BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Deron Williams will be missed by Besiktas Milangaz fans after making a real impact at the Istanbul club|
Deron Williams spent only three months at Besiktas Milangaz, but what a three months they were!
With the American guard set to return to the New Jersey Nets following Saturday morning's announcement that the NBA lockout is close to ending, Turkish basketball fans have been reflecting on Williams' time with Besiktas in the EuroChallenge, and the BEKO Basketbol Ligi.
"One of the best basketball players in the world..." a fan wrote on Williams' facebook page.
"Great talent coupled with great character... We witnessed you put everything you've got to the game, in the limited time you've been here. Although being a Fenerbahce fan, I for one was privileged to see you play in Turkey..."
Another said: "All good things must come to an end..good luck in nba, Beşiktas fans will never forget you, thanks for everything."
The lockout began on July 1.
Williams didn't hesitate to sign for Besiktas.
He and his family lived in Istanbul, aka the city where east meets west, learned some basic Turkish and experienced European basketball.
When Williams looks back on his time in Turkey, he'll remember lows, including the team's upset at the hands of Dexia Mons-Hainaut in Eurocup Qualifying, but also highs.
The 27-year-old led Besiktas to six wins in seven BEKO Basketbol Ligi games, and three straight successes in the EuroChallenge.
The display that everyone is going to remember most came just six days ago in Istanbul against BG Göttingen when Williams made seven of 10 shots from long range and scored 50 points in a 105-94 Besiktas triumph.
In the game that turned out to be his swan song for the team, Friday night's 92-80 win at Aliaga Petkim, Williams had 15 points, four assists and five rebounds.
On Monday morning, Williams tweeted: "My last game for Besiktas was last Friday... I will be at the game (v ZZ Leiden) tomorrow but just to watch and support the guys! It was a fun 3 months."
Besiktas, who had been on the verge of bringing in Los Angeles Lakers big man Lamar Odom, have also had Cleveland Cavaliers center Semih Erden of Turkey.
The national team big man was lost for up to three months with a broken thumb suffered in last week's EuroChallenge game.
Other European clubs are going to say good-bye to NBA players.
Goran Dragic of Slovenia and the Houston Rockets had only just joined Caja Laboral in Spain but will soon go, and France's Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards) is also set to depart the Vitoria team.
Switzerland's Thabo Sefolosha will return to Oklahoma City from Fenerbahce.
Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets) has been playing with Olimpia Milano in the Lega A and Turkish Airlines Euroleague, and Spain national team duo Rudy Fernandez (Dallas Mavericks) and Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City) have been competing with Real Madrid in the Liga Endesa and Euroleague.
Tony Parker (San Antonio), the France point guard and member of the all-tournament team at EuroBasket 2011,
|The hype around Tony Parker playing for his club ASVEL, was immense and certainly promoted basketball in France|
has been playing for ASVEL - the club he owns shares in.
Parker, a vice president of ASVEL, said: "I want to thank France, ASVEL, my family and my fans for the eight games I played here.
"We (the NBA players) tried to develop basketball in France.
"It's time for my teammates to play without Ronny (Turiaf) and me.
"Everybody has to step up and take responsibility."
Nicolas Batum, another member of the France national team, is one of the most promising players in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Twice with SLUC Nancy in France, he earned Player of the Week honors in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague.
Other players, like CSKA Moscow's Andrei Kirilenko, were free agents in the NBA and unable to negotiate with teams during the lockout.
Kirilenko has been playing with CSKA and had a dramatic impact on the team.
He is the highest ranked player in the Euroleague.
Kirilenko does have the option in his contract with CSKA, however, to sign for a team in America and return to the NBA.
Because his performances have been so good, Kirilenko is likely to have some attractive offers from NBA teams.
Nine days ago, he got hurt in a Russian PBL game for CSKA and has been out of action since but should be returning to the court soon.