seeing him go to the Knicks, the Nets maybe made a move just to make one.
Whatever the reason, they felt they got their point guard of the future that could help them to sign another marquee free agent.
With the news that he will play in Turkey, the Nets also got unwanted publicity and the headache of hoping Williams does not get hurt while playing against second-tier talent.
Perhaps they also caught a glimpse of what the Jazz saw in Utah that caused them concern with Williams.
Either way, the trade pieces the Jazz got in return for Williams just took a huge jump in value. This move by Williams shows he is interested in moving to the next bigger and better thing.
This is an attitude that would have led him out of Utah, and without the trade the Jazz would have nothing in return.
Instead of ending up like the teams Miller listed who lost their All-Star, the Jazz ended up with a good point guard and two young players whom they can teach to fit into their system. Most teams would be excited with having players who were the third overall pick in each of the last two NBA drafts.
With the news that Williams will play in Europe, now we see more of the value the Jazz received in that trade. It sounds even more like the Jazz knew Williams was not planning to stay in Utah.
Maybe they learned that going with Miller’s “gut feeling” is a good thing. He is, after all, the son of the man who turned the franchise into what it is today.
Chris Johstoneaux is the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake Examiner. If you liked this article, please take a moment to leave me a comment and subscribe at the top near my picture. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JazzRSLExaminer