Draft Buzz - Yi Jianlian Still Likely to End Up in Milwaukee
By Aran Smith
[img_assist|nid=3756|title=Yi Jianlian and Greg Oden|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=558]A bogus news story was released in China on Tuesday that Yi Jianlian's Chinese agent and Guangdong Tigers chief Chen Haitao said that Yi would "definitely not" play for the Milwaukee Bucks. The report has been denied by Chen himself plus a Guangdong Tiger's VP who responded with two words - "BS".
Apparently some media sources in China don't care if their reports are not factually accurate as long as they generate interest.
Most amazing is that the report was picked up by numerous AP news sources all over the web and and was given credibility when in fact the story is unsubstantiated.
Milwaukee may not be where Yi's agents Dan Fegan and Chen or the Guangdong Tigers wanted him to end up in the draft, but Milwaukee selected him, and they have made every effort to please him, even guaranteeing him a starting position.
Having watched Yi play five times in Las Vegas over the past two weeks, it is apparent that he has a great deal of talent. But his timing and skill level are not where they could be if he had better experience playing against NBA level players. Having missed out on higher competition level the past 2-3 years, staying in China to play in the CBA has already stunted his development to a degree. He can't afford another year away from the NBA, his game would never recover. Yi knows this, and his agents do too.
With China gearing up for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Yi has too much to lose by not playing next season. For Yi to re-enter the draft next year, he would have to miss the entire season playing for any team, the Guangdong Tigers included (Otherwise the Bucks would retain his rights). A lost season would be devastating to Yi's development, and in turn diminish China's chances of making an impact in Beijing. So in reality, Milwaukee holds all the cards in the ongoing situation.
In Las Vegas, Yi's agent Dan Fegan said that the biggest reason Yi wouldn't play for Milwaukee was their log jam at the post positions and the fact that a slow start could have lasting effects on Yi's career.
NBA scouts in Las Vegas scoffed when they heard this saying they felt the true reason was in fact financially based and that Yi's Nike contract likely paid considerably more in a bigger market. And further, if Yi's got the talent, it shouldn't matter where he plays. They also said they felt he would ultimately end up playing in Milwaukee.
Part of the displeasure with the Bucks organization stems from the fact that they weren't honest about their true intentions when they selected him. They announced they took him because they felt he was the best player available, but many in China including his handlers feel their true reason for taking him was based on the financial impact he would have on the club.
Yi met with Bucks GM Larry Harris in Las Vegas but would not comment on his future with the Bucks.
The controversy has had a big affect on Yi over the past few weeks as American and Chinese media and fans alike have cultivated a negative impression of Yi. The public opinion is that he is being greedy and should just go to the club that selected him and be gracious about his opportunity to make millions playing in the NBA. But his decision to hold out and not to go to Milwaukee should not be blamed on Yi, but on his handlers.
In China, players are much less media savvy, many consider the media a nuisance and using the media to market oneself as American athletes do is a foreign concept. Yi has been schooled on the importance of being "media-friendly" but still has a long ways to go, and seems to have a hard time painting himself in a positive light.<
The controversy could end up having devastating effects on Yi's popularity in China as well, which even after the issue gets worked out could have lasting ramifications. His marketability won't be nearly as effective if fans in China lose their appreciation for him.<
Milwaukee Bucks fans are already have built up a negative impression of Yi, after he did not report to the city after the draft, so the longer he holds out, the more negative the reaction will be if and when he finally reports to the city.
Yi's Chinese agent Chen Haitao has full control over Yi, and there is some speculation that if things aren't worked out, Yi's American agent Dan Fegan will ultimately be used as a scapegoat and fired.
Despite all of the media reports to the contrary, Milwaukee remains the likely destination for Yi. And with such a whirlwind of negativity building around him, an announcement from Yi deciding to end the controversy and join the Bucks could come sooner than expected.
*On Tuesday Yi said he would never fire his American agent Dan Fegan, as he has only done what Yi has wanted him to do.