If the NBA lockout is not ended by the scheduled start of the 2011-12 season, Hawks reserve center Zaza Pachulia could end up playing in Turkey in the short term.
Pachulia, who is under contract with the Hawks for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons for a total of about $10 million, said he has a “verbal agreement” to play next season for Turkish club Besiktas.
“They have interest, I have interest and we have talked about price,” Pachulia said. “It’s not official now.”
Besiktas also has an agreement with New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams.
Pachulia said the contract with Besiktas would immediately terminate when NBA owners and players agree on a new labor deal. The contract also would include some kind of insurance for Pachulia since his guaranteed contract with the Hawks would not be protected in case of an injury sustained while playing in another league.
FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, has yet to rule on whether NBA players under contract would be cleared to sign contracts with other leagues during the lockout. NBA commissioner David Stern said during the season the league would not attempt to block players from playing elsewhere.
“We are not going to do anything to affect our contract with the NBA,” Pachulia said. “That’s my life right now.”
Unlike most NBA players, Pachulia would not face culture shock playing in Europe. He is a native of bordering Georgia, speaks Turkish and holds a passport from the country.
“For me, it feels like going home,” he said. “I played there for six years [as a teenager]. I know a lot of the players, the manager, the coaches. I’m excited.”
Pachulia plans to play for Georgia in European Olympic qualifying this summer. FIBA is expected to announce a plan to insure NBA players who participate in international competitions.
It’s possible more NBA players could decide to play overseas during the lockout. Roger Mason Jr., a players union vice president, told Newsday that Knicks stars Amar’e Stodemire and Carmelo Anthony inquired about playing overseas (though Stoudemire’s agent later said Stoudemire isn’t thinking about making the move).
“I wish none of us [NBA players] would have to deal with these kind of things,” Pachulia said. “But the most important thing is I love the game.”
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