Kobe Bryant’s Italian job is going from Bologna to baloney

There’s another basketball league as disjointed as the NBA these days.

The Italian pro league might lose a chance at Kobe Bryant because some of its teams won’t rearrange the schedule to create more games at the start of the season for Bryant’s possible new team, Virtus Bologna.

Friday marked a day of boasting and then backtracking for the Italian club, which declared with near certainty that it locked up Bryant with a 10-game, $3.2-million deal only to post an ominous, defensive statement on its website later in the day.

“With great surprise, Virtus Basketball notes that, due to the negative view of some clubs, it’s not possible to go forward with the 10-game agreement, therefore putting in serious doubt the economic deal behind the plan to bring Kobe Bryant to Italy,” the statement said.

It probably doesn’t matter to the casual Bryant fan, but the irritated teams were believed to be Cremona and Varese.


Earlier Friday, Bologna’s team president Claudio Sabatini said a deal with Bryant was “95% done,” before the scheduling problems surfaced.

Later, Sabatini told the Associated Press, “I think good sense will prevail” and a deal will be reached.

Although several high-level NBA players met with owners Friday in New York for another unsuccessful round of lockout talks, Bryant’s interest in Italy was another scrap of evidence that the NBA season wouldn’t start on time.

Bologna’s season tentatively starts Oct. 9. The Lakers are scheduled to open Nov. 1 against Oklahoma City, though that might be postponed if the lockout doesn’t end soon.

Bryant’s deal with Bologna would be nonbinding so he could return to the Lakers immediately if the NBA lockout ended.

He has three years and $83.5 million left on his Lakers contract, though it was unclear whether Virtus or Bryant, 33, would pay for an insurance policy in case of injury. “He won’t play without that; I guarantee it,” said a person familiar with Bryant’s situation.

Several NBA players already signed with foreign teams, but Bryant would be the biggest name on a list that included Deron Williams (Turkey), Danilo Gallinari (Italy), Leandro Barbosa (Brazil), Ty Lawson (Lithuania), Jordan Farmar (Israel) and Sasha Vujacic (Turkey).

Not everybody welcomed Bryant to Italy.

Daniel Hackett, a former USC guard who plays for Pesaro in Italy, said he would physically challenge the 13-time All-Star.

“The only way to stop a player that good is with a hard foul, and he knows that,” Hackett said. “I’ve got five fouls to commit, and they’re going to be the hardest five fouls I’ve ever committed.”

Hackett also criticized Bryant’s motives for signing the deal amid speculation that Bryant’s new team would ask for proceeds from ticket sales when it played road games.

“I really hope Kobe doesn’t lower himself to this level for economic and commercial motives,” Hackett told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “To me, it would be a big disappointment to see him here under these circumstances and a loss of respect for a player who is too big to dirty his hands in this league.”