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Thursday, August 9, 2007
Beijing Report: The Mistakes of "Team Yi"


Writing for Spot-On.com, Beijing-based writer Jonathan Ansfield has a very insightful take on the Yi Jianlian situation. His take: Team Yi is fighting a losing battle in resisting the Bucks. You should really read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt:

It's easy to theorize why "Team Yi" -- the assemblage of Chinese team bosses and American agents who represent Yi, but do not necessarily include him -- bear a grudge. Their attempts before the draft to turn off Milwaukee, among other smalltown suitors, backfired badly. In terms of endorsement and sponsorship potential, the kid's been married down. No matter where he ended up playing, he would be a megastar in China this coming season; no matter where, under NBA salary restrictions, his rookie contract would be about the same, as would the maximum amount ($500,000) his new club would be allowed pay his current team, the CBA's Guangdong Tigers, to release him. What the draft really afforded Team Yi was a launchpad to tap new fame and fortune in the American market. But now the biggest bonus seems to be going to Old Mi-er-wa-ji (pron. "MEE-arh-wah-jEE"), as Milwaukee is transliterated in Chinese. Chinese media call it "Mi City" () for short. The character for Mi () mean "confidential" or "secret". Thus Milwaukee, to Yi and his compatriots, is the "Secret City". For now it is.

To redress the market imbalance, Yi's been a staunch holdout for six weeks now. His camp has expressed hopes that the Bucks would trade his rights to a big city club, a possibility the team has dismissed. "Team Yi" has lobbed a series of objections to Milwaukee. First they complained there was no Chinatown, in other words, too little Asian influence, too few Chinese fans, Chinese restaurants, even Chinese women. Then they said the Bucks' lineup was too crowded with guys Yi's size, making it tough for him to get the minutes he needs to develop (Truth is, he's the only healthy power forward on the roster.) Finally they accused the Bucks GM Larry Harris of "breaking his promise" to visit with the Yi camp at an international tournament in Macau last week. (Harris has floated the possibility, but, according to the Milwaukee Journal, never promised.)

Alas Team Yi's fighting a losing public relations battle. Virtually everyone, save Yi's American agent and his Cantonese team -- his biggest and most powerful stakeholders -- thinks Yi should sign and suit up with the Bucks this season.

Via Fanhouse.