Sonny Weems signs Lithuanian contract
NEW YORK -- Sonny Weems has joined Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania, signing a contract that will keep him in Europe all season rather than risk sitting out an entire year if the NBA lockout lasts.
Roger Montgomery, Weems' agent, said his client signed the deal Thursday without an NBA opt-out clause because he believes the league's uncertain labor situation makes it "in our best interest to unpack our bags and stay the entire year."
Weems played last season for Toronto and was a restricted free agent. The Raptors extended a qualifying offer, meaning they would maintain the right to match any offer by another team if he returned to the NBA.
Montgomery says Weems could play 70 games next season between the Lithuanian and Euroleague schedules, a good opportunity for a young player instead of losing the entire year if the NBA and players don't reach a deal. He didn't disclose the value of the contract.
Montgomery started looking for opportunities for his players at the urging of the union, which had been telling agents to be prepared for a long work stoppage. He quickly found a match in the Lithuanian champs, a team he described as needing "one little boost to get over that hump" and believes the swingman is that player.
"Sonny will be able to go in and make a true impact," Montgomery said, helping a team "really in the middle of the pack maybe go to the top of the pack."
Weems, who turned 25 Friday, is not the quality of Deron Williams, who Thursday was nearing a deal to join Besiktas of Turkey in September if the lockout remains. But Montgomery said Weems was the first from the NBA to agree to the deal without the option to return once the lockout ends.
That could be a while and Montgomery wasn't willing to wait.
"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.
Weems averaged 9.2 points in 59 games for the Raptors last season. Because he is not currently under NBA contract, he is free to make the jump without worry of FIBA approval.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press