Contrary to media reports in China, Kobe Bryant has not yet committed to sign with the Shanxi team that recently employed Stephon Marbury, according to a source close to the situation.
"Kobe has not agreed with any team on anything. He is conducting due diligence and weighing various options," the source told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard.
Earlier Thursday, according to Chinese news reports, Shanxi Zhongyu owner Wang Xing Jiang said that the Los Angeles Lakers star had agreed to signing terms with Shanxi and would start practicing with the team Oct. 1.
It remains to be seen whether locked-out NBA players will even be allowed to play in China during the coming season. Chinese Basketball Association officials have been meeting this week to strongly consider enacting a rule that would forbid Chinese clubs from offering NBA players contracts with opt-out clauses should the lockout end.
No binding decision from the CBA is expected before a scheduled session Friday. Yet such a rule could effectively rule out China as an option for locked-out NBA players who are not free agents. FIBA, basketball's world governing body, recently mandated that any NBA player under contract who signs abroad during the lockout must make a signed declaration to return to the NBA as soon as the work stoppage ends.
But the rule, if passed and enforced as expected, would outlaw NBA escape clauses for anyone who signs a contract in China.
One source with knowledge of the CBA's thinking told ESPN.com earlier this month that the proposed rule had a strong chance of being passed.
The source said that Chinese decision-makers -- who are generally government officials, as opposed to basketball people -- want no part of a "circus" that sees a wave of NBA stars swooping in during an Olympic year to divert the focus of the league away from China's own players, then leave at once if the lockout is lifted.
Sina Sports recently quoted a source saying: "The CBA isn't the NBA's backyard. If we didn't make a rule about players playing here temporarily, then they'd all just leave in the middle of the season. That would affect our season greatly."
If the rule passes, barnstorming tours could prove to be the only feasible Chinese option available to the NBA's biggest names during the lockout.