Kobe Bryant takes part in NBA all-star showcase in Philippines
Every move sent a message.
Kobe Bryant's ability to wrap the ball around his opponent's head highlighted the tremendous talent disparity between an assembled NBA all-star team and the Filipino all-star and national squads during exhibition games over the weekend. Bryant's alley-oop lob to Derrick Rose demonstrated that these stars can have fun putting on a show without seriously risking injury, because of the pick-up scrimmage setting. And a wide range of players representing the MVP Sports Foundation, including Bryant, Rose, Derek Fisher, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Derrick Williams, Tyreke Evans and Javelle McGee, showed that, rather than setting up another meeting with the league, they would prefer to use the threat of playing overseas to negotiate contract issues.
"It's been a tremendous honor to play here," Bryant told reporters, including the Philippine Daily Inquirer's June Navarro after the NBA all-star team beat the Philippine all-star team, 131-105, on Saturday and defeated the Smart Gilas national team, 98-89, on Sunday. "Thank you for the love and support and the passion that you have in the sport," added the four-time NBA all-star MVP. "I hope this won't be the last."
It remains to be seen what will happen next. Bryant's agent, Rob Pelinka, has considered organizing a barnstorming tour, with many of his clients at Landmark Sports Agency playing exhibition games in China. Besiktas Coach Ergin Ataman has said numerous times that the team has talked with Bryant's representatives about signing the Lakers star to the Turkish squad, which has already acquired Deron Williams. But there's a big difference between playing in some exhibition games and signing with a professional team.
Injuries are an afterthought in the exhibition contests, which are nothing more than faux All-Star games, with little emphasis on actually trying, but playing professionally only adds to a player's basketball mileage and contributes to wear and tear. Bryant, who earned more than $400,000 for his weekend in the Philippines, according to SI.com's Sam Amick, reportedly wants $1 million a month to play for Besiktas, while the Turkish team has tried offering $500,000.
But for at least for one weekend, basketball fans could finally just talk about what they saw on the court and not about what is or isn't happening at the negotiating table.
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-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant arrives at a stadium in China on July 16. Credit: Joe Tan / Reuters