Monday , Jul , 09 , 2007 Oly Sandor

Should Commissioner Stern & The NBA Interfere In The Yi Jianlian-Milwaukee Bucks Dispute?

There’s been a development in the Yi drama … Commissioner Stern personally spoke to the prospect’s representatives and encouraged them to end their standoff with Milwaukee … Should NBA head office get involved in this dispute? … Click here for news and analysis …

CNNSI reporter Marty Burns reports on Commissioner Stern  getting involved in the Yi dispute:

The buzz around the Las Vegas Summer League on Saturday was that Bucks and top draft pick Yi Jianlian appeared to be inching closer to a marriage — thanks in part to the possible intervention of David Stern.

"I’ve heard he wants to get this resolved," said one Eastern Conference GM who wished to remain anonymous. "I’m not sure what he can do exactly, but I do know he has ways of getting what he wants."

Yi, the No. 6 overall pick in last month’s draft, has not said yet whether he will play in Milwaukee. His representatives have said they would prefer their client play in a bigger market, one with a large Asian population. They reportedly have asked for a trade.

The consensus among GMs seemed to be that Yi would end up in Milwaukee since both sides had too much at stake for any other outcome. The NBA has an obvious interest in protecting smaller-market teams from being shunned by draft picks. The Chinese government needs their young star in the NBA so that he’s more ready to help his national team compete at the ’08 Beijing Olympics.

If Stern were to get involved, he could wield considerable muscle. He could help assuage Yi’s representatives that their client will get fair exposure in terms of marketing, for example. He also could talk to the Chinese government, since the NBA is heavily involved in promoting basketball in China and is planning to start a pro league there after the Olympics.

My Quick Take: On the one hand, I appreciate Commissioner Stern speaking to Yi’s camp. This situation is ridiculous and needs to end. Senator Kohl, the Bucks’ owner and a member of the US government, shouldn’t have to write a letter to request a meeting with and his representatives. And the NBA also has to protect small markets like .

On the other hand, the suits at head office may be setting a dangerous precedent. Other teams could ask Commissioner Stern to mediate their contract squabbles. For example, would like Fran Vazquez to leave his European team. Will they ask Stern to negotiate the buyout? And what about all the other global prospects, who are indentured to their own clubs?

Sure, Yi’s situation is special. He’s from China, the NBA’s next frontier. He could sell millions of jerseys throughout Asia, which would generate revenue for the owners.

This is also the problem: Yi believes he’s a little too special. By personally interfering, Stern is reinforcing this point and stroking the teenager’s ego.

There’s no simple answer to the Yi debacle. One thing is clear-the business of basketball continues to overshadow the game of basketball.

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