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Italian league arranging deal for Bryant signing

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ANDREW DAMPF | October 1, 2011 01:43 PM EST | AP

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ROME — The Italian basketball league was attempting Saturday to solve scheduling problems so Virtus Bologna can sign Kobe Bryant during the NBA lockout.

Virtus Bologna President Claudio Sabatini has told The Associated Press he's "very confident" he can complete the deal for the Los Angeles Lakers star.

The 10-game contract would be worth more than $3 million but hinges on other clubs changing their schedules to ensure Bologna has five home games during the span.

Bologna also wants its opening five road games in Italy's biggest arenas. Smaller clubs Cremona and Varese are reluctant to alter their schedules.

The league said in a statement Saturday it is "working to allow Virtus Bologna to arrange a deal to sign Kobe Bryant," adding it is "convinced this deal could be of key importance for the greater awareness of Italian basketball."

League President Valentino Renzi told the ANSA news agency he was "moderately optimistic" a deal could be made, adding "the situation is definitely complicated."

Bryant lived in Italy between ages 6 and 13 while his father played in the country. He still speaks fluent Italian and has said it would be a "dream" to play there.

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 Oct. 9.

A statement on Bologna's website late Friday said that in accordance with Bryant's representatives the club will not comment further "until either a positive or negative outcome from the negotiations."

Meanwhile, local media were reporting that another Italian club, Montegranaro, was in talks with Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani.

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari rejoined his former Italian club Olimpia Milano last week, while other NBA players are also joining clubs in Europe and Asia.

With exactly one month until the season is scheduled to start, NBA owners and players were meeting in New York for a second straight day in hopes of ending the lockout.

An agreement on a new labor deal may be necessary in the next few days to avoid having to cancel regular-season games. Part of the preseason already has been scrapped, and Commissioner David Stern has said there must be progress this weekend or there will be "enormous consequences."