Veteran guard Jason Williams' request to be immediately reinstated to the NBA after his voluntary retirement before the season has been denied, ESPN.com has learned.
League bylaws state that players wishing to return from the voluntary retirement list need unanimous approval from all 30 teams to avoid a one-year mandatory waiting period. According to ballot results obtained Friday, Williams' request was denied by a vote of 24-6.
But Williams' agent, Dan Tobin, told ESPN.com that the 10-year veteran plans to return to the league next season after sitting out the required 365 days.
"We anticipated this decision," Tobin said. "So did Jason. But we look forward to seeing Jason back in the NBA in the 2009-10 season.
"One of the reasons we applied for reinstatement now was that we'd like to try to accelerate the process of him coming back. That will now be discussed between the league and the players' association."
The six teams that voted against letting Williams return this season, as revealed to all 30 teams via league memo, were Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Minnesota, San Antonio and the Clippers themselves, who would have regained exclusive rights to the 33-year-old had he been reinstated. One suggested motivation for teams blocking Williams' return is the assumption that he would have quickly parted ways with L.A. after reinstatement and signed with a playoff contender for this season's stretch run.
After signing a one-year deal with the Clippers in August, Williams abruptly changed his mind in September, informing the team that he was prepared to forfeit his contract and filed retirement papers with the league. Williams has yet to publicly discuss his reasons for declining to join the Clippers, but it's believed that he had second thoughts about moving his family to the West Coast after three happy seasons with Miami.
Williams' request to be reinstated has been described as unchartered territory because a player walking away from an active contract is so uncommon.
Unless the league relents and reinstates Williams on July 1 in conjunction with NBA free agency, as he now hopes, Williams would have to wait until late September before signing a contract for the 2009-10 season. The Clippers will still hold Williams' rights at point, but it's presumed that the parties would hash out a separation that would make him a free agent.
In 679 regular-season games, Williams averaged 11.4 points, 6.3 assists and 2.4 rebounds while playing for Sacramento, Memphis and Miami. He has appeared in 53 playoff games, averaging 9.8 points, 3.7 assists and 2.2 rebounds and helping the Heat win its first and only championship in 2006.
He was drafted by Sacramento in 1998 following his junior year at the University of Florida and was named to the 1999 NBA All-Rookie Team after averaging 12.8 points and 6.0 assists, quickly becoming one of the most popular players in the Kings' Sacramento history in tandem with Chris Webber.
Williams was dealt to Memphis in a trade featuring Mike Bibby before the 2001-02 season and over the next four seasons became the Grizzlies' career leader in assists and 3-point attempts. He joined the Heat before the 2005-06 season as part of a trade by team president Pat Riley which drew considerable criticism initially, before Williams and Antoine Walker helped Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Riley win a championship in the newcomers' first season in Miami.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.