TrueHoop: Yi Jianlian

Late Friday Bullets

August, 6, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

I love this kind of stuff.

On the same page, David Thorpe points out that 39% of Yi Jianlian's close shots get blocked. 39%! That's a big number. 

Kevin Durant has the PR battle won, but ESPN's Thorpe says Yi has been the more effective player so far:

As documented in a previous column, KD has a rare set of gifts, and he is the best 19-year-old player on Earth. But he does indeed play like a 19-year-old, looking like a kid in a candy store whose father is letting him eat whatever he wants.

His propensity to shoot 3s has not lessened since opening night, but his overall efficiency has. Perhaps Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo figures allowing Durant to run wild now (and lose often) will help him learn how to better value shots and possessions later (anyone remember "Brewster's Millions"?).

He may be right, but even Carlesimo must wonder where the killer from Texas went, the guy who destroyed his opponents on the boards and on defense, too. Right now, he is shooting everything in sight (38.2 field goal percentage), while Yi is choosing wisely and building confidence along the way.

Here's video of the kinds of things Yi has been doing.

Writing for, 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.

It's only the document that determines pretty much everything that happens in the NBA.

Yet almost no one knows the collective bargaining agreement very well. Isn't that pathetic?

(I wish they'd offer a seminar on it, so that I could learn without having to find the time to actually read the thing cover to cover. Boooooooooooring. And if you want a job in the NBA? Master that document and get a law degree and you have a good shot. Tom Penn did it. Now he's assistant GM of the Blazers, and he reportedly got his start by studying the CBA.)

Anyway, I am waiting for some people who really know the CBA to call me back, but from what I can tell so far, Hank Worrell at the blog Winning the Turnover Battle is correct when he writes something that I haven't seen written anywhere else: If Yi Jianlian really doesn't want to play for the Bucks, he could sit out a year and be back in next year's draft.

In simple terms what the above sections say is that if Yi does not sign a contract with another pro team (Chinese or European) in the next year then Milwaukee will lose their rights to Yi and he will then be eligible for the 2008 Draft. Therefore, if Yi and his handlers truly are determined to keep Yi out of Milwaukee they could just have him play for the national team for a year and then re-enter the draft leaving the Bucks completely empty handed. I can assure you, coming out of the deepest draft in recent memory with nothing after having the #6 pick will not fly with Bucks' GM Larry Harris. If the Bucks are unable to sign Yi to a contract by the time the season starts they need to trade him. Plain and simple.

Click the link above to read quotes from the CBA that support Worrell's point.

UPDATE: Here's the key question: is Yi Jianlian still under contract with his Chinese club in Guangdong? A contract in another professional league would extend Milwaukee's hold over Yi indefinitely. Section Five of the CBA states:

If a player is drafted by a Team in either an Initial or Subsequent Draft and, during a period in which he may negotiate and sign a Player Contract with only the Team that drafted him, and either (x) is a party to a previously existing player contract with a professional basketball team not in the NBA that covers all or any part of the NBA Season immediately following said Initial or Subsequent Draft, or (y) signs such a player contract, then the following rules will apply ...

(I would quote more, but if you're that geared up for legalese, you might as well read the whole thing and then go run an NBA team.)

Larry Coon explains -- clearly the key point if the Guangdong contract.

UPDATE: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Charles F. Gardner reports (thanks Ben) Yi is under contract with the Guangdong Tigers:

Yi's representatives could elect to keep him in China for another season. His contract is owned by the Guangdong Tigers, and team owner Hai To Chan could elect not to release him.

As I understand the CBA, Yi would have to be out of that Guangdong contract for a full year before he could re-enter the draft.

UPDATE: No idea about the source, but (again, thanks Ben) this is an interesting discussion of who is involved in Yi's decision making. 

A while ago, David Stern's deputy (and second-round czar) Adam Silver huddled with co-workers and practiced pronouncing names like Zoran Erceg and team names like Zeleznik Beograd.

That international-player-rich second round is a tough job, and this is Silver's first crack at it. Things can go wrong, and have in the past, even in the first round. (You say "Ian Mahinmi" on international TV with no real time to practice.)

Silver had with him the same NBA pronunciation guide that I referred to yesterday when I told you that Yi Jianlian was pronounced EE TEE-an-LEE-an. Here's the update: I just asked several bona fide Chinese speakers how to say his name. My phonetics of what they told me is EE JEE-un-LEE-un. (Or maybe JEE-ahn-LEE-ahn, depending on how the wind blows.)

The "J" sound was not in dispute. It is not a "T" by any measure.

Getting to Know Yi

June, 21, 2007

ESPN Insider Chad Ford (free article!) takes a thorough look at Yi Jianlian and how his agent is handling the draft.

His agent, Dan Fegan, has limited the ability of teams to see Yi, which has led to a spate of criticism from those who haven't been given access.

Yi even skipped the NBA draft combine -- the only player projected in the top 15 to skip the event -- meaning that teams and media didn't get his measurements and the chance to see him in drills. ...

One GM who's seen him play had this response to those complaints: "They should've done their homework then. Some of us were in China a lot, tracking this kid. You can't leave it up to the agent to do your work for you. I think some teams slept a little bit on Yi and now they feel underprepared. Dan could cooperate with them a little more, but if he doesn't want Yi to play there, why should he?"

Ford also talks to American Jason Dixon, who played with Yi in China. Dixon explains, for instance, that Yi's poor three-point shooting in China was an anomaly: Dixon says Yi has excellent shooting form, and that his Chinese coach didn't want him shooting three-pointers very often because that was seen as a guard's job.