No one knows for sure when the next NBA season will begin, but Wizards forward Trevor Booker has already ensured that he will be playing professional basketball this fall. Booker signed a one-year deal on Thursday with Israeli Basketball League team Bnei HaSharon that has an opt-out clause that will allow him to return to the Wizards whenever the lockout ends.
Booker is the first member of the Wizards to sign with a team overseas since the lockout began on July 1. Booker’s agent, Andy Miller, said that Booker had been “getting an earful for about 40 days” about the possibility of playing overseas until the right deal came along with the team that plays in the top division of Israeli basketball. Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld’s son, Dan, played for Bnei HaSharon last season.
Booker has traveled overseas to Turkey and Serbia and said he was “definitely open.” After speaking with his parents, Booker decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“I’m real excited,” Booker said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I get to play against some competition again. I think it will be a neat experience, so I’m definitely excited.”
Booker averaged 5.3 points and 3.9 rebounds as a rookie with the Wizards, but his season was cut short in March when he broke a bone in his right foot while playing in Denver. He didn’t want to risk missing more time from basketball with the lockout expected to be protracted as player’s union head Billy Hunter said on Wednesday that he wasn’t optimistic that there would be a 2011-12 season.
“We thought this was a way to kill two birds with one stone,” Miller said. “We felt that it was important for him, having had the last fifth of the season taken away from him and subsequently the first month or so of the summer taken away from him as well, because he was in a cast, it’s important for us to get him playing, to get him more opportunities and more visibility. He hasn’t had that.”
Booker plans to leave for Israel next month and his business manager, Oliver Hill plans to tag along and assist Booker with getting acclimated to the new country. Miller said he doesn’t expect Booker to have any problems in Israel. “I think the transition will be very seamless for him. He’s a very mature kid.”
Booker’s foot is fully healed and he had been rehabilitating with members of the Wizards training staff before the lockout prohibited him from speaking with representatives of the organization. “It’s hard rehabbing without my main guys at with the Wizards, but I’m down here at Clemson, working out, taking care of my body,” said Booker. “Probably been about three months since the end of the season. I didn’t do anything on the court. So I get some good competition. So I feel pretty good.”
Fellow second-year player Kevin Seraphin has already expressed a desire to continue his career in France if the labor dispute continues. Seraphin’s agent, Bouna Ndiaye, has stated that he would likely return to his first pro team, Cholet Basket. Booker said Seraphin is the only teammate that he has spoken with about playing abroad.
“I’m not sure what they’re thinking,” Booker said, when asked if thought more of his teammates would follow him abroad. “It’ll be nice. But everybody has their own thoughts about this.”
Miller also represents Wizards forward Andray Blatche and said he is exploring possibilities for him as well. “We’re definitely having dialogue. We’ve certainly put his name in the mix and we certainly wouldn’t hesitate to act on it if it were something Andray were interested in.”