Source: Kobe Bryant weighs options
"Kobe has not agreed with any team on anything. He is conducting due diligence and weighing various options," the source told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
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Earlier Thursday, according to Chinese news reports, Shanxi Zhongyu owner Wang Xing Jiang said that the Los Angeles Lakers star had agreed to signing terms with Shanxi and would start practicing with the team Oct. 1.
Bryant also has been heavily courted by the Turkish team Besiktas that has signed New Jersey's Deron Williams to play in Istanbul during the ongoing NBA lockout.
It remains to be seen whether locked-out NBA players will even be allowed to play in China during the coming season. Chinese Basketball Association officials have been meeting this week to strongly consider enacting a rule that would forbid Chinese clubs from offering NBA players contracts with opt-out clauses should the lockout end.
No binding decision from the CBA is expected before a scheduled session Friday. Yet such a rule could effectively rule out China as an option for locked-out NBA players who are not free agents. FIBA, basketball's world governing body, recently mandated that any NBA player under contract who signs abroad during the lockout must make a signed declaration to return to the NBA as soon as the work stoppage ends.
But the rule, if passed and enforced as expected, would outlaw NBA escape clauses for anyone who signs a contract in China.
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ESPN.com reported earlier this month that Nike was urging its biggest names that if they play anywhere during the lockout, to do so in China, presumably because of the marketing riches that are believed to be available in NBA-mad Asia. Nike is also a corporate sponsor of the Chinese league.
One source with knowledge of the CBA's thinking told ESPN.com earlier this month that the proposed rule had a strong chance of being passed.
The source said that Chinese decision-makers -- who are generally government officials, as opposed to basketball people -- want no part of a "circus" that sees a wave of NBA stars swooping in during an Olympic year to divert the focus of the league away from China's own players, then leave at once if the lockout is lifted.
Sina Sports recently quoted a source saying: "The CBA isn't the NBA's backyard. If we didn't make a rule about players playing here temporarily, then they'd all just leave in the middle of the season. That would affect our season greatly."
If the rule passes, barnstorming tours could prove to be the only feasible Chinese option available to the NBA's biggest names during the lockout.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.