Standing their ground (cont.)
Posted: Thursday July 5, 2007 3:29PM; Updated: Thursday July 5, 2007 4:06PM
Meanwhile, Harris is getting a lot of empathy from his colleagues. Not since Steve Francis forced his way out of Vancouver in 1999 has a high draft pick pulled such a stunt. Before that one might have to go back to Danny Ferry, who refused to play for the Clippers when they took him with the second pick in 1989.
"It just doesn't happen in our league very often," Magic president and former longtime GM Pat Williams said.
"I remember back in '92, Shaq didn't want to come here. From the time we won the lottery, his agent [Leonard Armato] made it clear he wanted to be in L.A. But we had to draft him. What else were we going to do?"
Fortunately for Williams, Shaq eventually came around. Of course, he didn't have much choice. The way the NBA system is set up, a player who gets drafted must sit out an entire year and not play professionally anywhere else before he can reenter the draft pool.
That's why Williams and most other NBA types believe Yi will probably be in a Bucks uniform next season. Or at least he'll be in some NBA team's uniform, depending on whether Milwaukee can get fair value back in a trade.
No matter how much Yi's handlers might want him in a bigger market -- and one with a larger Asian population -- they really don't have any leverage.
Some around the league, in fact, are applauding Harris for not being cowed by the demands of an agent, while acknowledging that he might have taken a bit of a risk.
"I thought it was pretty bold," said former Magic GM John Gabriel, now a scout with the Blazers. "They must have really, really liked him."
"They did the right thing," Williams added. "If he was really the guy they wanted, they should be applauded. They went with their gut and said, 'He's the guy and we'll teach him to like German food and bratwurst and 10-degree weather in January.' Yes, I would definitely respect them for what they did."
For Harris, of course, it's not about garnering the respect of his colleagues. It's about doing what he felt was best for his team. And though he probably wouldn't say it publicly, he no doubt feels it would be bad for the NBA to have a player refuse to play for a small market.
After all, what is the point of having a draft if players don't have to report to their new teams?
What if Greg Oden refused to play in Portland? Or Kevin Durant in Seattle?
"NBA marketing is not about [the size of the city]," Harris said. "It's a national sport. It's international. If you're a good player, that's the key. You will get [noticed]."
Harris no doubt has support in that thinking from David Stern and many if not all of his colleagues. Now he just has to convince Yi and his handlers.