They might not have known
Milwaukee from Malawi two weeks ago, but Chinese hoops fans and media say it's
time for Yi to swallow his disappointment and sign a rookie contract with the
"Yi, stand up and speak for yourself," said the Beijing Evening Post. "Don't
hesitate any more and don't let anybody control your life."
Chinese basketball star Yi Jianlian,
in the top ten for Thursday's NBA Draft, endures a throng of reporters
with a smile during a news conference in New York, Wednesday, June 27,
2007. The NBA Draft will be held Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
Yi was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 6th pick of last Friday's NBA
draft, despite his representatives warning that he had no desire to play there.
"Yi should decide his future by himself and sign with the Bucks," the Nanjing
Morning Post said. "It is totally wrong to seek a trade after the draft. Yi will
be under great pressure if he continues to be 'picky' like this."
"No matter if the team is strong or not, what is more important is that Yi
gets lots of time on court. If the Bucks can give Yi more time than other teams,
I suggest he stays with them," said fan Du Feilei from Zhejiang University. "A
year of truly competitive experiences in the NBA will definitely lift Yi to
another level and help Team China a lot if they want to win a medal (at the 2008
An online poll by Sina.com found that 68 percent of more than 9,000
respondents want Yi to remain a Buck. Added to this, 46 percent think the Bucks
is a suitable team for Yi to begin his NBA career with.
The forward finally met with Bucks general manager Larry Harris and coach
Larry Krystkowiak on Thursday in Las Vegas, where he is competing in the NBA
Summer League with Team China.
Increasingly, Chinese media and fans believe Yi's agent Dan Fegan is the main
barrier preventing the player committing to the Bucks.
"Fegan will hamper Yi's future," former national team coach Qian Chenghai
told Sina.com. "I don't think Yi refused to join the Bucks, it is Fegan who
doesn't want him to join.
"We don't want to see Yi destroy his reputation in the NBA and return to the
Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), that's horrible."
It is thought Yi wants to be in a major market with a large Chinese
population - in many ways the opposite of Milwaukee. The city, in the northern
state of Wisconsin, has a population of just 550,000 - only 1.7% of whom are of
The Bucks had been excluded from seeing Yi work out before the draft as part
of a strategy designed by Fegan to land him in one of a handful of desired
This strategy did not work, and in the days after the draft Yi's Chinese
agent confirmed that they were looking at trade possibilities.
But some believe Yi should prove himself on court before he tests his value
on the market.
"The Bucks have promised to give Yi plenty of time, that's very important for
him and also the best thing a rookie can ask for," reported Sina.com.
The Bucks have repeatedly reiterated their intention to retain Yi, and after
some impressive moments in Las Vegas that desire is stronger than ever.
"It was a chance for our coaches to see him play in an NBA environment, with
NBA rules, against NBA players," Harris told Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel
newspaper. "It's been a win-win on a lot of different fronts."
Yi had 23 points and showed the aggression that many thought he lacked in
China's game with Memphis Grizzlies on Friday, but then he struggled to just
nine points on 2-17 shooting as China was routed by Sacramento Kings on
After a slow start against Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday - he had just three
points in the first three quarters - Yi caught fire in the fourth adding 17.
This included a turnaround jumper at the buzzer to give China an 85-84 win.
"There was a lot of contact, and he was able to finish it off and win the
game for them. I'm proud of the young man and really happy to see China get a
win in the summer league," Harris told the Journal Sentinel.
"I don't answer speculation, but from a Bucks standpoint we're doing
everything we can to move the process along and have Yi as a Milwaukee Buck next
season," he added.