Bucks keeping Yi hopes alive

(Journal Sentinel)
Updated: 2007-07-25 08:09
Milwaukee Bucks general manager Larry Harris is staying upbeat about the prospects of signing first-round draft pick Yi Jianlian.

The 7-foot power forward is currently with the Chinese national team, which is preparing for the Stankovic Cup, opening this weekend in China.

"I believe he (Yi) will be in a Bucks uniform," Harris said in comments made during a news conference to introduce new Bucks small forward Desmond Mason, who was signed to a two-year contract. "We haven't found one player yet that has not enjoyed Milwaukee once they got here.

"We've had tremendous support from the community, civic leaders, the Chinese community. It's almost like Milwaukee has taken the stance, 'Give us a shot, and you won't regret it.'"

According to collective bargaining rules governing the National Basketball Association, the Bucks can pay up to $500,000 to secure the release of Yi from his Chinese Basketball Association team, the Guangdong Tigers. The Bucks could pay less than that amount but not more, and the NBA as an entity would not contribute to the release, a source said.

According to people who have knowledge of negotiations involving foreign players, Yi has to sign two agreements with the Tigers that are not part of his agreement with Los Angeles-based agent Dan Fegan.

The two agreements with the Tigers are: 1) a buyout of his player contract with the Tigers, perhaps with cash and maybe involving some value-added exchange, such as Yi appearing as a representative or spokesman for the company that owns the Tigers; and 2) a deal to assign his representation rights to a Tigers-owned agency, set up this year to represent all Tigers players.

The agreement could call for Yi to give his NBA representation to Fegan or whomever the Tigers prefer.

The Bucks and team owner Herb Kohl invited Yi, his family and Guangdong Tigers owner Chen Haitao to visit Milwaukee.

"We're anxious for him to accept the invitation from Sen. Kohl to come to Milwaukee," Harris said.

Mason said he hopes Yi will seriously consider coming to Milwaukee. The 29-year-old forward said he vividly remembered being traded from Seattle to Milwaukee in February 2003, the first time he was traded in his pro career.

"It was the same scenario for us," Mason said, referring to his wife, Andrea. "We didn't know if Milwaukee was necessarily a great place for us. When we got traded here we were in the Pfister Hotel and it was snowing sideways. I mean the snow was coming down so hard, and I was like, 'I can't believe we're in Milwaukee. This is crazy.'

"After we found our niche and got our home and got in the community, we realized what a great place it was here. It's a blue-collar community. People want to see a team play hard.

"But when it's all said and done, you give things a chance and you may like it."

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