A few days after the news first broke on Twitter, Sonny Weems has signed his deal with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania. The deal will keep him there for the duration of the season, regardless of what’s going on with the NBA. Yup, even if there is a season, he’ll be balling in Lithuania. While the news of Deron Williams going to Turkey dominated the NBA headlines yesterday, Weems was the first NBA player to agree to a deal without the option to opt out and return to North America if the lockout ends in time for a season.
To be honest, I’m sad about this news. Happy for Weems, but sad because it shows how real this lockout business is. Players are recognizing just how far apart the two sides are and they’re also aware that there might not be a season next year. We’ve known this for awhile, but with players making the decision to go overseas, it really makes it hit home.
While the financial terms of the deal were not revealed, this is a great choice for a restricted free agent like Weems. He’ll play basketball, make money and stay in shape. Unlike a lottery pick who is more equipped to lose out on a year’s salary (not that anyone wants to give up money, of course), Weems made $854,389, the minimum for a player who has been in the league for two seasons. To lose a full year’s salary wasn’t a viable option for Weems, so he made the leap, took a chance and ensured he’ll be making money to hoop next season.
With the news of Weems and Williams going overseas, expect more players to do the same. With a limit on how many American players each team can have on their rosters, Weems was smart to make the move now. Still, it’s got to be deflating to know you won’t be playing in the league you have worked so hard to make it to if the lockout is resolved in time for there to be a 2011-2012 NBA season.
I was unsuccessful at tracking down Weems for some quotes from the source himself, but this could be because he turned 25 on Friday and is sure to be spending his weekend celebrating rather than fielding calls from media, however his agent, Roger Montgomery spoke with the associated press earlier this afternoon saying,“Sonny will be able to go in and make a true impact…There’s no way I’m going sit by idly and wait for David Stern to decide if he wants to be fair,” Montgomery said.
In the meantime, this means that DeMar DeRozan will be without his best friend for the first time in his professional career, unless he elects to join Weems in Lithuania. Unlikely, but at this point, who knows where these guys will end up. I did send a couple of texts after I saw Weems tweet that he and DeRozan would be “teammates for life” but was told that there wasn’t anything to take from that tweet, at least at this point in time.
We’ll be monitoring the overseas news all summer as Twitter will have us looking for deeper meanings in 140-character messages daily. Who else is psyched?! Yeah, me neither.
Whether we get a season or not, best wishes to Weems who proved he is an NBA player during his tenure as a Raptor. Equal parts intriguing and infuriating on the floor (so athletic, but such a misguided shot selection at times), Weems was once thought to be as big of a piece of the Raptors’ future as DeRozan. Remember those days? Regardless of whether Weems is ever in a Raptors jersey again, his stop in Toronto will remain as the most important in his professional career thus far.