Kobe to play in Italy during lockout

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Kobe to play in Italy during lockout

From Comcast SportsNet
ROME (AP) -- Italian club Virtus Bologna said it has reached a verbal agreement with Kobe Bryant for the Los Angeles Lakers star to play in Italy during the NBA lockout. "We have reached an economic deal," Virtus president Claudio Sabatini told a local radio station. "There's still some things to arrange but at this point I'm very optimistic. I would say it's 95 percent done." A person with knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press on Friday that the sides have settled on a 3 million contract for the opening 40 days of the Italian league season. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has still not been signed. Bryant, who spent much of his childhood in Italy, was in the country for sponsor appearances over the past two days but was flying back to the U.S. for labor talks with the NBA on Friday. Bryant is expected to get a work visa and return to Italy next week. "Kobe should be in Bologna by Wednesday or Thursday with his visa in hand for medical visits and then we can deposit the contract with the league," Sabatini said. "I want to make clear that right now there are still no signatures. We've got to write the contract, which will then be read over and over again." Virtus had been due to open the season Oct. 9 against Roma, but schedules now need to be reworked after Venezia was added to the league as a 17th team. The deal, which would allow Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends, should last about 10 games. Sabatini wants to create a special schedule that assigns Bryant's games to Italy's biggest arenas. "This is an important investment and a unique chance for the city of Bologna and all of Italian basketball," Sabatini said. "I'm hoping everyone wants to collaborate." The 33-year-old Bryant has three years and 83.5 million left on his contract with the Lakers. Between the ages of six and 13, Bryant lived in Italy when his father Joe Bryant played with Rieti, Reggio Calabria, Pistoia and Reggiana from 1984-91. The elder Bryant also once owned a small part of Olimpia Milano. He now coaches the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA. The younger Bryant still speaks Italian fairly well, and discussed his memories of his time in the country during an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport two days ago. "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," Bryant told the Italian newspaper. "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." Bryant added that playing in Italy "would be a dream for me." Bryant has been bothered in recent seasons by an arthritic joint in his right knee, which has required several minor operations. He sat out a majority of the Lakers' practices last season and saw his scoring, shooting percentage and minutes decrease in his 15th NBA season. Former USC guard Daniel Hackett, a dual citizen who plays for Pesaro in Italy, said he would give Bryant a hostile reception if he faced the former NBA MVP. "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 speculation that Bologna will ask opposing clubs hosting Bryant's away games to chip in a portion of ticket sales to help pay Bryant's salary. "I really hope Kobe doesn't lower himself to this level for economic and commercial motives," Hackett said, according to the Gazzetta. "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." Bologna president Sabatini replied, "Fortunately not all Italian players think like Hackett." Turkish club Besiktas and at least one team in China had also expressed interest in Bryant, who has won five NBA championships and been an All-Star 13 times. Bologna also recently approached Spurs swingman Manu Ginobili, who played with the club before joining San Antonio in 2002. Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari rejoined his former Italian club Olimpia Milano last week. The NBA season is scheduled to open Nov. 1 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 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 before last season. Having mingled with fans in Milan on Wednesday, Bryant also received a warm welcome in Rome on Thursday, where he was brought to the Campidoglio museum to be given a commemorative medal from the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

Giants continue embarrassing stretch against rebuilding Padres

SAN FRANCISCO — Three years ago, the Giants and Padres were the two teams in it until the very end for Pablo Sandoval’s services. He ended up in Boston, and when he became available again over the past week, the Padres politely backed away. 

They prefer youth and Rule 5 Draft picks. They came into this season knowing they might lose 100 games, and they didn’t mind. If anything, they welcomed the increased shot at the top pick in the 2018 draft. They’re here to tank, but the Giants (who expect to welcome Sandoval back on a minor league deal as soon as Friday) just won’t let them. 

Thursday’s 5-2 loss to San Diego was like so many others over the past calendar year. The Giants didn’t hit, they didn’t come through in the clutch, they did not support their starting pitcher, and they did not guarantee a handshake line. 

The Giants have lost 15 of 20 to the Padres since last year’s All-Star break, including three straight last July to kickstart a tailspin that has lasted over a year now. They have dropped four of five meetings in this second half, which was supposed to prove that a Padre-like rebuild is not needed up here in the Bay Area. They are five games behind the Padres in the race to finish a distant fourth in the National League, and in a season full of disappointment, that stands as one of the more embarrassing facts. 

Not even Madison Bumgarner’s return to AT&T Park could turn the tide. The lefty looked good most of the night, but two homers left him with a rougher-than-hoped line. Bumgarner gave up four earned on two homers. He has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Both starts have come against the Padres. 

“I’ve got to stop giving up homers,” Bumgarner said of his start. “That’s not going to work.”

Bumgarner said he felt fine physically, and his curveball — the pitch that has backfired on him most often since his return — feels right mechanically. He was facing his last batter in the seventh as George Kontos warmed up with a runner on. Corey Spangenberg hit a two-run shot to the deepest part of the yard to make it 4-2. 

Buster Posey flied out with the bases loaded in the eighth. The Giants brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth but couldn’t score, which has been the norm against the Padres. The Giants are averaging just 3.2 runs per game during this 20-game stretch of futility against a team they once dominated. 

“We need to win ballgames right now,” Bumgarner said. “We’ve got to start doing that. There’s no magic solution. We’ve got to start playing better, all of us.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as homers hurt Bumgarner vs Padres

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — A day after he did his press conference from a “Game of Thrones” throne, manager Bruce Bochy said he was happy the Giants won their series finale against the Indians and kept that plan in play. In that respect, he’s lucky his team wasn’t facing the Padres on Wednesday. 

The Giants were on Thursday, however, and they continued their baffling stretch of ineptitude against what is supposed to be the worst team in the National League West. The 5-2 loss to San Diego was the 15th in the last 20 meetings between the two teams, one of which has a $200 million payroll and the other of which is actively tanking. 

The Giants had a shot at a comeback in the eighth, but Buster Posey flied out to right with two outs and the bases loaded. Here are five things to know, if you are the curious type: 

—- Madison Bumgarner has faced the Padres twice since returning. In 13 1/3 innings, he has allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs. He is getting hurt by a familiar problem for the 2017 Giants: The Padres have four homers off Bumgarner in those two starts. Hunter Renfroe and Cory Spangenberg took him deep Thursday, with Spangenberg hitting one out to the deepest part of the yard on Bumgarner’s final pitch. 

—- This is the first time in Bumgarner’s career that he has allowed multiple homers in back-to-back starts. 

—- Kyle Crick showed good stuff — sitting 96-97 — while stranding a runner on second in the eighth. He followed that with a scoreless ninth. The Giants should make it a priority to throw him into some deeper water over the next two months. 

—- There’s an epidemic these days of outfielders making foolish throws to the plate. We see it just about every night, and it cost the Padres in the sixth. Gorkys Hernandez was on second and he took off right away on Denard Span’s single to right. Renfroe had no play at the plate but he threw it anyway and Span took second. He scored when Eduardo Nuñez singled to left. 

—- The Giants announced their second consecutive sellout. That’s a streak. Maybe?