Deron Williams has reportedly signed a deal to spend the NBA lockout playing for Besiktas, a second-round Turkish club. Many consider this a volley aimed at the NBA owners, who have told players that they cannot play basketball in fulfillment of their NBA contracts because, damn, they make too much money. But the NBA owners cannot exactly tell players that during the lockout they cannot play basketball for money anywhere, because that would be some flavor of illegal. Because there are good basketball leagues outside of the NBA, what Williams has done is feasible for a number of players.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith thinks that this makes Deron Williams a scab and someone hurting his union.
From Smith's column:
"It's not good," one player told me on Thursday, demanding anonymity before saying a word. "Williams' move makes sense if you're about getting that cash. Nobody can blame him for that. But when you're talking about these negotiations, it's suppose to be about unity."
Exactly. A union -- any union -- is supposed to personify that. They're supposed to exude togetherness as opposed to coming across as a filthy-rich scab looking to do nothing else aside from bloating his bank account.
Is Williams coming across as a filthy-rich scab? Let's break this down:
1. Is Williams filthy-rich? Yes! He is so rich that you could say he is filthy with wealth.
2. Is Williams a scab? Well, a scab is someone who crosses picket lines, picket lines being the physical or sometimes figurative representation of a labor strike, in which workers halt their work to protest conditions, treatment or unfair actions by the employers. NBA players have not commenced a labor strike. This is a lockout. Owners have told the players that they cannot do their jobs as they are contracted to do on account of making too much money. The owners are saying, "We cannot afford to pay you these outrageous wages we had agreed to pay you for services rendered on the basketball court! Stop working, because we can't and shan't pay you and actually, we're not even going to talk to you because we're super steamed about losing all of this money, you guys." There is no picket line to cross, which means that by default Williams cannot really be a scab. Further, Williams is not playing for his employer. He is playing for a different employer, which is notable, because his talents are very highly sought after. Williams' action is more a middle finger to NBA owners than it is a crossing of picket lines that do not exist.
That Williams signed with Besiktas bolsters the union's unity. Williams is showing the owners that all those chortlesabout NBA players being unable to survive without Uncle Mikhail's allowance are in serious danger of looking really, really stupid. Everyone jokes about how NBA players can't afford to negotiate too hard a line because they need those paychecks coming in. So a star says To hell with the NBA and picks up a substitute paycheck in case this thing stretches ... and he's a scab? Give me a damn break.
Earlier in Smith's column:
A show of hands to those who believe this will actually help negotiations in the coming weeks?
From ESPN's Henry Abbott on TrueHoop, which exists on the same website as does Smith's column and was published about 14 hours earlier:
Now there's real pressure on Mikhail Prokhorov, and implied pressure on every owner with valued stars, to get the NBA season started on time. There's nothing like watching the future of your franchise take the floor night in and night out in a chippy overseas league. If Williams gets injured in Turkey, it's bad for Williams, but it's dreadful for the Nets, who are hoping to use Williams to lure fans to a new arena in Brooklyn a year from now, not to mention a big free agent like Dwight Howard. Without Williams, the Nets' roster is pretty sad, and Prokhorov's investment in basketball endures a major setback.
It seems like someone's hand went up, Stephen.