SALT LAKE CITY — Mehmet Okur is playing professional basketball again.
The Utah Jazz center signed a contract today to play for Turk Telekom Ankara and will begin participating with the team from his country immediately, Okur's agent Marc Fleisher told the Deseret News.
Okur's contract includes a provision that will allow him to leave the Turkish team to return to the Jazz when and if the NBA lockout ends this season.
Fleisher said Okur, who is under contract with Utah through the end of the 2011-12 season, has recovered from his back issue and the left Achilles tendon injury that limited his court time last year.
"He's healthy enough to play now," Fleisher said.
Okur will immediately begin practicing and playing with Turk Telekom Ankara. The center looks forward to returning to the Jazz, though, as soon as the lockout ends.
"The driving force behind this is him not having played for a while and wanting to get back on court and finding a rhythm," Fleisher said. "He wants to get ready sooner than later so he'll be in a better position to contribute immediately (in the NBA)."
It's possible Okur will face an old teammate in Turkey.
Former Jazz star point guard Deron Williams has signed with Besiktas — also in the Turkey Basketball League — and is scheduled to arrive in the country to begin training with his new squad this week.
Okur's 2010-11 season got off to a late start after he was required to get surgery on his Achilles tendon following an injury in the 2010 playoffs. His return last season was hampered by both his tendon injury and recurring back issues, ultimately forcing him to shut it down before the year ended after only playing in 13 games.
Hayward going pro in video games
SALT LAKE CITY — Count Gordon Hayward among the NBA players who will join a new league during the lockout.
But he's not headed overseas or to Las Vegas. He'll also be playing a different kind of game.
The 21-year-old Utah Jazz player has joined a professional video game league with IGN Entertainment. Hayward will compete with other eSports video athletes in a StarCraft II competition from Oct. 6-9 at Caesars Atlantic City in the IGN Pro League.
Hayward is excited to be among 256 players shooting for a share of a $100,000 prize pool in IPL 3: Origins.
"I've been playing video games for as long as I can remember," Hayward said in a news release. "I'm a competitive guy, and I love the competitive nature of video games."