- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The Turkish team that recently reached an agreement to sign All-Star guard Deron Williams if the NBA lockout drags on has placed its pursuit of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant on hold, according to an overseas report.
Turkey's NTV Spor reported Monday that Besiktas' basketball funds have been tied up by the match-fixing scandal that has ripped through the Turkish soccer world, forcing Besiktas to search for outside funding to help with the further pursuit of NBA players.
According to NTV Spor, Besiktas was initially prepared to offer Bryant a monthly salary of $500,000. But Bryant, according to the report, is seeking a monthly salary of $1 million to join Williams. Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard earlier this month that Williams' overall deal with Besiktas is worth $5 million.
DraftExpress.com first reported over the weekend that Besiktas and Bryant's camp were exchanging financial figures before the growing soccer crisis intervened.
Any further Besiktas basketball moves, according to the NTV Spor report, will depend on finding a wealthy outside sponsor. It remains to be seen, though, whether Bryant's own endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines can eventually help him land a deal with Besiktas or another Turkish club to give him a temporary new home should the lockout extend into October.
Williams tweeted a picture Friday of his signed Besiktas contract. There has been no indication yet that the financial problems suddenly confronting Besiktas because of the soccer scandal will impact Williams' deal with the Istanbul club, which has faced FIBA sanctions as recently as the 2009-10 season for not paying American players (Lonny Baxter and Kevin Fletcher) on time.
The deals Besiktas has offered Williams and Bryant include an out clause permitting the players to return immediately to the NBA once the lockout is lifted.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
19hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann