Kobe, Bologna working 'intensely' on deal
Kobe Bryant's representatives and Virtus Bologna are ''working very intensely'' to bring the Los Angeles Lakers' star to Italy during the NBA lockout.
Bologna President Claudio Sabatini had told The Associated Press on Friday he had reached a tentative deal with agent Rob Pelinka for a 10-game contract worth more than $3 million.
The Italian team and Bryant's management said in a joint statement Monday they are ''working very intensely to try and create this important deal. Reaching such a complex deal requires both sides' maximum attention for every little detail.''
''Everyone wants a positive outcome to the deal, the goal of which is Kobe Bryant's presence in Italy, economic interests for the 17 clubs in Serie A and more attention for all of Italian basketball,'' the statement added.
The deal, however, hinges on other clubs changing their schedules to ensure Bologna has five home games during Bryant's 10-game contract. Bologna also wants its opening five away games played in Italy's biggest arenas, and wants to avoid an early-season bye.
Smaller clubs Cremona and Varese have been reluctant to alter their schedules, although the Italian league said Saturday it was intervening to help spur an agreement.
''I hope that very shortly we'll have a deal,'' Sabatini told the ANSA news agency. ''I want to thank Kobe, who demonstrated again overnight that he wants to return to Italy.''
Bologna would need to have the deal signed by the end of this week to register Bryant before its opening game with Roma on Sunday.
''But even if he's available for the second game, that's not a problem for us,'' Sabatini said. ''We're very confident, but we're waiting for news tonight.''
With Venezia recently added as a 17th team, the Italian league released its full schedule Monday. Although it could be changed again if Bryant signs with Bologna.
After hosting Roma, Bologna visits Avellino the following weekend, then plays at Olimpia Milano, which recently signed Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari.
In the following seven rounds, Bologna has home games with Cremona, Varese and Sassari; away games with Teramo, Montegranaro - which is in talks with Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani - and Biella; and a bye in the eighth week.
Bryant lived in Italy between ages 6 and 13 while his father played in the country. He still speaks fluent Italian and has said it would be a ''dream'' to play in the country.
In New York on Saturday, NBA owners and players failed to reach a new labor deal after about seven hours of talks focused mostly on the league's salary cap structure. The sides were meeting again Monday, though time is getting short to save the scheduled start of the regular season on Nov. 1.