Kobe: Playing in Italy still 'very possible'


Kobe: Playing in Italy still 'very possible'

From Comcast SportsNet
MILAN (AP) -- Kobe Bryant said it's "very possible" he will play in Italy during the NBA lockout, adding the country is like home because he spent part of his childhood there. Virtus Bologna has made numerous contract offers to the Los Angeles Lakers star. Bryant discussed the offer with the Gazzetta dello Sport during a sponsor's appearance in Milan on Wednesday. "It's very possible. It would be a dream for me," Bryant said, according to the Gazzetta. "There's an opportunity that we've been discussing over the last few days. It's very possible and that's good news for me." Bryant later spoke to a crowd -- in Italian -- at the event in Milan. "I don't know what's going to happen over the next three or four weeks, but Italy has always been in my heart," Bryant said. Virtus told The Associated Press that the latest talks are centered on a 2.5 million offer for 10 games over 40 days from Oct. 9 to Nov. 16. That would come out to about 1.5 million after taxes. The deal would allow Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends. The 33-year-old Bryant spent several years in Italy when his father, Joe Bryant, played on five teams from 1984-91. The elder Bryant, who once owned a small part of Olimpia Milano, now coaches the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA. "Italy is my home. It's where my dream of playing in the NBA started. This is where I learned the fundamentals, learned to shoot, to pass and to (move) without the ball," Kobe Bryant said, according to the Gazzetta. "All things that when I came back to America the players my age didn't know how to do because they were only thinking about jumping and dunking." Turkish club Besiktas and at least one team in China have expressed interest in Bryant, a winner of five NBA championships and 13-time All-Star. However, he seems most interested in the Virtus offer. "It's a huge honor for me to return to Italy. It's home for me," Bryant said in fairly fluent Italian in a video posted on the Gazzetta website. "It's always been a dream for me to play in Italy. We've got to wait and see what happens." Virtus also recently reached out to Manu Ginobili, who played with Bologna before joining the San Antonio Spurs in 2002. Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari rejoined his former Italian club Olimpia Milano last week. The NBA season usually begins in late October, but owners and players have failed to agree on a new labor deal. The two sides are at odds over how to divide the league's revenue, a salary cap structure and the length of guaranteed contracts. Last week, NBA officials announced the postponement of training camp and the cancellation of 43 preseason games. Virtus has won 15 Italian league titles but none since 2001, when it also won the Euroleague for the second time. Bologna opens the Italian league against Roma on Oct. 9. It did not qualify for this season's Euroleague, although the team has big ambitions after signing former Clemson point guard Terrell McIntyre, who led Siena to four consecutive Italian titles before transferring to Malaga in Spain last season.

Raiders prepped for two-game road trip, extended stay in Sunshine State

Raiders prepped for two-game road trip, extended stay in Sunshine State

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Charter buses and cargo trucks lined the back parking lot at the Raiders facility on Friday, ready to load up for a long time gone.

They were prepped to transport players, personnel and a week’s worth of supplies to an airplane set to cross the country.

The Raiders weren’t headed for a quick trip to play Jacksonville on Sunday. They’re staying in central Florida between Sunday’s game against the host Jaguars and a game at Tampa Bay to avoid travelling coast to coast in consecutive weeks.

They’ll be tucked away at a swanky Sarasota, Fla., resort devising a way to beat the Buccaneers, while practicing 20 miles north at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Head coach Jack Del Rio doesn’t want his team thinking about the 10-day trip as a whole quite yet. He wants it compartmentalized, with complete focus on beating the Jaguars above all else.

“The biggest thing for us is to kind of take it as it comes,” Del Rio said. “And, the first order of business is traveling well Friday, for our game Sunday. And then, what changes then is that rather than flying back, then we transition into instead of going back and forth, what we’re going to do down there.

“Right now, the focus is really just on Jacksonville, the talent they have, the things they like. We’re really dialing in our preparation that way. Then, once we get to Sunday and the game’s over, then we’ll transition into the following week.”

The Raiders players and football personnel – some business officials will head back home -- will take a short flight from Jacksonville to Sarasota on Sunday night to start the next game’s prep.

It keeps the Raiders on the road but takes away most of the travel, streamlining a process the Raiders have down pat. They’ve been excellent on the road this season, with three wins in as many trips.

The Raiders have done well in hostile environments because everything they do, from eating to sleeping to actual prep on the road is done with victory in mind. Players come in confident and typically leave with a win. They have a 7-4 road record under Del Rio, a mark they’d like to improve during this Florida two-step.

“We’ve been able to travel well and play well and we look forward to the next opportunity,” Del Rio said. “Regardless of where we’re playing, we expect to play well.”

Being away so long may have its advantages, creating an in-season summit for players and coaches. Proceedings will have a training camp feel, with guys together most of the week focused on football. That could provide growth in all aspects, especially with a defense that has not played well together.

“I think it’s going to be a really good thing,” Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said. “Just to be out somewhere different with everybody. Obviously, some peoples’ families will be there and those kind of things which is a must. You have to have your family. My family will be there, we’ll be together. But when you get those times at the hotel to be around each other to eat every meal together, do those things, I think it’s nothing but good things. Whenever you can spend as much time around each other as possible, I think it’s really good.”

Some families will make the trip. The Raiders also have several players from the Florida and neighboring with friends and family coming in for these important games. During the week, however, the focus will be on football. 

Playing consecutive games against teams from the Sunshine State is no fluke. The Raiders requested this sequence in order to alleviate some travel burden on a West Coast team forced to play at least two time zones away seven times this season.

It’s a relatively trendy concept a few teams have used over the years. The Baltimore Ravens stayed in the Bay Area last year and practiced at San Jose State between games against Denver and the Raiders. The Atlanta Falcons did so this season, staying out west between games against Denver and Seattle.

The Raiders could’ve done so twice – consecutive games at Tennessee and Baltimore provided another option – but didn’t want to put strain on young families.

They’ll try and keep things close to a typical game week, so the players feel comfortable in new elements. The football operations staff, lead by coordinator Tom Jones, is bringing the technology required for meetings and film study. The equipment staff, led by manager Bob Romanski, in particular must load up for a long haul and get ready for two games and four other days of practice.

It’s no easy task taking this show on the road, but the Raiders believe it’ll help in the middle of an arduous season and travel slate.

"There’s a lot of work behind the scenes,” Del Rio said. “…For us as players and coaches, it’s going to be very seamless. Basically football preparation as we know it, just doing it in a different environment.”

49ers promote RB to active roster ahead of game vs Bucs

49ers promote RB to active roster ahead of game vs Bucs

The 49ers on Saturday promoted running back DuJuan Harris to the active roster to be eligible to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium.

The team waived defensive lineman Taylor Hart to make room for Harris on the 53-man roster. Hart, originally a fifth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, was claimed by the 49ers off waivers on Sept. 5. He appeared in one game and recorded two tackles.

Running back Carlos Hyde has been ruled out of Sunday’s game due to a right shoulder injury. Mike Davis and Shaun Draughn have served as the 49ers’ backup running backs through the first six games of the season.

Harris (5 foot 7, 206 pounds) has bounced between the 49ers’ 53-man roster and practice squad this season. He has yet to appear in a game. Last season, he played in two games, rushing for 140 yards on 27 carries. He also caught nine passes for 97 yards.

Draughn and Davis are the 49ers’ fourth- and fifth-leading rushers this season behind Hyde and quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick. Draughn has 55 yards rushing on 18 attempts, while Davis has 18 yards on 10 carries.