Settlement reportedly worth $3 million

Updated: January 30, 2004, 2:14 AM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls are close to reaching a contract settlement with Jay Williams, recuperating from a motorcycle accident that has jeopardized his career.

Bill Duffy, Williams' agent, said Thursday he expected the buyout to be finalized within the next few days.

"We're looking at the 'T's getting crossed and the 'I's getting dotted," Duffy said. "We're obviously extremely grateful to [Bulls chairman] Jerry Reinsdorf. He has done something that he is not obligated to do, which basically is to give Jay quite a handsome settlement."

The buyout was first reported by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

Riding a motorcycle violates the standard NBA contract, and the Bulls could have terminated Williams' deal after the accident June 19. Instead, they put the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft on injured reserve and continued to pay him.

By buying Williams out -- the settlement is believed to be worth more than $3 million -- the Bulls gain a roster spot and added flexibility with the salary cap. It also gives Williams options, including the possibility of re-signing with the Bulls if he returns to the NBA.

"His desire would be to play with the Bulls," Duffy said. "But if that's not mutually acceptable, he has other options."

Williams is currently rehabbing at Duke, where he went to school. He would still like to have a role with the Bulls, though, and Duffy said Williams will talk with general manager John Paxson about possibly doing some charitable work.

Williams was riding his new motorcycle to dinner June 19 when the powerful street bike got away from him and slammed into a utility pole. He was thrown onto a grassy curb, face down from the waist up, his left leg tilting grotesquely upward.

He severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three of the four main ligaments in his left knee. He spent two weeks at a Chicago hospital before being transferred to Duke University Medical Center, where he continues to rehab.

"His spirits are great and he's doing extremely well," Duffy said. "In the last month or so, I've noticed a pep in his voice, a bounce in his step. He's getting better. I think he's over the arduous rehab. He's on his feet now, a lot more mobile."

But where Williams really wants to be is back on the basketball court. Though returning to the NBA seems to be a long shot with an injury that severe, Duffy said that remains Williams' goal.

"The biggest hurdle is going to be nerve regeneration," Duffy said. "That's a very slow process. He's going to do everything he possibly can to get back on the basketball court."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press