Bryant ponders barnstorming in China

An extended NBA lockout could bring China’s basketball fans a barnstorming tour featuring one of the game’s brightest stars, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing various reports.

While NBA team owners and the players’ union battle over how to split the league’s roughly $4 billion worth of revenue, Kobe Bryant was said to be considering an exhibition tour in China, where his jersey has long been the number one seller.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Lakers megastar and his agent, Rob Pelinka, were trying to put together the tour with a number of players.

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie forward Derrick Williams, who is also represented by Pelinka and was drafted second out of the University of Arizona last month in the NBA draft, said he would like to join such a tour.

An exhibition league in China for US pros is not a unique idea. SportsBusiness Journal reported that Wasserman Media Group, which also represents a number of NBA players, including last season’s Most Valuable Player, Derrick Rose, in April began pitching an exhibition tournament in China in case of an extended lockout.

All the reports were careful to state that such plans are still at a very preliminary stage. It seemed clear that most parties want to hammer out an agreement and get on with the next NBA season on time.

But with such an acrimonious split and grim prospects for a quick resolution, a number of players were examining other options if NBA arenas remained dark. Bryant’s Laker teammate Pau Gasol said he would prefer to return to his native Spain to play ball if the season is canceled but said China was a possible alternative.

The New York Daily News was feeding the rumor mill too, saying that New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire would consider joining Bryant’s Chinese tour if he could not play in the NBA, citing a person close to the All-Star.

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