Basketball league players cleared to compete overseas

NEW YORK Fri Jul 29, 2011 11:02pm IST

NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles to fans upon his arrival at a stadium during his 2011 China Tour in Changsha, Hunan province July 16, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Tan/Files

NBA basketball player Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles to fans upon his arrival at a stadium during his 2011 China Tour in Changsha, Hunan province July 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Tan/Files

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Basketball's international federation (FIBA) has given its approval for locked-out National Basketball Association (NBA) players to compete overseas during the work stoppage, it said on Friday.

"During a lockout NBA players... are free to play anywhere they want, whether for their national teams and/or for club teams," FIBA said in a statement.

Any player who does compete overseas will do so at his own risk, especially if injured, FIBA noted.

The clearance comes as more and more NBA players are looking at overseas competition during the season-threatening labor dispute between the league and its players union.

New Jersey Nets guard Deron Williams has already signed with Turkish club Besiktas and Los Angeles Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant, one of the world's top players, or his representative is expected to meet with Besiktas officials on Saturday to discuss the possibility of him also playing in Turkey.

League scoring champion Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder also could go overseas. He has said the move is about 50-50.

FIBA said the NBA would not object to international play but would require players to return to their NBA teams as soon as the lockout ends.

"As the world governing body for basketball, we strongly hope that the labor dispute will be resolved as soon as possible, and that the NBA season is able to begin as scheduled," FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann said in a statement.

However he added: "In view of our role to promote basketball worldwide, we support any player wishing to play the game, wherever and whenever."

The NBA was not immediately available for comment.

Players union executive director Billy Hunter supports overseas play, saying it gives players a chance to earn a living and stay in shape.

Whether top players can earn enough to make the move financially rewarding is debatable, though.

The NBA locked out its players after talks on a new collective bargaining agreement broke down on June 30.

The parties are far apart on how to resolve their dispute, the league's first work stoppage since 1998 when a lockout shortened the season to 50 games.

They are scheduled to hold their first labor talks since the lockout in New York next week.

(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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