- Marc Stein reports on Yi's rough outing against the US U19 national team yesterday. Yi had only 1 point in the first three quarters before putting up 14 in the fourth. He finished with 15 points and 8 rebounds off the bench in his first game in a couple months. Stein also mentions Yi will be doing a press conference at the House of Blues today in advance of their game against the Mavs' summer league team. He already didn't comment yesterday about the Bucks situation, so I'm guessing today won't be very illuminating either.
He had one point and four fouls entering the fourth quarter of China's 91-75 defeat. He missed badly on two early attempts to finish inside with his left hand, even though he wasn't exactly facing polished defenders. There's no denying it: For long stretches in his first game since the Bucks made him the No. 6 overall selection in Thursday's draft, Yi either looked uptight or tired.
Yet it's probably worth pointing out that Yi, even in those states, still managed to drop 14 points in a surprisingly spirited final period, even though there were at least two occasions that he lagged behind the action while gasping for breath.
He's not in game shape, true. But a quick flurry of seven points with Bucks scout Scott Howard watching courtside -- one silky J and a long 3-pointer to live up to his vaunted shooting touch, followed by a quick and nimble spin through the lane to sink a running one-hander -- flashed just enough skill to hint at why Howard's bosses felt they couldn't pass on this guy, no matter how much trouble they face getting him to Wisconsin.
Whether you believe he's 19 or 22, Yi is an unquestionably mobile 7-footer. He has quick feet, he's got a perimeter game and, by all accounts, he wants to be coached. Sounds like upside to me. The proverbial stuff you can't teach.
It's also easier to rationalize some of his Sunday struggles when you remember that he's practiced only once with his countrymen since flying in from New York ... and when the international rules in place made the game so much grabbier than an NBA game would be ... and when you're reminded that guard play (Lakers draftee Sun Yue included) remains a big-time weakness for China, which is always going to affect Yi's effectiveness if Yao Ming (who wasn't in attendance thanks to a shoulder injury) isn't there to open up the floor.
- ESPN's Chris Sheridan reports that Mo Williams is in demand. What Sheridan doesn't mention is that no one can afford to pay Mo what he wants without a S/T deal. It will be interesting to see if anyone is willing to pay Mo $9-10 million per season AND give up something of value to the Bucks for the right to pay him that. I would guess no. I'm still predicting on something in the ballpark of 5 years, $40-45 million, though there's been chatter Mo actually wants a shorter deal a la TJ Ford, which would be ideal IMO.
I also spoke today with agent Mark Bartelstein, who said the Milwaukee Bucks were among several teams who called during the first three hours of free agency regarding his client, Mo Williams. "There's a whole lot of interest, 12 or 13 teams," Bartelstein said. "Lots of teams are looking for a point guard. People are getting feel for what it will take. The market is a very strange thing, and when the time is right you pull the trigger."
- Chinese website Sina.com has some potentially promising quotes about the Yi situation.
Sun Qun, the editor of China's top basketball newspaper Pioneers, was quoted by Sina.com as saying that the surprise selection might work out for Yi.
"He probably will not say 'No' to the Bucks. He is not American. He respects the NBA very much," said Sun.
"I believe that this is a very good outcome," CBA deputy head Hu Jiashi told reporters.
"However it is not certain that Yi will finally play for the Bucks. In the end it doesn't matter what team, what is important is that he gets playing time."
CBA officials have long maintained that potential playing time in actual game situations is crucial to whether or not the league will release its players to the NBA.
"Yi's level is already good enough for the NBA or to play in Europe," Hu said.
Yi's selection by the Bucks on Thursday begins a negotiation process with the CBA and Yi's Chinese club Guangdong Hongyuan for his release to the world's top league.
Only after the CBA release can Yi sign a contract.
- Yao Ming also apparently is quoted in the Chinese press saying Yi did not say anything to him about refusing to play for the Bucks. This continues the trend of Yi saying nothing to suggest he won't play for the Bucks, while his agent Dan Fegan and the owner of his Chinese team (which will continue to have a financial stake in him) play the bad cop.