NBA PM: Can Italy Accommodate Kobe?
Kobe Bryant, as Steve Kyler mentioned in the NBA AM, is on the verge of signing a deal with Italy’s Virtus Bologna. However, there appears to be a new obstacle keeping the two parties from completing a deal, and it isn’t a sudden resolution to the NBA lockout.
According to an Associated Press report by Andrew Dampf, there is a scheduling conflict in the Italian league that could potentially prevent the Bryant deal from being completed. Bologna wants to play as many home games as possible during Bryant’s 40-day contract, but some opposing franchises aren’t necessarily on board with that idea. Bologna reportedly asked to play five of its first 10 games at home.
Club president Claudio Sabatini told the AP that he believes “good sense will prevail,” but nothing is definite as of yet.
Bryant’s deal is reportedly worth $3 million over 40 days.
Players in China to Face Tax Hike?
Initially, when the lockout pushed players like Earl Clark, Kenyon Martin, Wilson Chandler and J.R. Smith to sign contracts in China, there was a lot of skepticism. By denying players out clauses in their contracts, it seemed the CBA could effectively trap players in China as they played out the rest of their contracts—even if the NBA’s lockout were to come to an end.
But after Clark found his way home from China (agent Happy Walters emailed the Orlando Sentinel to say that Clark is returning home to be with his pregnant girlfriend and the team in China will release him from his contract), there now appears to be a window opened to NBA stars who’ve gotten cold feet. China is obviously a very different place than America, and not everyone is suited to play an entire season away from the NBA—especially if they’re going to tax you out of the majority of your contract.
As reported in the Sept. 24th-30th issue of “The Economist,” China will begin demanding foreign workers to pay into the country’s social security fund in mid-October. The public fund, which provides unemployment benefits as well as health care and pensions, will barely benefit expatriate workers, if at all. Former NBA players have it even worse, as they’re not likely to rely on Chinese health care system, which is improved, but still below American standards. In short, Chandler and Smith might pay into the system, but they won’t be around to pull a pension or collect unemployment, so that money effectively flies out the window.
On top of that, there is a distinct possibility that foreign workers will pay a higher tax rate than Chinese citizens and that’s where it could become unfeasible to play professional basketball in China. As of 2010, a U.S. citizen working abroad could exclude up to $91,400 of earnings from I.R.S. taxation. Chandler, for instance, makes somewhere between $1.7 million and $3.1 million for one season in China, so that exposes him to a heavy tax burden internationally and domestically.
However, as Draft Express’ Jonathan Givony pointed out to me, most foreign contracts are written for the net of taxes, rather than the pre-tax gross of the contract. That means the Chinese teams would have to cover any taxes that are thrust upon their American players. So guys like Chandler, Smith and Martin might be okay for now, but Chinese teams might think twice about signing foreign players if they’re going to have to pay a large percentage of that players’ salary in taxes down the road.
Long story short (too late, I know), this is a potential hurdle for players hoping to play in China, but the guys who have currently signed should be okay for now.
Ilgauskas to Retire
Lithuanian-born center Zydrunas Ilgauskas has told Tom Reed of the Cleveland Plain Dealer that he will retire after 13 NBA seasons. The HEAT veteran, who had played all but one season in Cleveland, owns Cavs records for games (771), rebounds (5,904) and blocks (1,269) but might be remembered most for leaving the Cavaliers for the Miami HEAT along with LeBron James last summer.
The 20th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft came to Cleveland with Ukrainian center Vitaly Potapenko—who was picked 12th overall—but quickly proved to be the best big man on the team, starting 81 of 82 games. Unfortunately, a myriad of injuries kept Ilgauskas from reaching his potential until the 2002-2003 season, when he averaged 7.5 RPG and a career-high 17.2 PPG. Ilgauskas made the Eastern Conference All-Star Team that year and again during the 2004-2005 season, while proving himself to be one of the best-shooting big men in the game.
But as the years wore on, Ilgauskas became less of a scoring threat and finished last year with a 5.0 PPG average.
“Enough is enough,” Ilgauskas told the Plan Dealer. “My body is beat up and I’m tired physically. There is no age limit, but everyone knows when it’s time.
“I want to spend more time with my family,” he continued. “I have spent the past 15 years living out of a suitcase. It’s time.”
Ilgauskas, who said he’s been contemplating retirement for a few years, could work in the Cavs front office, according to the report. However, Ilgauskas would not comment on that subject.
“I will always think of Cleveland as my home,” he said. “This was my kids’ first home… There are so many great memories here and I was lucky to play in one place for so long. To experience so many lows and then so many highs was special. There were the division titles and the conference championship. The early disappointments made the winning that much better.”
Upper Deck to Sell James’ Shoes for $50K
CNBC’s Darren Rovell is reporting that Upper Deck plans on selling LeBron James’ shoes from his return to Cleveland last season for $50,000. Here is a look at the autographed pair of kicks.
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