Sunday, July 01, 2007

Betting Milwaukee on Yi

While I don't normally talk about sports on this blog, one aspect of the debacle that has been and continues to be the Milwaukee Bucks' 2007 NBA draft jumps out at me.

When you consider some of the other teams that Yi Jianlin's handlers considered acceptable places for him to end up, it becomes clear that most of the reasons suggested for their objections to the Bucks--team quality (Boston), geographic location (Chicago), Asian-American population (both of those, as well as Philadelphia), etc.--don't hold water.

You keep coming back to one conclusion: it isn't that Yi's handlers don't want him playing for the Bucks. It's that they don't want him playing in Milwaukee.

It's all about the tiny Milwaukee market--and that's what makes this such a dangerous situation. Keep in mind that there is a very real chance that, when Senator Kohl finally sells the team, the Bucks will move to another city if they cannot get a new arena (the name I hear bandied about every so often is the Las Vegas Buck$, and I'm hard-put to disagree), and that it is already a no-go location for most of the NBA's established stars (to such a degree that, when a player refuses to leave the Bucks, as happened with Michael Redd in 2005, he's considered to be "snubbing" the other team).

That kind of leverage from the likes of Kobe Bryant, while we might complain about it, can be tolerated. But from a draft pick--from what is supposed to be the rebuilding safeguard of all NBA teams?

By drafting Yi, Larry Harris has stupidly picked a fight--and wagered Milwaukee's very suitability to host an NBA franchise on the outcome. If he loses--and I think he will--and the Bucks are forced to trade Yi (or Yi goes back to China rather than play for them) then for the good not only of the team, but of the NBA as a whole, the Bucks will be forced to move.

And the city of Milwaukee will be the big loser in the fiasco.


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