Both regular readers of this blog can probably remember when I went ballistic about the Bucks drafting Yi Jianlian. (For the purposes of this blog, he will heretofore be known as “The Chopstick,” since I’m already tired of pronouncing his last name. This is no less shameful than Jim Paschke pushing “The Cowboy” as Desmond Mason’s nickname on us for a decade.) I accused Larry Harris of trying to order Chinese food and accidentally drafting Yi. I said we should send him back to China in exchange for Audrey Raines.
I am here to announce that I was wrong. The Chopstick can play. He can shoot, he’s shown good defensive skill, and he’s willing to mix it up around the basket. I am man enough to admit that I overreacted.
That being said, there were some reasons for my skepticism. They were, in no particular order:
- The only footage of Yi consistently shown during the draft was a video of him working out against a chair (prompting Bill Simmons to nickname him “Chairman Yi”). This didn’t exactly inspire confidence, as he was unwilling to work out against objects that you don’t sit on. I would have felt better if they at least put him up against a washing machine.
- I understimated the extent to which the Bucks think Charlie Villanueva is total garbage. In looking at the Bucks roster, it looked like the last thing they needed was another pillow-soft forward that refuses to enter the three point line. As it turns out, they had no confidence in the one they already have.
- My love affair with Corey Brewer got the best of me. He seemed like exactly what the Bucks needed – a mean-spirited, tough defending three man who could shoot and knows how to win. At draft time, they had not yet signed The Cowboy (ugh! I mean, Desmond Mason), which helped them in that department.
- Yi refused to work out for the Bucks and said he’d never play in Milwaukee. I was skeptical that Larry Harris could intimidate the same country that invented fireworks, but they finally acceded. Maybe the Bucks just brought too intimidating of a chair to the Chopstick’s workout, and he decided to lock them out.
- It seemed like drafting Yi was a marketing ploy, rather than a basketball decision. Sure, Herb Kohl wanted a piece of that China pie. Who wouldn’t? But if you’re looking to foster better relations with China, tell them to stop poisoning our children and leave my favorite NBA team alone.
At the time, these were all valid reasons. But they all indicate what a dope I am. So I apologize to the Bucks, to Senator Kohl, and to Bango and his family.
That being said, it appears that the Bucks still won’t be very good. And let’s not start pleasuring each other just yet – Yi has years to go until he reaches his potential. They won’t be as bad as last year, when they obviously tanked the last 20 games of the year. But Andrew Bogut needs to just go Bill Laimbeer-style and start pounding people. Give the team some interior toughness that other teams fear. Start some ’80s era-style fistfights. If anyone talks to him, tell him that’s my tip.