The Oklahoma City Thunder has temporarily lost its second player to an overseas club.
Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha has agreed to play in Turkey. A Swiss television network first reported the deal Tuesday night. Sefolosha’s agent, Guy Zucker, confirmed the report to The Oklahoman.
Sefolosha will join the Turkish club Fenerbahce Ulker and is expected to sign as early as Wednesday. Because Sefolosha is under contract with the Thunder, his deal will contain an out clause with Fenerbahce that allows him to return to the NBA whenever the lockout is lifted.
Zucker said he had been in talks with Istanbul-based Fenerbahce for awhile, but Monday’s announcement that the NBA regular season’s first two weeks would be canceled made it an easy decision.
“These lockout talks are going nowhere and Thabo did not want to spend the whole season or most of the season sitting at home. He wanted to play,” Zucker said.
“It’s extremely difficult to predict if we’re going to get a quick solution or if it’s going to become a much more protracted battle with the owners regarding the new CBA. We wanted until the last moment and then that moment passed. Now they’re beginning to cancel games and this could last for quite sometime. So Thabo wanted to play and this was too good of an opportunity to pass up on.”
Fenerbahce, which competes in the Euroleague, has won back-to-back Turkish Cups and is considered one of the top organizations in Europe. The team’s new coach, Neven Spahija, is a respected coach who has won the Turkish title, Spanish title and Eurocup title with the Spanish club Valencia.
“He wasn’t going to play anywhere, but this opportunity was the best of both worlds,” Zucker said. “It allows him to play at the highest level of ball in the world right now while staying in shape and staying ready.”
Sefolosha, who resides in his native Switzerland in the off-season, joined several of his Thunder teammates for a voluntary mini-camp in Lexington, Ky. last week. Sefolosha has since returned to Switzerland.
Zucker said Sefolosha’s background and familiarity with the European style of play should help him adjust quickly.
“I don’t think that he will face the same adjustment that a lot of big name American players are,” Zucker said. “His adjustment period will be significantly shorter than it would be for someone who has never played in Europe before.”
Byron Mullens became the first Thunder player to circumvent the lockout by signing overseas. But the 7-foot center returned to the states after less than a month in Greece playing for Panionios. Mullens said he “felt out of the loop not being here with my team.”
Starting power forward Serge Ibaka, according to one report, is now interested in signing overseas and playing immediately. But Ibaka, who helped the Spanish national team win the gold medal at the European Championship last month and played a season in Spain before joining the Thunder, has experience competing overseas.
The growing interest in making the leap across the Atlantic, however, perhaps is a telling sign of where players think negotiations with league owners stand.
“The latest update about the lockout, let’s put it this way, it gave us no reason to pause,” Zucker said of Sefolosha’s decision. “In the past, there would have been a reason to pause. What’s been happening lately has shown us that this could pretty much go anywhere because I think we’ve hit the danger territory where anything is possible.”