Former USC guard vows to be physical against Kobe Bryant in Italy
Spare me the nostalgia regarding Kobe Bryant returning to his childhood by playing in Italy.
Stop worrying whether such a move would accelerate a new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA owners and players union or actually undermine the union's cause.
Forget for a second whether the Italian league's refusal to alter its schedule will prevent Bryant from actually playing overseas for Virtus Bologna.
Former USC guard Daniel Hackett provides the perfect example of why no amount of money, marketing or childhood connections proves worthy enough for Bryant to play overseas. Bryant sees it as an opportunity to satisfy his competitive juices. Hackett, a dual citizen who plays for Pesaro in Italy, sees the venture as an opportunity to earn his 15 minutes of fame.
"The only way to stop a player that good is with a hard foul and he knows that," Hackett told the Associated Press. "I've got five fouls to commit and they're going to be the hardest five fouls I've ever committed."
Virtus Bologna president Claudio Sabatin argued, "Fortunately not all Italian players think like Hackett." But is he so sure? Bryant, who reportedly reached a verbal agreement to play for the team for the first 40 days of the season beginning Oct. 9 for $3 million, may expand his Nike brand, earn some extra cash and return where he grew up, but that's hardly worthy enough for him to risk further injury and compromise his three-year, $83.5-million contract with the Lakers. Everyone else has nothing to lose. It wouldn't be surprising should competitive and jealous emotions spur opponents into playing Bryant too rough.
It's only natural to assume Bryant would respond to Hackett or to anyone else in the same fashion as he's done with any other alleged "Kobe stopper." Drop 40 points, drain the game winner and fight back. But that will hardly assuage any frustration should the Lakers' championships prospects suffer next season because of further limitations on Bryant's body.
"I really hope Kobe doesn't lower himself to this level for economic and commercial motives," Hackett said, according to the Gazzetta. "To me, it would be a big disappointment to see him here under these circumstances, and a loss of respect for a player who is too big to dirty his hands in this league."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Luca Bruno / Associated Press.