- Associated Press - Friday, September 30, 2011

ROME (AP) - The president of Virtus Bologna is optimistic Kobe Bryant will sign with the Italian club during the NBA lockout despite scheduling problems posed by other teams.

Claudio Sabatini told The Associated Press on Friday that Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka agreed to an arrangement for 35 to 40 days worth more than $3 million _ for about 10 games.

“We’re very confident the deal can be completed,” Sabatini said. “We’re prepared to make a big investment.”

Sabatini said a Bologna-based food company is prepared to provide the cash.

Kobe and his agent have been very professional throughout the dealings and it’s been a pleasure to work with them,” Sabatini said. “I have a huge amount of respect for Kobe not just as a player, but also as a person.”

Bologna has requested to play five of its opening 10 games at home, but a few other teams don’t want to change their schedules to accommodate the Los Angeles Lakers‘ star.

“I think good sense will prevail,” Sabatini said.

His upbeat outlook contrasted with a statement on his club’s website earlier in the day.

“With great surprise, Virtus Basketball notes that, due to the negative view of some clubs, it’s not possible to go forward with the 10-game agreement, therefore putting in serious doubt the economic deal behind the plan to bring Kobe Bryant to Italy,” the statement said.

Cremona and Varese, two smaller clubs, are refusing to alter their schedules.

“We’ve got a chance to bring Bryant here … and the nearsightedness of other clubs is making it impossible,” Sabatini told Italy’s Sky TV earlier. “If we were at the end of the season, with clubs fighting to avoid relegation or for the playoffs, I would understand. But now nobody has anything on the line.”

Bryant, who spent much of his childhood in Italy, was in the country for sponsor appearances the past two days. He was to be in New York for NBA labor talks Friday.

Virtus had been set to open the season Oct. 9 against Roma, but schedules need to be reworked after Venezia was added to the league as a 17th team. Sabatini wants to create a special schedule that assigns Bryant’s games to Italy’s biggest arenas.

The deal would allow Bryant to return to the Lakers immediately if the lockout ends. The 33-year-old Bryant has three years and $83.5 million left on his contract with the Lakers, who could void the deal if Bryant is injured playing abroad.

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.

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