GUANGZHOU: The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) will intervene in the stalemate between Guangdong star Yi Jianlian and NBA outfit the Milwaukee Bucks after the franchise's general manager snubbed Yi's camp, CBA chief Li Yuanwei has confirmed.
Bucks General Manager Larry Harris exacerbated the dispute by failing to appear at the Stankovic Cup currently being contested in Guangzhou to personally negotiate the deal.
"I will go to the United States in the coming days to help Yi solve the problem," CBA director Li said.
"I will have a talk with Yi at the Stankovic Cup to see what he thinks.
"The Bucks side didn't send their officials to China this time as they promised, so I will take some time to get this resolved."
Li's announcement came after his counterpart David Stern, the NBA commissioner who's currently besieged by a betting scandal surrounding a referee, announced a possible intervention.
Yi was the sixth player chosen in the 2007 draft, but his management has baulked at the 2.12m power forward's assignment to Milwaukee because of the city's limited fan base, particularly its dearth of ethnic Chinese fans.
A deadlock endures a month after the draft as the Bucks keep their cards close, saying little other than expressing hope Yi will sign.
The mood in the Lake Michigan city is that the Bucks have the upper hand in the dispute.
"Yi isn't going back to China to waste a year he could be using in the NBA to prepare for the 2008 Beijing Olympics," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opined.
Media from both sides believe Yi's boss Chen Haitao, chief of the Guangdong Tigers, is the main barrier between his charge and the franchise, and that agent Dan Fegan is the one pushing for a trade before his client has even set foot on the court.
Chen, who is thought to be worried about the amount of court time Yi can expect in Milwaukee, denied responsibility.
He complained to Sohu.com that the Bucks had not contacted him.
"Their owner knows the cell phone numbers of the whole Team of Yi, but they have not called us, so I just don't understand what it means; even more so, I have no way of judging what they want to do in the case," he said.
Harris's broken promise to visit China has prompted a rush of complaints from Chinese fans.
"Obviously, he is a liar, he didn't honor his commitment," Liu Yijun, a 23-year-old basketball fan, told the China Daily at the Tianhe Gymnasium, venue of the Stankovic Cup.
"I think it's time for him to show some sincerity, rather than sitting on a chair and reading the translation of Chinese newspapers."
However, a number of big names have urged Yi to end the turmoil and suit up for the Bucks, among them former International Basketball Federation President Carl Men Ky Ching.
"Yi should sign with the team which really wants him," he reasoned.
"His camp should not think too much about money and market.
"Why did Yao Ming make such a tremendous impact with the Houston Rockets? Because the team takes him seriously - that's the No. 1 thing in the NBA."
If Yi decides the Bucks aren't for him, he will be forced to sit out the entire 2007-08 season before joining next year's draft, unless of course he can secure a trade.
Sitting out is an unlikely option considering the importance of preparing well for the national team's Olympic quest in 2008.
Given the Bucks won 28 and lost 54 matches last year, earning minutes should not be a problem for a player of Yi's caliber.
The team in fact has a glaring hole at power forward: incumbent Charlie Villenueva, who is recovering from a serious injury, is more comfortable at small forward.
Yi averaged 24.9 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.8 block shots a game last season for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, where he helped the team win three China Basketball Association (CBA) championships in five years.
He is now playing with the national team at the Stankovic Cup in Macao.
Source: China Daily