Bucks draft Yi, but will he ever play for Milwaukee? Print
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Thursday, 28 June 2007 23:52
NBA Headline News

 MILWAUKEE (AP) -Sam Cassell complained. Glenn Robinson hesitated. Even Lew Alcindor forced a trade after helping Milwaukee win a title in his six seasons here.
Still, the Bucks ignored history on Thursday night, picking Yi Jianlian with the sixth pick in the NBA draft and claiming they've made global inroads into basketball-crazy China.
The question is will Yi ever play a game with them or are they just plain crazy?
Disregarding his desire to play in a city with a strong Asian influence, the Bucks picked the 6-foot-11 forward to become the fourth Chinese player to make the NBA.
``It's a surprise to me,'' Yi said. ``I'm not really familiar with the city as well, but I'm happy to be playing with the team and happy to play in the NBA.''
Bucks general manager Larry Harris said Yi's agent, Dan Fegan, was shocked that they picked him after not attending a workout in Los Angeles. Yi himself said the Bucks never saw him in China, but player personnel director Dave Babcock said he remembers traveling throughout the mainland several years ago to watch Yi play.
Yi is not scheduled to appear in Milwaukee, but instead will join the Chinese national team and scrimmage on Sunday and Tuesday in Dallas before heading to Las Vegas to play in the NBA summer league.
General manager Larry Harris said he wasn't sure if he'd meet with Yi's representatives in Dallas or Las Vegas, but that playing for the national team is Yi's priority.
``Based on timing, there wasn't any way to get him in here,'' Harris said. ``I don't want anybody to be misled that that's a bad thing. Certainly we would encourage him to come here as soon as he could.''
The Bucks are excited about Yi's potential affect on the franchise that famously worked a deal to trade for Robert Traylor and had to use the pick they gave up to Dallas to draft Dirk Nowitzki for the Mavericks.
``Chinese basketball is huge and it's growing and to have one of their countrymen that is actually very, very good and can play and is young and can be here for a long time, I don't know how it's not a windfall for us,'' Harris said.
ers and bratwurst than cultural diversity.
``I can go back to Sam Cassell and Ervin Johnson and Joe Smith and I can keep listing off player after player that when they came to Milwaukee weren't really sure, (like) Glenn Robinson,'' Harris said. ``They all wanted to come back, they all like it here. The fans of Milwaukee, the people who live in Milwaukee have their arms open to anybody that comes here and plays hard every night.''
There's also no guarantee he'll make the same impact as Yao Ming, his national teammate selected by the Houston Rockets with the first pick in 2002.
Questions about his defense, strength and age surround Yi Jianlian (pronounced EE TEE-an-LEE-an), who has been protected by handlers who wanted him in a city like Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia or the Bay Area.
Agent Dan Fegan did not allow the Bucks to hold a private workout or see Yi, but did let teams as low as the Sixers, with the 12th pick, take a look at one of the draft's most unknown talents during a workout in Los Angeles.
Harris said Philadelphia was among several teams that called and tried to trade for the pick.
``We felt comfortable from our standpoint, we did not need to go out there to confirm or deny our own feelings about Yi as a player,'' Harris said of the Los Angeles workout. ``We've estimated we've seen him over 20 times in the last four years. Rest assured, we know him.''
Yi's English is basic, but better than Yao's when he was picked five years ago. Harris also said the transition would not be as tough for Yi, who has been in the United States for several weeks adjusting.
Yi has a deft shooting touch from the wing, soft hands and an athletic body like Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies. But some teams shied away from him because of the influence to put him in a large Asian market.
``I was really surprised they took Yi, mostly because I was getting the same faxes they were getting,'' said Kevin McHale, vice president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Chinese Basketball Association lists Yi's birthday as Oct. 27, 1987 - which would make him 19 at draft time. But he has long been rumored older.
``There's a lot of speculation, 19 or 22,'' Harris said. ``I think it's the nature of the beast when you're dealing with international players. I know he's not 39.''
Yi played on China's 2004 Olympic team and 2006 world championship team. In the Chinese league this season, he averaged 25 points and 12 rebounds with the Guangdong Tigers.
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AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
 

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