The HQ talks to Roger Montgomery, the agent for Sonny Weems, on his client's decision to play overseas instead of rolling the dice on an NBA season...
As the NBA's lock-out became more and more of a reality this off-season, we began to hear rumours about various players playing abroad.
But would any really take the plunge?
It's one thing for a superstar to mull the options of collecting a pay-cheque outside the NBA, but the reality is that for many players, especially young ones who are still trying to break through in the L, a trek to Europe has to be seen as a viable option if they want to continue their growth and development.
No, it's not the NBA, but playing in Europe offers the next highest level of competition and a great chance for role players in the league to perhaps get the jump on some of their peers this season.
Players like Sasha Vujacic, Timofey Mozgov, and Nenad Krstic, all players already familiar with overseas play, all made commitments to return to that side of the pond for next season for as long as the lock-out continued.
But it was the Toronto Raptors' own Sonny Weems who became the first NBA player to sign a contract with an overseas' club, without an option to return to the league once the work stoppage concludes. A few weeks ago Hoopsworld broke the new that Weems was close to signing a deal and sure enough, recently it was announced that he had signed a one-year deal with Zalgiris Kaunas of Lithuania.
The experience could be a major boost for the former Razorback, who struggled last year with back issues. It will also allow him to follow in the footsteps of another West Memphis High grad, all time Euro-league leading scorer, Marcus Brown.
As we continue our look this week at Toronto's own free agents, we thought we'd reach out to Sonny's agent, Roger Montgomery, to get further insight on Weems' decision:
1. RaptorsHQ: First off, can you talk to us a bit about the process you went through with Sonny in terms of deciding whether or not to play overseas next year? What are thoughts on the team's coaching change and did that factor into the decision?
Roger Montgomery: The process started in Earnest towards the end of the regular season.. I started to look at a few teams in Europe to gauge interest , and once I identified a few possible fits I did more due diligence and stayed in close contact with the NBPA about the lockout status.
The coaching change though didn't have much influence on our decision.. I liked Jay, and I love Casey. I'm not dissing Jay, I just personally know Casey! So either way was cool.
2. RHQ: Were there teams other than Zalgiris Kaunas that were interested in Sonny and if so, what were the key points that attracted you most to Zalgiris?
RM: Yes, there were other teams, but Zalgiris stood out. It's kinda hard to describe so I will just say that Zalgiris just fit. It was like I just knew that this was the best total package for Sonny!
3. RHQ: What sort of role does Zalgiris envision Sonny playing for them? Will he be starting?
RM: Sonny, will play a significant role for Zalgiris. They will expect him to play hard, play team ball, and help them win. Just like any other team. He won't be a savior! They are a good team, already in the middle of the pack, and Sonny should be able to help them get to the top of the pack!
4. Speaking with assistant coach Eric Hughes after the season, he noted that the back injury that Sonny battled with, really derailed what started out as a very good season. Did you think that was the case and how did you think Sonny's season went overall?
RM: E. Hughes was correct in that assessment. He was having a breakout year and the back injury certainly set him back...no pun Intended. Overall his season was average because the team didn't fare well, and he missed a good portion due to the aforementioned injury..
5. RHQ:ooking past this coming season, does Sonny want to stay in Toronto?
RM: I don't think it was hard because he isn't actually in Europe yet. But I'm sure it will be a challenge when he is there and he sees DeMar and Amir playing on TV etc. But he knows our goal, so it's worth the sacrifice. They will always be boys. DeMar had some knowledge of the potential of Sonny going to Europe, although I'm not sure if Amir knew.
I know it's hard for us not to do (focus on the future) but WE, Sonny and myself, have made a pledge to only focus on Zalgiris and this season. Europe will be an adjustment, and I want him totally focused on winning, getting better in the half court, being a lockdown defender, and his three-point shot. If, I mean WHEN, he does that, he will have his CHOICE of where to play in the future!
A big thanks to Roger for his take on the situation and hopefully we'll get a chance to check in with Sonny as his European adventure unfolds this coming season.