Yi Jianlian – Walking, Talking Trade Dispute, Pt. 4

I have no idea why the retired Scottie Pippen is commenting on this ongoing mess, but there he is – in China Daily, no less – encouraging Yi to abide by the draft and play in Milwaukee. This follows upon other reports mentioned in earlier posts that the rabid Chinese NBA fan base agrees with Pippen.

The question is: Just who is responsible for Yi’s increasingly unpopular and ill-advised holdout? In prior posts, I suggested that it was Yi, and not his managers. But Sean Deveney of Sporting News, who clearly knows much more about these matters than me, suggests that the problem is actually the Guangdong Tigers, the Chinese club which still holds rights to Yi. Deveney writes:

The Tigers interview agents, and one of their first questions is sure to be, “So, how much of a buyout can you give us?” The team is mostly owned privately, and they knew they could make some real money off of Yi. Fegan is a very slick and accomplished agent. It would only make sense that he would assume he could manipulate the league and promise the Tigers to deliver Yi to a big market with a large Chinese community, where he could make serious endorsement dollars. The Tigers, of course, would get a big slice of those endorsements.

[One possible disagreement with Deveney: It seems to me that the really big endorsement money will come from Chinese companies – in China – wanting to get involved with Yi – and not from American ones.]

Perhaps the most interesting piece of reporting in Deveney’s piece concerns Yao Ming, and the fact that Yi did not have the ability (or courage?) to stand up to the Guangdong Tigers in the way that Yao stood up to his former club, the pitiable Shanghai Sharks. This might explain Yao’s cryptic comment cited in an earlier post, that “Yi must walk his own road … Chinese players are very modest, but this does not mean that he should not make his own feelings known.”

Finally, I think it safe to assume that no matter how this turns out, the brochure and promotional video sent to Yi by the Milwaukee Association of Commerce, will have had limited impact.