Lakers star Kobe Bryant smiles upon arriving at a stadium in China on July… (Joe Tan / Reuters )
Kobe Bryant's representatives have had conversations about a deal for him to play for Turkish club team Besiktas this season in Istanbul, Besiktas Coach Ergin Ataman told The Times in a telephone interview Thursday.
Ataman said the team is trying to satisfy Bryant's salary demands so that he can join New Jersey Nets All-Star point guard Deron Williams on the team. Williams signed with Besiktas about a week ago.
"We made our offer to Kobe and now we are waiting for their comments about the situation," Ataman said. "But we didn't talk about details. I think they are thinking now about our offer, and I think in the beginning of August, the first week of August, our president [Yildirim Demiroren] will be in the United States for Deron Williams' press conference and I think that they will meet to sign in USA with Kobe."
Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, didn't return repeated phone calls Thursday to speak about the negotiations Ataman talked about.
Ataman said the money to pay Bryant's salary would come from the Besiktas club and a "special sponsor that we are talking with."
Bryant has an endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines.
Unlike NBA teams, European teams put sponsor names on the fronts of the team jerseys for advertisement.
"Yes, we feel Kobe will sign with us," Ataman said. "We feel because Besiktas is a very good club, very famous club. At this moment, after the United States, Turkey is in the best league in Europe. Besiktas has great fans. I think it is positive. So we are very optimistic about Kobe to sign."
Ataman said they view the conversations with Bryant as a "positive situation" because the team had long discussions with Williams before he agreed to a deal that reportedly will play him $5 million overall, about $350,000 per month.
Ataman was asked about the report that Bryant is seeking $1 million a month, double the amount of $500,000 Besiktas reportedly was offering.
"We are negotiating about this," Ataman said. "This amount is very, very big for Europe in this situation. But I think that we find a solution to arrive to be happy and to have a happy Kobe for the money. But the main thing I think will be that Kobe will come here to play basketball with Deron Williams to stay in shape, to take good money and to play basketball.
"The first option is the money. Of course, it is not impossible to take."
Ataman said Bryant, like Williams, will have an opt-out clause to leave Besiktas when the NBA lockout ends.
Bryant would be the biggest star to play in Europe during his prime.
A 13-time All-Star who has won five NBA championships with the Lakers over a 15-year career, Bryant has said he would be interested in playing in Turkey or China if the NBA season doesn't start on time on Nov. 1.
The Turkish League starts in October.
The NBA locked out its players July 1, and no negotiations appear to be on the horizon.
Bryant is touring in China and is scheduled to play a two-game exhibition in the Philippines on Saturday and Sunday.
Bryant, who turns 33 next month, has three years left on his deal with the Lakers for $83.5 million. He is coming off a procedure to treat an arthritic joint in his right knee.
Allen Iverson played for Besiktas last season but didn't finish the season because of injuries.
Besides Williams, Besiktas has signed Atlanta Hawks center Zaza Pachulia.