NEWS
10/01/2011 01:34 EDT | Updated 12/01/2011 05:12 EST

Italian league trying to solve scheduling problems so team can sign Bryant

ROME - The Italian basketball league was attempting Saturday to solve scheduling problems so Virtus Bologna can sign Kobe Bryant during the NBA lockout.

Bologna president Claudio Sabatini told The Associated Press on Friday that he had reached a verbal deal for a 10-game contract worth more than US$3 million for the Los Angeles Lakers star, but the deal hinges on other clubs altering their schedules to ensure Bologna has five home games during the span.

Bologna also wants its opening five away games played in Italy's biggest arenas, but smaller clubs Cremona and Varese have been reluctant to alter their schedules.

The league said in a statement Saturday that it is "working to allow Virtus Bologna to arrange a deal to sign Kobe Bryant," adding that it is "convinced this deal could be of key importance for the greater awareness of Italian basketball."

League president Valentino Renzi told the ANSA news agency that he was "moderately optimistic" that a deal could be made, adding that "the situation is definitely complicated."

Local media were also reporting that another Italian club, Montegranaro, was in talks with Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani.

Bryant lived in Italy between ages six and 13 while his father played in the country. He still speaks fluent Italian and has said it would be a "dream" to play here.

Bologna would need to have the deal signed by the end of next week to register Bryant with the Italian league before the season starts Oct. 9.

A statement posted on Bologna's website late Friday said that in accordance with Bryant's representatives the club "will not make any further comment until either a positive or negative outcome from the negotiations."

Meanwhile, Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari rejoined his former Italian club Olimpia Milano last week, while other NBA players are also joining clubs in Europe and Asia.

With exactly one month until the season is scheduled to start, NBA owners and players were meeting in New York for a second straight day in hopes of ending the lockout.

An agreement on a new labour deal may be necessary in the next few days to avoid having to cancel regular-season games. Already part of the pre-season has been scrapped, and commissioner David Stern has said there must be progress this weekend or there will be "enormous consequences."