Whether it’s a negotiating ploy or not, things certainly seem to be escalating between Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and the Turkish basketball club Besiktas.
Bryant and his representatives are expected to meet with Besiktas on Saturday while he is in Washington, D.C., attending soccer matches, Reuters is reporting. The flirtation has been going on for weeks but now it seems to be heading down a serious path that could see one of the NBA’s biggest stars playing in Turkey while the league remains embattled in a lockout and labor discord.
Bryant is part of a growing line of NBA players willing to listen to overseas offers during what is expected to be a long lockout. Should some players sign with overseas clubs, it could increase the players leverage with the owners, who are bent on slashing salaries.
Most believe that the Turkish team might not be able to afford Bryant’s asking price of $1 million per month. But there is a bit of an X-factor that could bring this all together. Bryant is a pitchman for Turkish Airlines, and that company may be willing to foot some of the bill.
Besiktas, which already reached an agreement with New Jersey Nets all-star point guard Deron Williams, sounds fairly optimistic they can land Bryant.
"At the moment there's a 50 percent chance that Kobe may come to Turkey," Besiktas head of basketball operations Seref Yalcin said Tuesday. "Everything will be clearer after the meeting on the 30th [of July]."
Yalcin went on to tell Reuters that money won’t be the problem. But Turkish Airlines isn’t tipping its hand one way or the other yet, says ESPNLosAngeles.com.
"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," Turkish Airlines spokesperson Fatma Yuceler said Wednesday.
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