- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The NBA is set to resume negotiations between owners and the players union on Monday for the first time since the lockout went into place on July 1, but one of the NBA's biggest stars has negotiations of his own planned for this weekend.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will be in the nation's capital attending the World Football Challenge featuring Manchester United and F.C. Barcelona at FedEx Field on Saturday and the Mia Hamm-Nomar Garciaparra Celebrity Soccer Challenge on Sunday at Kastles Stadium.
Soccer won't be the only sport on Bryant's agenda, however, as the 15-year NBA veteran and his representatives will meet with officials from the Turkish basketball club Besiktas on Saturday, according to a Reuters report.
"At the moment there's a 50 percent chance that Kobe may come to Turkey," said Seref Yalcin, head of basketball operations for Besiktas, on Tuesday. Yalcin made the comments to reporters in Turkey, according to Reuters. "Everything will be clearer after the meeting on the 30th [of July]."
Turkish Airlines, a company Bryant serves as a pitchman for, is sponsoring both of the soccer events over the weekend and could be the key for Besiktas to potentially make an offer lucrative enough to lure the 13-time All-Star overseas during the lockout.
Turkey's NTV Spor reported last week 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 their pursuit of NBA players to join New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams on their team.
"Money will not be a problem," Yalcin said, according to Reuters. Yalcin later mentioned Turkish Airlines and two oil companies as potential sponsors for Bryant's contract, which is expected to exceed $500,000 a month. Sources told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard earlier this month that Williams' overall deal with Besiktas is worth $5 million. NTV Spor reported that Bryant's camp is seeking a monthly salary of $1 million to join Williams.
"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," Fatma Yuceler, a spokeswoman for Turkish Airlines, told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday.
Regardless if playing basketball overseas is in Bryant's future or not, playing soccer this weekend isn't. Despite his background playing pickup soccer games as a youth in Italy, Bryant will not lace up the cleats and play in the Hamm-Garciaparra charity scrimmage on Sunday. Bryant will merely be a spectator for the game and will give his right knee, which recently endured a platelet-rich plasma therapy procedure, a rest, according to multiple sources. On Saturday he will take to the field -- after the game -- to present the "man of the match" award to the winner after the Manchester United versus FC Barcelona friendly.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
20hMatt Walks, ESPN.com