NBA AM: Is Kobe To Turkey Imminent?
With the lockout nearing the one month mark, a report published by Reuters indicates that the NBA could be losing arguably its most recognizable star to international competition.
Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant is reportedly set to meet with Turkish basketball club Besiktas this weekend while the superstar guard is in the nation’s capital attending the World Football Challenge featuring Manchester United and F.C. Barcelona.
Seref Yalcin, head of basketball operations for Besiktas, reportedly believes swaying Bryant overseas is much closer to reality and far away from a pipe dream.
“At the moment there’s a 50 percent chance that Kobe may come to Turkey,” Yalcin said earlier this week according to the report. “Everything will be clearer after the meeting on the 30th [of July].”
Earlier this month Besiktas shocked many in the basketball community by securing All-Star guard Deron Williams’ commitment to play with the team this fall.
Williams, currently under contract with the New Jersey Nets, is entering what could be the final year of his current deal (player option for 2013). His package with Besiktas is reportedly worth $5 million overall.
The question is can Besiktas afford to lure Bryant away financially.
Bryant’s asking price will undoubtedly be much higher than what Williams commanded and there are numerous reports implying the club might not have the necessary operating revenues to handle the $1 million per month salary Bryant’s camp is allegedly seeking.
Turkey’s NTV Spor reported recently that Besiktas’ basketball revenues have been tied up due to the match fixing scandals that have been dominating Turkish soccer.
But Besiktas has remained adamant that finances are still in good order.
“Money will not be a problem,” Yalcin said, according to Reuters.
While the idea of Bryant leaving the NBA to play overseas as his career winds down seems highly unlikely, there is one thing working in Besiktas’ favor.
Bryant serves as a pitchman for Turkish Airlines, whom Yalcin also mentioned was a potential sponsor for any lucrative contract offer extended to the 15 year NBA veteran.
There also have been at the very least some preliminary discussions between both sides.
“We know that Besiktas is very much interested [in Bryant] and they’ve been in touch with our company as well, but we haven’t started any kind of negotiations or anything like that yet,” Fatma Yuceler, a spokeswoman for Turkish Airlines, told ESPNLosAngeles.com earlier this week.
Besiktas has been busy this summer attempting to lure NBA talent.
Outside of locking in Williams, the club was also close to signing Atlanta Hawks reserve center Zaza Pachulia before contract discussions between the two parties broke down last week.
No Stopping The Bulls’ Unity: One topic which usually surfaces when discussing the current lockout is the lost momentum the league will endure, especially since popularity and interest in the game was seemingly at an all-time high.
What often isn’t mentioned is the unfavorable impact an extended lockout will cause to a young team on the rise.
Veteran squads such as the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs are built to handle a shortened season due to their team chemistry and experience playing with one another.
A young team such as the Chicago Bulls, who finished with the league’s best record in 2011, may not be as fortunate to rely on that level on familiarity.
So with that in mind some Bulls players will likely be taking matters into their own hands to ensure everyone remains on the same page – lockout or no lockout.
“I think we’ll probably work out in L.A. or Vegas because I can get a gym [in Las Vegas] and I think [Derrick] Rose can get a gym in L.A.,” Bulls reserve guard C.J. Watson told ESPNChicago.com. “I think most of the players are always on the West Coast working out or training, so if we’re all there we might as well work out and get it together.”
Watson also confirmed Bulls players have remained in touch this summer, despite the lockout situation.
“I’ve talked to a few players,” Watson said. “I’ve talked to [Luol Deng]. I’ve talked to [Joakim Noah]. John Lucas [III] came to my basketball camp. I talk to Ronnie [Brewer] and Taj [Gibson] every now and then. I talk to pretty much everyone. I think everyone is just going their own way, staying in shape, and I think maybe, if the lockout continues ’til September, October [or beyond] we’ll all get together and probably work out and do something together.”
The Bulls finished last season 62-20 and lost to the Miami HEAT in the Eastern Conference Finals in five games.
Watson said he met with head coach Tom Thibodeau before the lockout and expects more of a leadership role entering the next season.
“He just told me to get ready for another year,” Watson said. “Be hungrier. Come in more focused. He wants me to have a big role, especially being a leader off the bench and stuff like that and maybe even playing a little more with D-Rose together.”
E’Twaun Moore Headed Overseas After All: E’Twaun Moore, the No. 55 overall pick in the 2011 draft (Celtics), has agreed to a one-year $200,000 deal with Benetton Treviso who plays in Italy’s Serie A league.
The deal provides an opt out clause in the event the lockout ends, which basically allows the rookie to leave Benetton Treviso and still compete for a roster spot in Boston.
“I probably would have stayed here,” Moore told the Boston Herald if he couldn’t have secured an escape clause to return post lockout. “I was real fortunate to find this situation. There were some offers on the table. I just wanted one where I could come back and play for the Celtics when it was time. That was very important to me. Playing in the NBA has always been a dream of mine, and (Treviso) respected that.”
The Celtics face serious questions as HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming pointed out recently and the prospect for a rookie cracking their veteran laden rotation is slim.
But for now Moore is confident that Boston views him as a serious prospect, despite being a late second round selection, after spending time with team officials before the lockout.
“Danny [Ainge] and Doc [Rivers] told me to stay in shape, and to be able to shoot the NBA 3,” Moore said. “Everyone (with the Celtics) was very straight up with me while I was there for that week. They were very straight in telling me what they thought.”
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